Why Influencer Marketing Should Be the Next Adventure for Travel Brands

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Imagine this: You’ve had a long day at work, and you decide to take a five-minute break on social media before you dive into cooking dinner, cleaning, or some other less than desirable task. 

You open Instagram and see a creator enjoying a cocktail on a beach, another skiing down a mountain, and a third showing off their five-star hotel room. And all you can think is, “I wish I were there.” 

Creators can be one of the best advertisements for travel brands, sharing FOMO-worthy content when people are looking for an escape on their phones. 

And in a saturated market, you want any advantage you can have to help you stand out from your competitors. 

Statistics travel brands should know about 

About 60% of Americans are ready to travel again. 

COVID-19 took a major toll on the travel industry, with cruise ships empty and people afraid of sitting in a plane for hours at a time. 

But now, as vaccinations rise and cases become less deadly, people are getting the travel bug once again. And it’s coming back stronger than ever. 

In fact, 6 in 10 Americans are looking to take a summer trip, and their budgets are higher than in 2019. 

International travel is booming. 

People’s post-COVID wanderlust isn’t just domestic, however. Travelers are ready to experience new sights and cultures in countries across the globe. 

Mastercard CFO Sachin Mehra shared that international travel is at 110% of 2019 levels, and he estimates that this trend will only grow as there “continues to be pent-up demand.” 

Top travel brands are back to advertising. 

The travel industry is expected to spend $4.05 billion on advertising in 2022, up from $3.54 billion in 2021 and $2.99 billion in 2020. 

And small and massive brands alike are staking their claim in the marketing world. 

United Airlines, which hasn’t run a major ad campaign in almost 10 years, unveiled its “Good Leads the Way” messaging. 

But as ad spending increases across the travel industry, brands will have to try even harder to stand out. 

How travel brands can partner with influencers to increase their ROI

While partnering with content creators can offer brands various benefits, one of the most important ones is the authenticity they can bring to their promotions. 

People are used to seeing overly polished views of hotels, resorts, travel, and more on billboards, print ads, and TV commercials. 

But creators can showcase what a person can actually expect. This builds trust with viewers and can make them more likely to commit to a trip than something that is overly produced. 

Check out these tips to discover how your travel brand can tap into creator partnerships to increase ROI: 

  • Give creators freedom. When brands have too many guidelines creators need to follow, their posts lose authenticity, and viewers are less likely to act. 
  • Showcase unique amenities. Share what makes your brand stand out from the rest. Whether your airline has exceptional food in first class or your hotel offers a state-of-the-art spa, invite your creators to document their experience and help share what makes your brand special. 
  • Highlight sales and share deals. One thing that makes travel creators’ feeds so fascinating is the FOMO-level trips that seem a bit too out-of-budget for most travelers. But when they can share discounts or limited-time sales, viewers are more likely to start booking. 

Considerations for travel brands looking to partner with content creators 

For a creator to successfully promote a brand, they need to understand it and truly experience the offerings. For some travel brands, this can equate to product gifting, but for resorts, travel brands, and tourist attractions, this typically involves a comped visit, which can come with a much higher price tag. 

Because there is a higher cost for working with creators, it’s important to do as much research in advance to make the margin for error as small as possible. 

And that all comes down to finding the right creators. 

When conducting your initial research, use tools like GRIN’s Web Extension to find data about a creator’s average engagement rate, average likes per comment, and much more. 

Once you’ve found a list of candidates, vet them further. You can use GRIN’s Creator Management platform to learn about the makeup of a creator’s audience, including their ages, genders, reachability, and more.

If their audience demographics match your ideal customer, reach out to the creator and broach the topic of a partnership. As you get to know them personally and begin negotiating, you can get an even better idea of whether they’re the right fit for your brand. 

Travel industry trends to inspire you

Van life 

@saraha.hall leaving for a trip in a couple days 🤪 #vanlife #van #vanbuild #vanconversion #vanlifers #campervan #boostofhope #fyp #transformation ♬ Own brand freestyle transition – Nijah

Many people are fixing up old vans and buses to serve as mobile homes on the road, not too different from an RV. And while hotels, resorts, and transportation brands won’t see much business from people using these homes on wheels, camping sites and supplies (think portable stovetops) can help these nomads travel in comfort. 

Conscious travel 

@givevolunteers Ways to be a more conscious and responsible traveler! #givevolunteers #travel #learnwithme ♬ Somewhere – Surf Mesa

Conscious travel combines the ideals of environmental sustainability and cultural sensitivity to serve as an ethical guiding light for people who want their journeys to have as little impact as possible. 

Major travel chains can hop on this trend by showing how they keep their carbon footprint low, while small businesses can share the positive impacts that spending locally can have on residents. 

Solo travel 

Solo travel can have a ton of benefits, from maintaining your own schedule to choosing the activities that sound the best to you, and many creators are sharing their tips to help viewers achieve the solo trip of their dreams. 

Night road trips 

@heyitsmargaaaaa Therapeutic #midnightroadtrip ♬ original sound – Steve Caco

For some, the idea of a road trip at night sounds magical. Think: Minimal traffic, the bright lights of a city, and a unique sense of peace. 

Sharing videos and images of their drives down highways, creators are encouraging followers to take night road trips of their own. 

Bioluminescence aesthetic

As the pandemic shifted a lot of travel to natural settings rather than heavily populated cities, many creators have taken to sharing the beauty of the natural world.

Bioluminescent ocean creatures are among the major marvels gracing the posts of creators worldwide. Locations like Mosquito Bay, Toyama Bay, and Sam Mun Tsai Beach offer these stunning spectacles at night. 

Top travel brands running successful influencer marketing campaigns

Marriott Bonvoy

@champagnegetaway My dream brand “Marriott” is looking for 3 tiktokkers to travel the world with them this year and do #30stays300days ! Vote for us by liking & commenting @Marriott Bonvoy #contest ♬ Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) – Edison Lighthouse

Instead of searching out creators to partner with, Marriott Bonvoy asked the creators to come to them. The major hotel chain announced that they were looking for three influencers to stay at 30 of their locations over a 300-day period and had interested parties apply by posting on TikTok and using the hashtag #30stays300days

To date, this hashtag has garnered over 80 million views as creators try to snag one of the spots and their followers learn about the Marriott Bonvoy brand. 

Hopper

@kristiesita #ad DREAMY! Link in bio for $30 off your next trip #ad @hopper ♬ SUMMER GIRL – Ian Hugel

Hopper, a service that allows users to find discounted plane tickets and accommodations, partners with creators to showcase the amazing savings people can earn when using the app. 

Hopper empowers their creators with affiliate links to track sales and offer viewers an extra incentive to book a trip. 

Royal Caribbean 

@eatlivetraveldrink #ad This cruise was ✨epic✨ @royalcaribbean #WeekendLikeYouMeanIt #NavigatoroftheSeas #RoyalCaribbean #cruiseship #cruise ♬ original sound – Travel Tips + Inspo ✨

Royal Caribbean partners with creators to showcase the seemingly limitless benefits of joining one of their cruises. In less than a minute, creators share details about entertainment, accommodations, dining, and more. Then, to make the offer all the more enticing, they highlight the low prices people can book these vacations for, making a luxurious trip seem within reach for the average person. 

Top 20 travel influencers to follow right now

Top travel influencers on Instagram

Lucy Tranos

Lucy Tranos is a Greek creator showcasing the many wonders of her home country as well as other amazing tourist destinations worldwide. 

On an episode of Greece Chats with Tony Kariotis, Lucy shared, “As far as I can remember, my best memories have always been made on trips … So I absolutely love discovering new places and cultures.”

Check out more of her content on Pinterest, Facebook, and her blog

Travis Levius 

Travis is a travel journalist and content creator sharing views of stunning vacation locales as well as comedic videos about the life of a traveler. He also offers a workshop to help others begin a career in freelance travel writing. 

See where he’s off to next on TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube

Matilde Espírito Santo

Matilde is a travel creator who opts to avoid the limelight and instead shares videos capturing the beauty of her destinations. She spends a lot of time in Lisbon and London but also visits other locations throughout Europe. 

In the past, she’s worked with brands like Bombay Sapphire, Peggy Porschen, and Chouchou Hotel. 

Nicole Nina Hu 

Nicole is a Chinese-American solo traveler who shares her tips for budget-friendly and safe trips for women.

“It’s just been a lot of being very spontaneous … I feel like people think it’s really scary to, like, not have anything planned, but for me it’s … so much easier,” Nicole shared when she joined as a guest on the GLOBETHOTTER podcast

Discover more of Nicole’s travels on Pinterest, TikTok, and her blog

Oneika Raymond

Oneika is an Emmy-winning explorer and travel storyteller, and she works as a reporter for New York Live and the host and producer of Marriott Bonvoy’s About the Journey podcast.

Her Instagram feed contains many vibrantly colored photos of destinations including Las Vegas, Valladolid, Boston, Goeree-Overflakkee, and more. 

Check out Oneika’s latest destination on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and her blog

Top travel influencers on TikTok

Jessica Serna 

@mycurlyadventures Part 2 of our mini vlog things to do in Pealrand Texas #texas ♬ Summer – Instrumental – Devinney

While a lot of travel influencers like to go around the globe, others prefer to take a more local approach, and Jessica Serna is the queen of Texas travel. She has a blast showcasing restaurants, experiences, and destinations throughout the state. 

The team at GRIN had the pleasure of interviewing Jessica, among other creators, for an episode of the GRIN Gets Real podcast. Check out what she had to say about what makes influencers say “yes” to brand partnerships. 

You can also start planning your road trip through Texas with her content on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, and her blog.

Madeline Lu 

@_lumadeline The glamorous Beverly Hills Hotel, LA, USA #tiktoktravel #fyp ♬ It’s Been A Long, Long Time – Harry James & His Orchestra

Madeline is a self-taught photographer and content creator who has been featured in Condé Nast Traveller (UK), Condé Nast Traveler (US), Vogue Paris, Die Zeit Magazin, and more. 

Through her blog and her social posts, she shares her family’s travels around the globe. 

You can also check out her stunning travel photography on Facebook, Pinterest, and her blog

Steven Ndukwu

@stevenndukwu #rwanda made $69M from Gorillas #tourism #travel ♬ original sound – Steven Ndukwu

Steven is an African filmmaker who frequently shares information about real estate and tourism in countries across Africa. From discussing the cost of spending a day with a gorilla in Rwanda to talking about what it’s like sleeping overnight on a floating bed in the middle of a river in Nigeria, Steven covers a variety of unique and fascinating experiences across the continent. 

Learn more about tourist destinations in Africa on Steven’s Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube

Molly Rooney 

@champagnegetaway Another Hawaii Favorite. We stayed here on our honeymoon.. Pretty expensive, but we used our @marriottbonvoy points to book! #30stays300days #contest ♬ Paradise – Bazzi

Molly Rooney and her husband converted their Nashville home into an Airbnb and now travel the world with their young son. When she’s not posting about their latest destination, she’s sharing home decor, beauty, and fashion advice. 

You can also keep track of her family’s travels on Instagram, Facebook, and her blog

Picture Perfect World 

@pictureperfectwrld Three best views of the Eiffel Tower #parisfrance #visitparis #travelwithme #eiffeltowerparis #travelparis #wanderluster ♬ Amour plastique – Videoclub

Luis, the creator behind Picture Perfect World, is a self-proclaimed foodie offering travel tips and inspiration for various global destinations. He takes viewers on tours of unique attractions, including a cafe with live sheep in Seoul and Grand Central Market in Los Angeles. 

You can find more of Luis’ content on YouTube and Instagram

Top travel influencers on YouTube

Sarah Funk 

While Sarah occasionally shares info about her trips around the globe, she most often highlights tourist destinations in her home of New York City. Beyond that, she works as a travel guide throughout NYC and offers an online course to help entrepreneurs start their own businesses. 

Plan your next trip to NYC with help from Sarah’s Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and TikTok

Mark Wiens 

Mark is a traveler and food connoisseur who documents the unique and delicious meals he has around the world. He started writing the Migrationology blog when he moved to Thailand, and now he has expanded to vlogs on YouTube and other channels. 

“I originally came to Thailand just to eat,” Mark shared in an interview with Hot Thai Kitchen.

You can also check out Mark’s latest meals on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and his blog.

Jorden Tually 

Jorden is an Australian content creator, photographer, and traveler who shares his trips around the world with his followers. He infuses most of his videos with humor and even shares the “dumb ways to die” from dangers he experiences in his travels. 

In an interview for White Scribbles, Jorden said of his happy-go-lucky attitude, “Life as a child was awesome, and I spend each day trying to be more like one again! Most people want to grow up, but I want to grow down.” 

Learn more about Jorden’s latest trip on Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter

The Traveling Swiss 

Alexis and Louis, better known as The Traveling Swiss, share videos about their trips through Switzerland. After living in New York City (Alexis’ hometown) and then dating internationally, they now live together in Switzerland (Louis’ home country). 

From sharing tips about what souvenirs to buy to how to travel the country on a budget, Alexis and Louis share everything a person should know before heading to Switzerland. 

You can also find their helpful advice on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok

Trev and Chels 

Trevor Martin and Chelsea Kreiner are a couple from Orlando who have visited Australia, Paris, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, the Cayman Islands, and multiple theme parks and cruises. 

Together, they create content for brands like Royal Caribbean International, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, and Audible. 

Learn more about their travels on Trevor’s Instagram and Twitter and Chelsea’s Instagram and Twitter

Top travel bloggers 

Alex in Wanderland 

After growing up in New York, Alex Baackes booked a one-way ticket and began her travels. Now, she uses her skills in photography and design to fuel her travel blog, which covers topics like international festivals, cruising, and experiencing native wildlife. 

Alex also hosts Wander Women’s Retreats, which allow women to experience themed retreats in destinations like West Palm Beach and Egypt. 

You can also keep track of Alex’s wanderings on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, and YouTube

Dan Flying Solo 

Between 2014 and 2018, Dan spent 1,467 days on the road after leaving his job as a restaurant manager. Now, Dan blogs about his experiences and helps readers travel the world with ease. 

You can also keep track of Dan’s travels on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube

The Traveling Child 

The Hambricks are a family of four documenting their adventures, and while they have two young children, they don’t limit themselves only to “kid-friendly” destinations. Together, they share their tips for getting flight deals and making travel affordable, as well as their own travel itineraries. 

Discover even more of the Hambricks’ adventures on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter

O. Christine 

O. is a writer and multimedia content creator from the South Bronx who shares travel and wellbeing tips with her BIPOC and female followers. She also shares her experience with lupus and tips for managing it while abroad. 

You can also learn more about O.’s travels on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube

Johnny Jet 

Known as the “original travel influencer,” Johnny discusses everything from the credit cards that provide the best travel perks to how to have a successful road trip.

Johnny’s detailed tips have earned him features on CBS Los Angeles, Bravo TV, and Forbes. 

Find more of Johnny’s content on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram

Key takeaway: Partnering with influencers can help your travel brand soar to new heights. 

As travel ramps back up and ad budgets begin to soar, standing out from the competition is the key to winning customers. And there’s no better way to stand out than by partnering with creators. 

Frequently Asked Questions

The amount a travel influencer will charge a brand looking to partner with them will vary depending on several things, including: 

  • The type of posts you want – A 10-minute YouTube vlog takes a lot more work to create than a single photo on Instagram and will thus be more expensive. 
  • How many posts you want – The more posts you want, the more an influencer will charge. 
  • The perks an influencer will receive – Many travel brands offer influencers trips or experiences so that they can create content and tell their followers about it. Offering a creator a free, all-inclusive trip or an exclusive tour can help you negotiate for a better price. 
  • The usage rights – If your brand is looking to use the influencer’s content on your own marketing channels, you’ll often have to offer a higher rate.

For more information, see our blog on influencer rates.

A travel influencer shares images, videos, and stories pertaining to vacations on their social media profiles and engages with their many followers in the comments. Travel influencers may post content about: 

  • Destinations – This may include places they would like to return to, places they would not like to return to, and activities and restaurants in the areas they visit. 
  • Itineraries – Tying into destinations, many influencers share the itineraries they use while traveling so their followers can have the same experiences. 
  • Travel advice – They may share anything ranging from how to afford a trip to how to stay safe while traveling. 
  • And more!

Travel influencers are people with significant followings (at least 1,000 followers) on one or more social media platforms who post frequently about travel tips, dream destinations, and more. Some examples of travel influencers include Johnny Jet, Oneika Raymond, and Lucy Tranos.

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