Understanding UGC: Leveraging It’s Power to Drive Growth in the Travel Industry

In a nutshell, user-generated content – or UGC for short – is content that’s created by people, rather than brands. Typically, it’s brand-specific, original content curated by customers that’s then posted on multiple different social media channels. It can come in many forms, including images, videos, reviews, testimonials, blog posts, YouTube videos, and podcasts – essentially, it can be anything that clearly demonstrates a brand’s product/service that’s not posted by the company themselves. 

In terms of its importance, in general, it establishes trust between the customer and the brand. There’s no agenda for UGC because the content hasn’t actually been created by the company. It’s honest and open, which means potential customers can trust it due to it being based on the experience of other consumers. Marketing-wise, it’s gold dust (and free advertising) for companies, as it provides social proof that their products are worthy of purchase. For instance, if your audience sees others like them using or wearing your product, it increases the influence to buy.

So, the next time you see a ‘GRWM’ reel with the brand tagged in the post or someone has received a package and has posted an unboxing video to YouTube, know that these are all examples of user-generated content. In this blog post, we’ll be delving into why UGC is particularly powerful in the travel industry, plus we’ll provide examples of travel brands that have effectively leveraged its power…


The power of user-generated content in the travel industry 

User-generated content in the travel industry is particularly powerful because it has the potential to increase engagement, build trust, brand loyalty, and improve a company’s overall marketing strategies. It also provides diverse and genuine perspectives from legitimate sources outside of a business, therefore saving a company time and resources in terms of content creation.

In the travel industry, UGC is usually seen in the form of videos, photos, social media posts and reviews, and they’re commonly created and posted by travellers and influencers (or travel influencers). This growing trend has become invaluable for consumers seeking unbiased and authentic information before making their final purchase. 

As a travel business owner, it’s important to recognise the benefits of UGC in order to improve your reputation and attract tourists. Here’s how you can drive growth with UGC in travel marketing:

Increase conversions

As per research conducted by EveryoneSocial, the addition of user-generated content in campaigns can increase conversions by 29%. This proves the importance of utilising UGC in travel marketing, and that it can significantly boost marketing messaging and ads.

It impacts purchasing decisions

According to research from Stackla, 79% of people say that user-generated content highly impacts their buying decisions. They also revealed that, for 90% of customers, authenticity is a non-negotiable when it comes to deciding which brands they’ll support. 


Gen Z and millennials are the biggest UGC content drivers

Millennials contribute to 70% of all UGC, says DMNews. Apparently, those aged 25 and above trust user-generated content 50% more than original content created by brands. Plus, word-of-mouth marketing generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising. For Gen Z, UGC is the most important factor in terms of making a purchase decision on a company’s site.


Engage and create a community

UGC encourages tourists to actively participate in the conversation around your brand. You can also create a buzz by inviting customers to share their experiences and thoughts through content in order to build a unique community around your company. Note that it’s important to respond and engage with the UGC as this further strengthens your connections with customers new and prospective. Showing them that you value their opinions and listen to their needs influences them to become your own brand ambassadors.


Steps to encourage user-generated content in the travel industry

Travel brands assemble – you need to be aware of the practical UGC marketing strategies that will encourage customers to generate content. Because you can’t just sit back and expect it to happen without a little bit of effort your side:


Run social media contests

Fact: humans love winning. Second fact: (as selfish as it sounds) humans are more inclined to do something if there’s a reward for them in the end. Running social media competitions is a major incentive for consumers – and travel brands already have an upper hand in this respect because the rewards can be incredibly attractive. For example, Airbnb is killer at this. Every year, they run a photo contest that encourages customers to share their best travel pics taken at their Airbnb listing. The winning photos are then featured in the company’s marketing materials and social media platforms. Not only does this provide exposure for the content creators, but it also increases brand engagement.


Provide incentives for reviews 

Aside from your customers having a good experience with your brand, why should they leave you a review? This is where further incentives come in – for example, you can create a loyalty scheme or a referral program for your company that gives people a reason to leave a review. Say you’re a travel brand that offers excursions in different countries – why not offer a 10% off coupon for their next booking or enter them into a prize draw for a free tour in return for leaving a positive review on your preferred platform?


Encourage branded hashtags

We all know that hashtags are used on social media to enable content to be found by the right people. Branded hashtags are important in travel marketing as they help to create a buzz and make your brand popular. Expedia did this really well with their ‘Expedia’s Viewfinder’ campaign. It featured travel bloggers who create content for their travel blog and social platforms. It also urged users to share their own photos and travel experiences using the hashtag #ExpediaViewfinder. This built said buzz and also increased Expedia’s engagement and trust with its audience. 

Branded hashtags are also really easy ways to generate and easily find more UGC.


How to curate and leverage user-generated content

Along with the above ideas on driving growth with UGC, you can collect them from multiple different online areas. These include:


Through email

Email campaigns can produce plenty of UGC. But how? Start by creating multiple templates and personalise the emails – you need to let customers know what kind of content you want from them. Send your mailing list satisfaction surveys and provide clear instructions on how to leave a review, plus an incentive to motivate them to do so. You can also send post-purchase emails asking consumers to share their feedback on the product they just bought from you.

Through your website

Incorporate UGC on your website (especially product pages) by making it easy to leave a review. Include a clear “Write a Review” section below the product to encourage customers to share their positive thoughts. This makes the purchasing decision easier for future buyers, as they can be influenced by previous customer experiences. 

Use QR codes

Display QR codes on your site and in emails encouraging people to share their feedback. People can scan the codes, and they’ll be redirected to a feedback form where they can share reviews, photos, videos, etc.


SMS marketing

Note, with SMS marketing, timing is everything. Send a text asking for feedback directly after a purchase, or post-delivery. This increases the chances of customers complying.


Once you’ve collected UGC, you can utilise it in many different ways, too:


Add UGC images in an abandon cart email

This can help nudge potential buyers to follow through with the purchase. You can also add UGC to key landing pages to boost conversion rates.


Organic social 

Travel brands heavily rely on using customer photos to tell their community’s story while simultaneously reaping the rewards of higher engagement and larger reach. According to Semrush, over 80% of companies use UGC as part of their marketing strategy. When customers create and share said content on social media, they receive 28% higher engagement than standard brand posts.


Customer acquisition

Customer acquisition is the process of getting prospective buyers to purchase your products. In terms of leveraging UGC in this format, “savvy brands are already doubling-down on UGC as an acquisition tool, it’s a trend that’s been ramping up for the last five years as the generations which respond best to it get more and more purchasing power,” says  Kirsten Baumberger, Founder and Director of Partnerships at minisocial.io, a New York-based UGC platform.

Shopify has detailed that ads based on UGC receive four times higher click-through rates. Plus, a 50% drop in cost-per-click compared to normal ads.

Brands need to be careful when selecting what kind of UGC they use for legality and ethnicity reasons. Because it’s someone else’s content, you need to make sure the use adheres to copyright regulations and other legal frameworks.

Here are some tips to avoid legal issues:

  • Expressed consent

This is a formal agreement from the creator allowing you to use their material.

  • Implied consent

Creators are aware that their content can be used for marketing reasons if it has been posted publicly. But this means you might need implied consent, which is permission not expressly granted by the author, but through a person’s actions.

  • Opt-in consent 

This is when a person consciously and voluntarily gives their consent to receive marketing materials. It’s also when brands ask for someone’s permission to use their data or marketing.


You can get UGC rights permission by:

  • Direct requests
  • UGC terms and conditions 
  • UGC rights management tools
  • Hashtag campaigns
  • Contests and promotions
  • User agreement/sign-up


Case studies of successful UGC campaigns in the travel industry

Here are a couple of case studies that prove how you can drive growth with UGC in travel marketing…



GoPro is a prime example of a company using UGC to its advantage. They use it to sustain their YouTube channels, and in December 2021, its top three videos were all filmed by customers using their own GoPros. At the time, the videos had a combined total of over 400 million views.

Because GoPro relies heavily on user-generated content (and has proved to be mega successful on that front), they now run their own awards show. Plus, they drop daily video challenges to encourage their customers to get creative with their products.

Pretty good when you think about the fact this content cost them literally nothing to produce. The perfect example of a company using UGC to cut its marketing costs.

Hilton Hotels

Hilton Hotels were way ahead of the game when they first started to embrace UGC. As far back as 2014, the brand created the #HiltonStory hashtag and encouraged their guests to share their own personal travel stories. They then made the most of this new-found opportunity by heading to Instagram to post the images of their customers, which helped them to grow their social media presence exponentially. Presently, the hotel chain has 191K followers on the platform. 

Sharing these snaps along with the messages from the travellers enabled them to humanise travel (all while promoting the Hilton brand as the perfect place to stay). 


Travel brands – you need to get on UGC marketing 

Bottom line – have we even been on holiday until every element of our getaway has been shared online? From hotel recommendations to snaps of our meals at local restaurants, consumers produce priceless pieces of UGC, often without even realising it.

Which is why it would be foolish of travel brands to ignore such valuable marketing content. Whether it’s leveraging UGC through social media by running competitions, or giving customers an incentive to leave your company a good review, every travel business needs to incorporate user-generated content into their marketing strategies somehow.

We’d love to hear from businesses that have succeeded thanks to UGC in travel marketing, and we’d also love to hear from brands who’d like to benefit from the strategy.

Let us know your thoughts, contact us here to talk UGC!

Ellie Mckenna

Content Executive

MSc Digital Marketing & Communications. All things pattern and design. Find me eating pizza in a floral print 🌸🍕
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