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Guiding Consumers Through the 5 Stages of Travel on Instagram

If you live in the Northeast, I’ll make a solid bet that you’re more than ready for winter to take a seat. You’re probably also well into the first of the five stages of travel: dreaming. Fortunately, with the majority of U.S. colleges letting out for Spring Break over the next few weeks, a significant portion of people will score some much-needed time away.

College students aren’t the only ones planning getaways this time of year either. According to Andrea Lown, partner at visual content agency Digital Coconut, the spike in weddings from May to October means that engaged couples typically plan their honeymoons from January to April.

This is the ideal time for travel brands to capture their share of demand. And as it turns out, Instagram is the perfect channel to do that. Here’s how.

Let one traveler’s “share” become another’s “dream.”

The first stage of travel, per Google, is “dreaming” – the phase where inspiration hits, and a consumer decides they’d like to take a trip. This could happen after seeing an ad or reading an article about a particular destination. But these days, it’s more common for a consumer to be influenced after seeing photos of someone else having a great time. You might know this better as user-generated content.

Ironically, what brands should really embrace at the first stage of travel is the final stage: “sharing.” The last phase of the cycle for one traveler can easily become the first for another.

Hyatt Hotels has mastered the practice of employing user-generated content to inspire travelers on Instagram.

hyatt instagram UGC

Because Hyatt is so confident in letting their fans’ photos speak for themselves, the brand’s Instagram feed looks like a well put together collage from a modern-day traveler. Photos invoke that sense of “you wish you were here” that only an Instagram picture can bring about.

Gansevoort is another hotel brand that relies on UGC to sway consumers, but they are notable for a different reason. Most of the UGC photos that appear on the Gansevoort’s feed are beachfront shots that would conjure feelings of envy on any consumer struggling with the cold this winter.

gansevoort beach instagram

The brand saw this user’s photo as an opportunity to remind consumers that Gansevoort hotels are a great place to relax and get away from the cold, and asked to use it on their own feed. It became a valuable piece of content at a crucial time of the season.

Tout your unique experiences.

Young consumers are fueling the experiential economy. In fact, some 78% of millennials reported in a 2014 Eventbrite survey that they would rather spend money on a fascinating experience or event over a desirable item. And with the fourth stage of travel being “experiencing,” it follows that consumers are keen to put their dollars toward unique, exciting adventures.

hilton columbus art

The Hilton Columbus Downtown caters to that on their Instagram feed. The hotel features a unique work of art on the ceiling of each guestroom, and the walls of the common areas of the property itself are replete with art from local artists. This Instagram feed promotes the fact that the authentic pieces of art make this property stand out from others.

The Ritz-Carlton takes a similar approach on its feed, highlighting one-of-a-kind aspects of its hotels.

ritz carlton instagram

In this photo, not only did they rely on UGC—a major plus—but they also exhibited a distinctive feature about this particular Ritz-Carlton property. The view from the restaurant is extraordinary, allowing those who dine there to look over the city. While it’s not something everyone would enjoy, it’s an experience, and The Ritz-Carlton is generating interest by showing it off.

Make it easy to plan and book.

A September 2014 SaleCycle survey of travelers around the globe found that 81% of adventurers abandon their travel bookings online. Some 39% do so because they’re looking to do more planning (the third stage of the buying process), and 37% said they prefer to compare prices before actually booking (the fourth stage). A smaller group—13%—abandons because the checkout process is just too complicated.

It would behoove brands to simplify the research and booking processes. And Conrad Hotels and Resorts has found Instagram is an easy way to do that with Curalate’s Like2Buy technology.

conrad hotels book instagram

Upon seeing a beautiful shot, Instagram users can click Conrad Hotels’ bio link and be transported to a shoppable feed. All of the images in that feed then direct to a property’s booking page. In just two taps, users can go from admiring a photo on Instagram to having all the information they need to book at their disposal.

Be there every step of the way.

The creativity that Instagram encourages now allows brands to maintain an active presence during every stage of the travel cycle – through all of the dreaming, planning, booking, experiencing and sharing. To learn more about how to further facilitate the process for travelers eager to book their next trip, click below.

Photography Tips from Top Instagram Influencers

The Author

Stephanie Wharton

Stephanie Wharton, Content Strategist

Stephanie is a Content Strategist at Curalate. She enjoys analyzing data and writing about consumer trends.


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