The travel industry is facing a crisis of confidence. Never before has so much information been available to travellers to help plan or seek inspiration for their next trip — but how much of this is sponsored, paid for or generated by big brands? How much of it is aligned to a particular marketing campaign or special offer? How much of it can be trusted? Advertising as an industry has long been regulated in order to avoid questions such as these — all marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such so that consumers are not misled — and yet, as the domain of online marketing continues to evolve, the lines begin to blur. Vado explores.
Social media influencers are the latest advertising driver to come into question. Having amassed a following based on their credibility, sponsored posts and the monetisation of their accounts — if done incorrectly — threatens to undermine their foundations. Recent months have seen a number of influencers face negative publicity; perhaps most notably within the travel industry was blogger Elle Darby, who faced criticism for trying to secure a free room at a hotel in exchange for publicity. And it’s not only influencers that misleading content and intentions reflects negatively on, but the brands they represent.
A recent survey in the UK on behalf of the prize promotions agency Prizeology revealed almost half of those surveyed (44%) believed influencer marketing was bad for society, with 61% responding that brands were not being transparent about their use of influencers. In fact, 71% of people thought there were no rules around the use of influencers, despite this being regulated, while 61% believed influencers don’t have to disclose that they have been paid to talk about a product. The problem isn’t with advertising via influencers per se, it’s with not making this clear from the outset — two thirds of those surveyed still agreed with the statement that their perception of a brand improved when it was transparent about product placement.
It’s this same seed of doubt over the transparency of influencer marketing in the travel industry that is growing into a greater wariness of user-generated content across the board. In addition, large online travel companies are placing a huge emphasis on the creation of promotional content that aligns with the direction taken by site algorithms, whether that’s to highlight a destination, hotel or activity. From blogs and social media to more traditional means of advertorial, as the regulations have tightened, the overload of such information has made it difficult for customers to trust whether the recommendations and reviews they come across are indeed genuine. The credibility of user-generated content is a growing concern amongst travelers — but increasingly, so is its authenticity.
Instagram, for example, has become a major source of travel photography from influencers and everyone else to document their travels, pinpoint beautiful places, and inspire others on their trips — and it’s been hugely successful. According to a recent survey by Schofields, more than 40 per cent of millennials — a generation 23% more likely to travel abroad than any other — now consider the “Instagrammability” of a destination a major factor when planning their next trip.
And yet, as more and more of us enter the game, those that want to hold influencer status must edit and crop their images to perfection. At what point, though, are these images too perfect? So distorted from the real thing that they can no longer be considered a true representation, or therefore credible source of information? This article from the Telegraph, for example, demonstrates just how different images can appear on Instagram compared to the reality.
The Instagram effect is snowballing, and more and more travellers are becoming disillusioned with the information available to them as a result. Despite this, the travel community is stronger than ever; but its members are looking for inspiration from sources they can believe — and the friends, family and public figures they trust. Whether that’s via word of mouth, social media or magazine editorial, the problem then is how to collate and store this information from so many different mediums before it’s forgotten.
Vado, at its core, is an all-in-one travel management app. It’s designed as a single source for instantly logging inspirational places and discovering new ones, booking trips and planning itineraries, seeking recommendations from peers and leaving reviews for friends. But more than that, Vado is a community founded upon transparency and authenticity. All interactions will work through existing friendships — trusted sources in tune with each user’s unique tastes. The app will be built on friends; grown through friends of friends — with the power to become the most reliable, authentic, in-depth, and decentralised travel-based platform out there.
An idea you’re onboard with? How has ‘Instagrammability’ affected how you engage with travel content? Let us know your thoughts, and keep up to date with Vado’s journey and app development on Instagram (@vadoapp), Facebook and Twitter.