Travel influencers: the new key actors in tourism promotion

8 min reading time

Published on 10/03/22 - Updated on 17/03/22

essor influenceurs voyages

At a time when social networks are omnipresent in our daily lives, travel influencers are becoming the new gurus of the tourism sector. Instagram, TikTok, Blog or YouTube are the tools that allow them to make us dream of a destination through photos, videos and texts, each more inspiring than the last. A growing popularity that encourages more and more destinations to use influencer marketing for their promotional campaigns.

Who are these new tourism opinion leaders?

Who hasn't dreamed of going on a trip after seeing a photo of a magnificent sunset over the sea on their Instagram feed? Behind these posts that count hundreds, even thousands, of likes are people whose work makes many people dream. The profession of travel influencers has experienced a dazzling rise in a few years, particularly due to the powerful rise of social networks. And what makes the strength of these influencers is their communities that follow them on a daily basis. In France alone, Instagram has more than 24 million users, while TikTok has more than 2.3 billion users worldwide.

These numbers are expected to keep growing as younger generations create accounts earlier and earlier. Young subscribers make up a large part of influencers' communities and are most influenced by their posts. Indeed, 37% of young people say they themselves are influenced by social networks when choosing where to go. But more generally, 34% of French people say they use social networks when choosing their holidays. Some go even further in this approach by booking holidays based on their "Instagrammable" potential.

Travel influencers are perceived as authentic and inspiring and thanks to social media, it is easy for them to connect with their communities. Their thoughts and emotions are shared through texts, videos and photos that allow their followers to travel with them. It is even possible to follow their journeys in real time thanks to stories and other reels. Their testimonies are also considered as real sharing of experiences and not as advertising. This is an interesting asset when you consider that 34% of French people say they trust a travel blog more than an institutional tourism website.

Instagram is the social network most used by travel influencers, because it is originally a photo sharing network. And the more aesthetic the photos are, the more subscribers the account has, a godsend for these often well-equipped influencers. It is also and above all the platform on which the interaction rate is the highest. YouTube is also the one with the highest interaction rate, but for the sharing of very elaborate and relatively long videos, not all influencers use this platform. But recently it's the TikTok network that is experiencing an unprecedented boom. Notably due to the pandemic. It is attracting the attention of more and more influencers wishing to address an even younger community.

The family of travel influencers can be divided into two main categories, the "major-influencers" and the "nano-influencers". The former have at least 100,000 followers while the latter have communities ranging from 1,000 to 10,000 followers. In France, the leading influencer is Bruno Maltor, with nearly 360,000 subscribers, who began his adventure by creating his blog Votre Tour du Monde. Jonathan Bertin, with more than 115,000 subscribers, is also known and recognised for his photography skills. Women are also taking up this unusual profession, such as Lily Rose, with more than 262,000 subscribers. Finally, we can also mention BestJobers, with 148,000 subscribers, a young couple with a passion for nature who have strongly promoted France as a destination throughout the health crisis.

When destinations use travel influencers

If travel influencers have gained a lot of popularity in the last few years, they have also gained credibility with the more institutional tourism actors. More and more destinations are taking an interest in this growing phenomenon and are deciding to use influencers in their promotional campaigns. There are many examples in France alone and they clearly show the predominant role played by these new actors in tourism 2.0.

The departments of Sarthe and Mayenne have invited several major travel influencers during the summer of 2021. Including Bruno Maltor, Christophe Salin (owner of the blog voyages etc...) and the Spanish influencer Teresa Lorenzo Reyes. The selection of influencers is based on the number of subscribers but also on the quality of their content.

Bruno Maltor has also been invented by the Vendée tourism organisation for the summer of 2021, as has Léa Camilleri, as part of the "four seasons" communication scheme. The aim is to promote the region through vlogs, a  communication content in the form of a video in which one follows the daily life of a person over one or more days.

The CRT of New Aquitaine is also interested in travel influencers and notably organises large press events by inviting various French influencers but also European influencers in order to have a reach on more markets. The reception of European influencers was part of Atout France's relaunch campaign called #ExploreFrance. Influencers from the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Spain and Italy visited various areas in the region. All these trips were organised in partnership with the various tourist offices and CDT/ADTs of the destinations in question. Thanks to the numerous vlogs, Instagram posts and YouTube videos, the benefits in terms of notoriety for the region have been significant.

Internationally, there are also many examples. Visit Finland launched the "100 days of polar night magic" campaign by inviting 5 travel influencers from key markets for the destination for 3 months. The objective was to create original and inspiring content to promote the destination during the winter period. A weekly web-series showed the daily life of these influencers during their stays in order to follow their adventures day by day. This strategy paid off for the destination, as the campaign received media coverage from 808 media outlets. The VisitFinland website was also visited 641,500 times and the videos were viewed 781,600 times.

Poland and the Czech Republic partnered with Interrail to organise a major influencer campaign with 3 travel influencers, WorldElse (46,300 followers), Travel Me Happy (42,000 followers) and Little Gypsy (70,700 followers). During their journey, they discovered Cesky Krumlov, Ostrava, Tanvald, Prague, Krakow, Wroclaw and the Ojcow National Park. All these destinations were highlighted in Instagram and instastory posts, Facebook and Twitter posts, an SEO optimised article and a video. In total, 1,189,653 people were reached on all networks, with a total of 26,614 clicks to the Interrail website.

It's not just destinations that are giving travel influencers the spotlight, Expedia has decided to call on them for a marketing campaign ahead of the 2021 summer season. The travel agency collaborated with Bruno Maltor, Baby Chou Family and Black Beauty Bag in order to relaunch tourism, in particular by highlighting the French destination. The influencers had to create unique itineraries and share their tips and opinions in an aim to inspire travellers but also to attract new customers for Expedia. A mission made possible thanks to the engagement rate of the different influencers' communities.

Azureva is also interested in them and is launching its Tour de France of influencers this year. A unique influencer campaign consisting of a 3-stage tour of France with 12 destinations and 12 influencers. The Coflocs influencers (24,100 subscribers) will tour France in a van, as they are fans and promoters of this mode of transport. It is also their trademark on social networks. During their adventure, the Coflocs will meet 12 local influencers in 12 Azureva properties.

We want to affirm the brand's new positioning in 2022: 'Welcoming people in shared lands' by strengthening our territorial roots. What better way to do this than to carry our values throughout France, to meet the teams who welcome you all year round to discover their exceptional territories. We have thought big with this innovative project! 

Jean Pochoy, Managing Director of Azureva

The advantages of developing a partnership with travel influencers are numerous for institutions in the tourism sector. First of all, the visibility and notoriety brought by various posts, stories and other means of communication. A territory that is still relatively confidential can become known to the wider public in this way and receive benefits quite quickly. Indeed, some big influencers benefit from a significant rate of commitment among their community. It translates into bookings and stays after a destination is highlighted on their account. Finally, the content produced by influencers can be reused in the future for various promotional and communication campaigns at a lower cost.

A reality not always so "Instagrammable"

Some destinations suffer from the downside of influencer marketing, notably the phenomenon of over-tourism. Travel influencers often make trendy spots visible through a publication, and in spite of themselves, encourage many people to follow in their footsteps and take similar photos. Although they cannot be accused of being the cause of mass tourism, they are nevertheless participating in this phenomenon, which is very detrimental to the sector. Some sites are seeing unimaginable queues to get the perfect photo to post on their social networks.

Influencers are said to have a considerable impact on small, hidden corners of the world, unknown to the general public. Whether it's a street, a building, a lake or many other places. Places that they like to highlight in their posts and that are quickly snapped up by the crowds of tourists. This is the case of rue Crémieux in Paris. A small and colourful street that was until now relatively confidential but that now sees a large number of visitors following the visibility that some influencers have given it on their accounts. Exasperated by this phenomenon, local residents decided to take action. Taking a photo in front of the houses on the street is now punishable by a fine.

The problem is not the influencers themselves, but rather their followers who want to reproduce their photos and then post them on their accounts. A phenomenon called "mass copycatism". While some destinations regulate or close down the sites in question to protect them, others play the humour card, as in the case of New Zealand's tourist office. In its video "Do something new", we follow the daily life of an agent of the SOS (Social Observation Squad) whose mission is to dislodge tourists who would like to reproduce a photo already seen thousands of times on Instagram. A campaign that humorously criticizes the phenomenon of "travel under the influence". It concludes with the following message: "Don't travel under the social influence".

But some influencers have chosen not to display the geolocation of their photos in order to avoid this crowd effect in places still protected from overtourism. And the NGO WWF has gone even further by launching the "I protect Nature" operation in summer 2019. So, instead of filling in the geolocation of the place where the photo was taken, the influencers wrote "I protect Nature", which, if clicked on, sent the user to the address of the organisation's headquarters in France.

Finally, the difference between what travel influencers sell us on Instagram and the reality is often striking. Sites saturated with tourists, extremely polluted places, even sites that have disappeared or are closed. The list of examples is endless, from the Leaning Tower of Pisa to the Blue Lagoon in Iceland through the Great Wall of China.

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