Five Social Media Tourism Trends to Watch in 2019

As we start a new year, it can feel challenging to wrap your head around the happenings and trends of the past 12 months, let alone to dive into the next 12. As part of my ongoing obsession with all things social media-related, I took a deep dive into what’s coming up, and what you should keep in mind. Social media and tourism marketing are intrinsically linked, so without further ado, here are five social media tourism trends to watch for in 2019.

Many of the stats used in this blog come from Trekksoft’s 2019 Travel Trends Report, which is available for download, but cannot be linked. I invite you to download it as well!

1. The continued importance of mobile

It seems like mobile is on an unstoppable rise lately, and the travel industry is no exception. Between 2017 and 2018, Trekksoft found that mobile bookings grew 10% from 51.5% to 56.7% of total bookings. Skift found that 35% of travelers have used mobile to book a tour or activity while already on location. The increase of mobile bookings is also contributing to a rise in last-minute bookings. Trekksoft also found that while most bookings are made 13 days in advance, that window shortens to just 5 days on mobile.

For destinations and attractions, this means a mobile-friendly site or booking program is an essential they can’t afford to skip. Consumers want to be able to check prices, availability and more all from their cell phone, and not being able to do so will turn people away. Many website platforms allow you to preview your site on mobile, a quick and easy way to see what consumers see.

2. The rise of direct-to-consumer (DTC) communication

Expect to hear more about and see more businesses using messaging apps and chatbots- it’s what the people want. The top four messaging apps (Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat and Viber) have more active monthly users than the top four social media channels- a staggering 4 billion users. This presents an ideal opportunity for any business to chat with customers in real time, on their level. A simple way to take advantage of this trend is to make sure the chat option pops up whenever someone visits your Facebook page.

Chatbots will also become more commonly used in 2019. The efficiency and quick learning curve they offer can save businesses time and money while still providing a good experience to the consumer- sometimes without them even noticing they’re not talking to a person. In fact, 27% of consumers couldn’t tell if their last customer service interaction was with a human or chatbot. Facebook has an easy way to take advantage of this by offering a public bot service for businesses to enable. In episode 50 of Destination on the Left, Ed Healy dives into how Visit Buffalo Niagara is using chatbots on Facebook, and the success they’ve seen with it. Including DTC communication in your 2019 marketing plan will help you stay ahead of the game.

3. Work-cations/ Bleisure

Whether you call them work-vacations, or bleisure (business + leisure), it’s becoming more common for travelers to blend business with leisure on their trips. Historically, this means extending business trips to include vacation days. In 2016, Expedia found that 60% of business trips included a leisure portion as well. However, this definition may be changing. In episode 81 of Destination on the Left with Katie Denis of Project Time Off, she explains that many millennials blend work with vacation by working regular hours onsite at their chosen location, and exploring during nights and weekends. This allows them to keep a regular work schedule while still exploring new destinations and attractions.

So how does this tie to your social media channels? The lines between types of travelers (and thus, our audiences) is blurring. Use your social media platforms to speak to both. Encourage your business travelers to extend their stay or use your vacation assets to entice more meetings and conferences. Promote your co-work spaces or hotel wifi speeds in conjunction with your restaurants and night life. It’s a great chance to cross-promote your business and leisure assets, and lay the groundwork for potential return visitors, who want to see more.

4. Videos > Other Forms of Content

As PR professionals and marketers, we’re storytellers and we know to show, not tell. Videos have become easier and more-cost effective to produce; they’ve also risen in popularity among consumers. In 2017, 66% of all internet traffic was streaming video, By 2020, 82% of all internet traffic is expected to be video content.

Video allows the customer to immerse themselves in a destination or attraction, without leaving their chair. This gives destinations unprecedented access to show potential visitors what they can see and do during their vacation (or extended work trip). It doesn’t need to be a large production either- most phones come equipped with near-professional quality cameras, and buying more lenses is as easy as visiting Amazon. With a large selection of free video editing tools (our favorite is Shotcut), producing a video doesn’t have to break the bank either.

Check out this video we shot for Travel Alliance Partner’s annual meeting in Frankenmuth, Michigan- shot entirely on an iPhone and edited with Shotcut.

Videos don’t have to be a complicated production. Check out this amazing “moment of zen” video from Travel Oregon, made from a single continuous shot. Doesn’t make you wish you were standing on a cliff, overlooking a beach at sunset too?

5. The Rise of Micro-Influencer

If 2018 was the year of influencers, 2019 is the year of micro-influencers. Commonly defined as someone with less than 10,000 followers (but sometimes up to 50,000 followers), micro-influencers are becoming more and more popular as partners for destinations and attractions, rather than their massive counterparts. Micro-influencers tend to charge less and can deliver more value due to their niche focus.

A 2017 study by L2 found an inverse correlation between the number of followers and the engagement rate in influencers. That is to say, a large follower size does not guarantee successful engagement anymore. Micro-influencers tend to cultivate strong bonds with their audiences, and thus have higher levels of credibility when endorsing a destination or attraction.

Working with influencers can be as simple as connecting with the local influencers who already exist in your community, or as much as hosting their next trip to your destination. Start by reaching out to the ones who already exist in your area. They’re already champions for your destination and have strong ties within the community. Asking to share their photos (with credit!) can be a great first step.

Still trying to wrap your head around influencers? You’re not alone. Stay tuned for a destination’s guide to understanding and working with influencers from BTI in the coming weeks!