Off the beaten path: How travel influencers can help you plan a holiday

How do you plan a holiday in a quick, easy and reliable way? Let’s look at the new ways to have pleasant vacation, says Rahul Singh, Co-founder & CEO of Ithaka, a travel enterprise

As you sit at your desk at work dreaming about your next vacation that you are yearning to take, the only thing on your mind is that you just really want a change of scene and no plans in place. That’s how it usually starts. After all, the idea of a trip is something that excites us even before we decide on a destination!

With the plethora of travel options available today, planning a proper holiday has become as easy as tapping or clicking on a few buttons. However, due to the fast-paced lives we lead, we rarely have a chance to sit down and do some proper research of every website, blog or recommendation that is available to us. So how can we ensure we have a good holiday that is planned well? Read on...

Focus on experiences

Learn to shift the focus from the ‘before and after’, to the ‘during’.

Don't waste time on planning. Enjoy the journey

Over the last couple of decades, travel planning was largely limited to a booking agent or a tour company that would provide a ready-made package and a proper itinerary for a traveller. In recent years, however, travel-booking channels are evolving to online modes and, with that, travellers’ expectations are much higher too.

With the rise in emerging technologies, several platforms are implementing artificial intelligence, machine learning algorithms and assistance bots. By gauging traveller trends, needs and expectations from the data of millions of individual tourists, these systems can generate personalised recommendations to each traveller.

While advanced technologies are doing wonders for marketing and sales initiatives before and after a journey, it is the ‘during’ phase that needs more of a human touch.

Planning a trip needs a lot of crucial decision points and nothing works as good as inputs from a person they trust. No one likes to feel that their trip isn’t just an automated, fast-tracked version of their Google searches.

Find a travel influencer

Real people can offer real experiences and better recommendations than a bot.

While the term, travel influencer, may bring to mind the glitzy and glamorous life that a lot of social media celebrities are known for, there is a rise in travel influencers on platforms who are people just like you. According to research by the Tech Jury, people are ten times more likely to be influenced by a blogger who is not a celebrity over one that is a celebrity.

Travel platforms are now building communities among travellers

With this in mind, travel platforms today are not focusing on who can best endorse their brands with the biggest following and most posts. Instead, they are building communities of like-minded travel enthusiasts who have an abundance of knowledge based on their first-hand experiences of a place (or places!) and can create really valuable inputs for travellers.

With the involvement of these travel influencers, travellers have the best of both worlds: technology-enabled platforms and human expertise to further enhance their own experiences. Additionally, most of these link-back to the social media pages of these influencers, so you can have a look into the beautiful experiences they’ve had and the places they’ve been to.

The “I want to go there too” factor

We scroll through our social media, seeing posts of friends, influencers and travel pages almost on a daily basis. And, whether or not we have a plan in mind, this often provides aspirational value to visit a place of which you’ve seen someone’s first-hand experiences at some point in time.

According to research by SiteMinder, two in five millennials say that their holiday booking decisions are influenced daily by posts of hotels and travel destinations on their social media news feeds.

Many holiday bookings now are influenced by pictures on social media

Visual appeal has always been a major part of planning travel, but the authenticity-factor is gaining greater momentum, as is the quest for more off-beat, unique experiences. Everyone wants to go to the ‘coolest’ place and experience things that go beyond the itinerary, but based on a reliable source. And travel influencers are bridging this gap.

Vlogs, blogs and influencers are popular in China

Globally, Instagram and YouTube are among the leading platforms for content-driven travel influencers, with curated posts, captions and vlogs rapidly gaining popularity. In China, it is Mafengwo that leads the travel influencer initiative and is especially popular amongst millennials, with a focus on sharing experiences.

Additionally, with experiences moving into the spotlight in India, integrated travel platforms are emerging in India as well, with a heavy community generated content angle. They are flexible and give users the opportunity to explore and customise their future experiences through the first-hand accounts of others in the travel community.

Guided travel and destination experts

However, just going through content isn’t good enough for travellers. They need to interact, ask questions and get personal advice. Therefore, platforms also enable one-on-one conversations for trip advice between influencers and travellers.

Tourlane is one player in Europe that has ‘destination experts’ on board to assist users with their travel plans, and travel platforms in India have also begun introducing this option. It enables users to have a free-flowing conversation with an experienced traveller at the other end for the whole duration of their trip planning – just like you would with a friend over WhatsApp!

Ask a travel expert for the best tour options

For example, if you’re planning a trip to Thailand and are confused about how to spend a week there, you can chat with the travel expert and ask him or her where to go, what to do, the best mode of transport, how to make a particular booking, etc. They will then give you the best options based on what they know from their own trip and that allows you to shape up your trip perfectly.

With apps and chat-based platforms dominating the space, the future of travel lies in the hands of consumers (literally). Automation and data are surely helping to enhance the experience travel platforms provide to users, but it is the human touch that is the ultimate key to making their trip the best that it can be.

In a world that is steadily becoming dependent on technology, it is this level of human involvement that adds a personal feel to make each travel experience unique – even if you’re visiting the same place over again. With influencers acquainting you with a place before you even set out on your adventure, you can finally be an explorer rather than being ‘just another tourist’!