Insights for Destination & Leisure Marketers

Online Influencers: The New Travel Agency for Millennials

do travel brands need influencers

For some, traveling is a lifestyle. And those who fall into that category and also have a way with words – they become influencers.

Today, young travelers are seeking their next destination through social media famous gurus who set the bar on vacations. These travel aficionados highlight their lives as international jet setters, and they know how to do it well. About 30% of young travelers find themselves motivated by video content and online reviews when they are selecting the destination for their next trip. And they often do this in lieu of viewing the pictures and videos posted by the brands themselves, which they find less inspiring.

The secret to marketing to millennials is aspiration and authenticity. The ‘Instagram Famous’ travel gurus are real people traveling to real places. Content is neither staged nor fixed (or at least it doesn’t feel that way), and young people feel connected and inspired by this.

These gurus have more clout than the latest celebrity. Celebrity campaigns like we’ve seen in the past simply don’t resonate with this young audience. The close- knit affinity that social media influencers have with their followers surpasses celebrity branding completely. In fact, the entire concept of ‘celebrity’ is changing with it. It is no longer about television or red carpet stars. The new celebrities are people who participate in social engagement every day with their followers. They take an interest in their followers, who can relate to their appearance of normalcy. Influencers remind us that ‘ordinary people’ can visit extraordinary places and be just as extraordinary themselves.

Take travel influencer @helloemilie, for example. She has reshaped what it means to travel all across the world. In doing so, she continues to gain social media followers who anxiously wait for new photos of her most recent trip. She also reminds us that we can live an adventurous lifestyle just like she does; we can go wherever we want, whenever we want (within reason of course). The main takeaway is that her adventures are believable and relatable – two characteristics that are hard to find in traditional celebrities. Her ability to communicate from personal experience is the kind of user-generated content that continues to grab the attention of young people.

The Millennial traveler trusts these influencers more than they would a travel agent or the brand itself to tell the story of not only a destination, but perhaps the accommodations, attractions, and restaurants within that destination.

So How Do I Pick the Right Influencer?

Very carefully. A year ago, Inc. came out with a list of 6 questions to ask influencers before you select someone to work with your brand. Those questions still stand today. These are the main traits you should look for:

  • Resonance. It has to be the right person for your target audience. Someone whose tone and experience will resonate, or it won’t work.
  • Collaboration. The best influencers not only work for your target audience, but for you. Make sure you hire someone who is collaborative and easy to work with.
  • Speed. The influencer you choose should be able to communicate back and forth with someone from your brand within a very short period of time.
  • Affordability. Obviously, pick someone who is within your budget. Well-known influencers can get expensive, so smaller destinations, hotels, and attractions might need to look at other options.
  • Success. Despite budget constraints, you’ll want to work with someone who has had measurable success for other brands the same size as yours.


Before you jump into the world of influencers, it’s a good idea to talk to another brand, perhaps in a parallel industry, and see how they went about the process. As long as you’re not in direct competition with them, most CEOs and Marketing Directors are happy to tell you about their marketing efforts. And the topic of influencers is no exception. Do a little research – you may just find that influencers are right for your travel brand.