Visual user-generated content (UGC) is a powerful tool for any hotel or resort marketer. Using photos or videos from real guests enjoying themselves on your property is a great way to engage with your audience in a way that is trustworthy, credible, and inspiring.
Not only that, but your audience expects it: 32-39% of millennials won’t book a hotel or travel experience that doesn’t use UGC marketing.
Instead of just telling guests about your beautiful facility and amenities, you need to show them. And no, professional photos of an empty pool on a perfect cloudless day aren’t going to help them imagine themselves there enjoying it. Using photos from your guests will make your story more believable, and as a bonus, keep your content fresh.
Many of today’s top resort and hotel brands are already incorporating UGC in their marketing strategy. The most common use of UGC for resorts and hotels are:
1| In their advertising
2| On their social media channels
3| On their websites
We’re going to cover how 8 resorts and hotels are creatively using UGC in these areas.
1| Hotels and resorts using UGC in their advertising
By using user-generated content, you are connecting your brand with positive guest reviews. Ads are the perfect channel to use this social proof, since you can back up the stories you’re telling with visual reviews.
In an effort to refresh its brand, Loews Hotels ran an ad campaign that was fueled by guests’ Instagram photos. They pulled together photos that were posted with a Loews hashtag, and used them to create a series of ads messaged “Everyone needs to ______”.
“We’ve seen enough data that says, when individuals see themselves through their own images that lots of exciting things happen. The ad gets more animated when it’s not staged. Quite frankly they [our customers’ photos] were better than the ads we were doing. They were more real and more authentic.”
By putting #travelforreal on the ads, Loews created a call to action that encouraged guests to post about their hotel experience for a chance to be featured on the campaign microsite. The microsite had the slogan “Because Nobody Tells Our Story Better Than You”, which is exactly why UGC is so effective!
To freshen up their ad materials, Tradewinds Resorts created a custom brochure made entirely out of user-generated content. The focus of the brochure is the visual content—specifically user-generated content from past guests enjoying themselves.
While traditional print mailers are often glanced over and tossed away, this piece filled with guest photos has an extra element of personality, which sets it apart from other mail.
2| Hotels and Resorts using UGC on their social media channels
Social media is becoming an increasingly important part of the planning and booking process for prospective guests. Many of them will turn to social media for inspiration, and use Instagram to fact check or pick which property is the most beautiful. In fact, 52% of Facebook users say their friends’ photos inspire their travel plans!
Using UGC will help you reflect a larger variety of demographics, and visually represent what an experience at your property actually looks like.
A major benefit of filling your social networks with UGC images is that you can appeal to different types of hotel guests; brides-to-be, business executives, family vacationers, or those looking to relax and stay healthy during their stay.
Hotel X has a partnership with 10xTO, a private member athletic club associated with the hotel. Reposting content from the club gives HotelX another opportunity to promote unique guest experiences and attract new travelers.
The Four Seasons strategically uses UGC in their Instagram stories to support their in-house, promotional content. Combing in-house content with guest content helps make their story reels feel more social than promotional.
For example, Four Seasons New York created Instagram stories promoting their Easter Brunch, providing details of where and when it was happening at the hotel. Then, they shared stories that brunching guests tagged @fsnewyork in, to show off all of the yummy food that they were eating at the hotel.
Fairmont resorts and hotels use Instagram stories creatively to show off what is unique about each of their properties. By using the highlight reel functionality, they host quick snippets on every topic that potential guests might be more interested in learning about.
Farimont Whistler has a highlight reel titled “Guests’ Corner”, which re-posts guest stories that they’ve been tagged in. This reel candidly shows off everything that guests enjoy about the property, from beautiful hotel room views, to summer and winter mountain activities, and treats at the village bakery.
3| Hotels and resorts using UGC on their website
For hotels and resorts, your website is the primary booking portal for guests, so it’s important that you think about what visuals are on your website when visitors land there. Featuring UGC is a great way to showcase what current and past guests are enjoying. It also makes it easier to keep your website visuals fresh, since there are new photos of your property being posted on social media every day.
Cabot Links, a golf resort in Cape Breton, uses custom UGC galleries related to featured activities on different pages of their website. For instance, their “Food & Drink” page includes a gallery of guests’ dining experiences, and the “Wedding” page is full of beautiful shots of ceremonies and celebrations. This helps the resort highlight the fact that Cabot Links has more to offer than just golfing.
As one of the top ten visited resorts in Florida, Boca Raton Resort and Club is a place where everyone can find what they’re looking for.
On their homepage, they have a gallery of UGC from guests that paints a colorful picture of the variety of activities the resort offers; surfing and paddleboard yoga, kids club activities, and sundaes served in bed. This variety of photos inspires visitors to seek out all of these unique experiences as they browse the site.
By putting the resort’s hashtag #RESORTBOCA at the title of the gallery, the resort also encourages guests to share their travel experiences during their stay.
Like most hotels and resorts, Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego has a gallery page that shows off photos of the property. However, they strategically use these UGC images as booking portals by attaching CTAs to images in the gallery when potential guests hover over them.
Think about it. If a site visitor is looking at a photo of a gorgeous patio view, surf lessons, or a drink on a white sandy beach, that’s when they are going to get most excited about booking a trip. Having a “Book Your Stay” prompt right there will increase the chance that they’ll want to book right then and there.
Let Visual UGC power your hotel or resort’s story
As opposed to online reviews or reviews sites, visual UGC is a powerful tool for any hotel or resort marketer. It’s well-known that consumers trust UGC over brand messages, but with visual UGC, guests can literally picture themselves at your hotel or resort in an instant.
These three strategies are only the beginning; there are so many other ways that you can feature content from your guests!
Read all about them in our eBook, The Complete Guide to UGC for Resorts & Hotels, which is full of ideas and examples, along with tips on acquiring the rights to these traveler photos.
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