MarketingWith digital demand for travel higher than pre-pandemic levels, industry members are increasingly turning to TikTok to achieve business goals.

TikTok's obsessed with travel – and so are travel brands

Travel industry stakeholders are using the platform to engage new audiences and secure bookings in myriad ways.
Travel industry stakeholders are using the platform to engage new audiences and secure bookings in myriad ways. Photo Credit: Unsplash/Solen Feyissa

TikTok, the short-form video-sharing app most popular among Gen Z users, is swiftly becoming the social media platform of choice among major travel brands, OTAs, and tourism boards.

The numbers say it all: worldwide, the hashtag “travel” boasts 890 billion views on the Chinese-owned app, while travel is among its top two fastest growing content categories in the Asia-Pacific region. After viewing travel content on TikTok, 77% of Asia Pacific users were encouraged to research a destination, while 58% booked a travel product or service, a July 2022 study found.

Travel industry stakeholders can use the platform to engage new audiences and secure bookings in myriad ways. The most popular of these were explored during TikTok Southeast Asia’s recent Travel Unboxed webinar, which featured representatives of two of its partners, Traveloka and Marriott International.

The webinar kicked off with the various types of in-feed ads on offer to meet specific business goals, whether it be lead generation, conversions, or maximising audience reach.

Traveloka, Southeast Asia’s leading travel and lifestyle booking app with over one million TikTok followers, has used “collection ads” to drive users to an in-app product landing page featuring hotel price discounts. The campaign reached over 5.6 million users, among which close to 10% clicked on a specific hotel listing and were redirected to the OTA’s offsite page.

Shirley Lesmana, Traveloka’s chief marketing officer, said TikTok is not just a platform to boost awareness, but has “driven performance and conversion of campaigns, and contributes directly to revenue.” She noted that it is effective in gaining new customers, particularly younger segments, and in reaching early adopters. Traveloka is investing “a lot in engaging, relevant content” created specifically for the app.

Airlines have also capitalised on TikTok’s soaring popularity in the travel sector. The German-Turkish airline SunExpress came to the platform to build brand awareness through “catchy and upbeat creative”. Its ad received over 3.3 million impressions and more than 120,000 clicks.

Creating an engaged community of TikTok users is another way brands can achieve their business goals. Users often share their travel content by tapping into trends, such as hashtag challenges. Marriott Bonvoy experienced an “overwhelming response” to its “30stays300days” competition, which gave three TikTok travel content creators the chance to win 10 stays across its 30 hotel brands over the course of 300 days.

Julie Perser, Marriott International's vice president of marketing, loyalty and partnerships, said the campaign’s success was based on the authenticity of the content created, the reward, and the chance it gave winners to build their reputation and enhance their creator status.

“While we’ve always been strong advocates of user-generated content, we’ve never been able to generate content at the scale we’ve been able to on TikTok,” she explained. “We’ve been able to reach younger consumers who are sometimes reticent to engage with more traditional channels.”

Terence Ong, TikTok’s travel strategy lead, said the platform’s users also “love” content from tourism boards. The July 2022 study found that 60% of users recall seeing tourism board content on TikTok, while one in three want to see tips and local information about a destination.

Through its #WorldsCoolestWinter campaign, which inspired users to rediscover the seven emirates of the UAE, the region’s tourism board saw a 25% increase in awareness, 17% increase in consumer behaviour, and 89% increase in ad likeability.

To connect brands with content creators, TikTok offers its “creator marketplace,” which is home to over 110,000 creators across more than 25 countries and regions.

Amira Rahmat, a Singaporean travel content creator who focuses on Muslim-friendly food and experiences around the world, said although clear guidelines and expectations are important, it’s equally important to leave space for creators to be creative.

“At the end of the day, we as content creators want to communicate with our audience in our own style.”

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