Pricing in the travel industry is highly competitive and advertising budgets continue to soar. The annual budget for the global travel industry is expected to double to $4.7 billion by 2016.

Whilst the number of channels for sharing advertising imagery grows, imagery remains central and key.

Selling travel has always been a visual business. The traditional method of booking a holiday was to visit a travel agency and pick up brochures full of sumptuous images. Essentially a visual representation of the experience you could expect to enjoy should you make a booking.

As communication has become more digital, so too has the process of researching and booking travel. Most holidaymakers can already get a sense of their destination without leaving their own sofa. Through social media sites and review sites such as TripAdvisor, imagery is available that gives a warts and all view. In a turn of events that is one of the strongest indicators of the power of user generated content, snapshots of dirty plugholes, dodgy power sockets and poor décor, sometimes out of focus and often badly composed, have more power over travellers decision making processes than images that have been brainstormed, briefed and produced by professionals.

So how do travel companies make a connection when holiday snaps are so powerful?

One thing we can predict is that this trend is unlikely to disappear. The next generation are proactive in bringing their own travel experiences to public forums almost in real time. As a Chase Card Services report published this year found, 97% of millennial travellers post on social networks to share their experiences whilst travelling, 75% post at least once a day.

The desire to travel is inevitable.

Whilst the trend towards the increasing use of technology is fuelled by the younger generations reliance on the Internet (and the older generations begrudging reliance), the counter trend is a yearning for escape and a sensory immersion that is not mediated by digital media. Travelling and vacations are a time to “do”, “see”, “taste”, “feel” and “hear”.

Forecasts for the future of travel foresee an immersive digital experience before the ‘real’ experience. For example, Skyscanner’s travel futures 2025 report predicts a key role for virtual reality over the next decade, alongside a new generation of ‘try before you buy’ websites offering a show-rooming experience. Offering the traveller the sounds, scenery and feel of the destination before they have booked their ticket.

With current technology this can be achieved through a number of means:

  • Focus on the details of the tactile experiences that await the traveller
  • Food and drink is key to most travel experiences, whether it is actively sought out or is an area of anxiety, reassurance and opportunity are key to imagery about local cuisine.
  • Depict the emotional responses to experiences that are on offer. People like to look at other people and human feelings are relatable, make sure they are genuine.
  • Offer a visual clue as to the where discoveries can be made – either at the edges of the day (the times of day that are not typically when tourists are most active) or the places hidden from view to the less intrepid traveller.
  • Show the traveller how they can see the “real” city/country either through images of particular areas or landmarks or even points of interest that give the best view.
  • Inspire travellers to explore by not relying on clichéd viewpoints. Offer visual enjoyment through something different by being more creative with image searches.
  • Consider how image choice reflects your visual brand – luxury holidays do not necessarily require the most expensive imagery however quality is conveyed through curation and careful consideration regarding the size and placement of images.
Discover a range of sensory travel images that you can use in this lightbox.


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