By Adam Dornbusch

From weekend getaways to tropical escapes, hotels and resorts across the globe will see an influx in guests staying at their locations this summer. In fact, Expedia Travel Group predicts this summer will be the busiest travel season yet as consumers continue booking flights both domestically and internationally. Fortunately, this increase in the number of travelers also brings an increase in the amount of potential marketing content hotels and destinations can gather. As guests visit new locations, they’ll also be snapping photos and videos to remember their trip in key spots such as pools, spas, dining spots, rooms, and at check-in/check-out – creating an opportunity to gather an abundance of content that can be utilized in various marketing initiatives.

This type of content created by consumers – widely regarded as user generated content (UGC) – allows hotels and hospitality marketers to garner authentic, organic, and high-quality content of guests’ firsthand experiences to then share across their platforms, rather than turning to sponsored content that could be from a celebrity or macro-influencer online. In the past few years, marketers have found consumers shying away from sponsored posts by influencers and celebrities, with studies showing 84% of consumers now trust recommendations from friends and family over any other source. Consumer distrust is also on the rise, suggesting we’re moving away from the traditional influencer model.

This shift in consumer behavior means UGC is more likely to have a lasting impact on consumers and is proven true by another study from Crowdtap that found user-generated content to be 35% more memorable than other types of media found online. As UGC continues to gain popularity amongst consumers and the travel industry is preparing for a booming season, now is the perfect time for hoteliers and destinations to capitalize on the increased content users are capturing without needing to spend a portion of their budget on hiring traditional influencers.

And whether hoteliers know it or not, UGC is all around us. According to a study from the Consumer Technology Association, user generated content makes up 39% of weekly media hours consumed by Americans. So, rather than partnering with traditional influencers or paying for ad campaigns, which on average costs $500-$5,000 per post for mid-tier influencers, hospitality brands can pursue creators from their existing customer base to capture real, personal, and unbiased experiences to showcase.

How can hotels gather content that best fits marketing needs?

One of the most beneficial practices when starting to gather UGC is by offering incentives for creators. Dating back to 2014, an example of incentivizing social media content for rewards can be seen through Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, which began rewarding guests for sharing their experiences with rewards such as in-room spa treatments and other amenities. Though an investment for brands, these incentives help develop a deeper relationship with consumers and help loyal customers spread the word to future guests –  resulting in deeper relationships with a brand’s customer base. To encourage guests to participate in providing content, hotels can offer anything from free merchandise, an activity, a dining credit, or even create a UGC submissions loyalty program, where guests can earn points redeemable towards future stays, room upgrades, dining discounts, and more. For example, Marriot activated creators to participate in campaigns through its “30 Stays, 300 Days” contest, which motivated guests to capture their experiences and post to TikTok in an effort to promote their Bonvoy loyalty program.

To ensure hotels are gathering content that is high-quality and can be shared across marketing campaigns, providing a physical or virtual guide that includes tips guests can refer to before capturing a photo will allow for the best quality content. This guide can include recommendations for lighting, how to clean your camera/phone lens, ensure you have a great background, how to position a phone or camera, and emphasizes the importance of the brand logo or a key brand identifier being visible somewhere in the image. It’s also important for hoteliers to include visuals and signage throughout the hotel or resort to encourage guests to snap a photo in the first place. For example, if you’re looking for guests to capture their experience at a spa, include visuals during their experience they’ll want to take a photo of. This can be anything ranging from intriguing decor like a large salt lamp to signage placed in targeted locations throughout the hotel or rest, explaining exactly how to participate in a campaign.

After users submit or upload their content, hotels can then acquire the clearance to use them for future marketing initiatives. It’s beneficial to continuously monitor submissions throughout the entire year to achieve, organize and manage the content received by guests. User generated content management software is a resourceful tool for hoteliers to invest in, as some let you search for specific content, retain the rights to publish, and reward guests all from one software platform.

This summer is the perfect time for the hospitality industry to prioritize and launch user generated content campaigns. More guests at hotels and resorts means more memories are being captured, and more content is being produced. By incentivizing campaigns through rewards and making interesting campaigns that make it fun for the customer to participate in, hoteliers are creating a mutually beneficial relationship that allows their brand to get fresh new marketing content while rewarding creators in the process.