On Trendy Travel and the Role of Social Media

August 3, 2015  |  BVK

Travel & Tourism

Log on to Facebook and chances are you can’t avoid seeing that James, that one kid who sat next to you in high school math, just got back from a really cool vacation. Or that your best friend’s girlfriend Becky just posted a #TBT to when she was on a hammock on the beach, #wishiwasthere. You’re probably secretly jealous. Did you know that, annoying as these humble-brag posts can be when you’re stuck in less-than-ideal weather, they’re influencing your travel decisions?

Yup — let me hit you with some stats we learned from industry experts at this year’s PRSA Travel & Tourism conference:

Makes sense — us millennials love sharing our experiences, hearing our friends’ crazy travel stories and trying to make some unique memories of our own. In fact, we’re specifically seeking out what hasn’t been done yet. I don’t know about you, but I’ll do almost anything for the sake of a solid Instagram shot, #nofilter.

What’s the new wave of travelers looking for and how can a destination provide that? What role is social media playing in travel trends? Is social media really a thing that can influence travel? 

You bet your beach bum it is. Studies show the most coveted luxuries of U.S. households right now are technology and travel. Social currency is in.

To rein in this awesome power for our travel clients, we have to remember millennials want a meaningful experience and don’t want to post the same pictures as that social media frenemy… What’s hot? What’s exclusive? What’s WAY cooler than what Becky posted?

A couple things are currently dominating travel trends — namely authentic experiences, boutique hotels, athletic competitions, adventure travel, “voluntoursim,” and “bleisure” (more on those later). Overall, we’re seeing a huge shift happening where travelers are seeking out smaller, less crowded destinations (hidden gems, if you will) with a ton of local experiences and looking for smaller accommodations that let them assimilate into local culture for the week.

We’ll start with authentic travel experiences. This simply makes sense — while Becky is busy Instagramming her chain hotel, you’re thinking “getting off the resorts would be cooler.” So you seek out a vacation that’s the opposite of what she’s doing and look into a boutique hotel that lets you do yoga in a cave (take that, Becky).

Adventure travel and participation in athletic competitions while traveling are trends that follow suit. Plenty of people are now looking to do more than sit on a beach on their vacations. They’re traveling with a purpose — one of mastering foreign terrain, challenging themselves, meeting their fitness and bucket list goals all over the globe, while sharing their successes with like-minded pals. Awesome.

Now lets tackle the made up words. Voluntourism is exactly what it sounds like — volunteering while being a tourist — and is also a form of traveling with purpose. A growing number of hotels are recognizing this altruistic desire and are even building it into their hotel packages. Initially, this may seem like a weird thing to be trending, but think about this: volunteering crosses languages. It crosses cultural barriers. It gives you access to the root of a community. And that is rad — how much more authentic can you get than bonding with locals?

Bleisure is something I’m sure you’ve done already if you travel for work — squeeze in a little you-time on the tail end of your trip to take in the sights somewhere you’ve never been. This marriage of business and leisure travel is on the up and up, and destinations should take note — what can you offer tired networking masses? The answer is probably another authentic experience to make their work trip personally meaningful.

As an experience-focused agency, what does BVK do with all this information? In part, it can mean making some recommendations to our destination clients that not all are comfortable with. Like that it’s okay to be odd, offbeat, quirky and not always everyone’s cup of tea. But, we argue, rather than be vanilla and please everyone, you can be memorable and show niche travelers that your destination has something unique to their interests. You’re tapping into a valuable, vocal new market, one that will be invested in the experiences you offer and that will spread the word to likeminded friends both in-person and online. You can also inspire travelers in a rut to get out of their comfort zones by showing them adventures they’ve never even considered (like a circus camp in Dominican Republic or driving through a pseudo-Sahara in Maine).

Let your freak flag fly, you tiny, weird town! I’m into it. And a bunch of people born between 1980-2000 probably are, too.

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