California Dreamin’ - how innovative destination brands can turn dreams into visits

By Steve Mills

In 1965 the Mamas and the Papas apparently spent their days “California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day”.  Whilst these icons of the time had already had the privilege of experiencing the warmth of LA as they dreamed under the grey skies of New York, most of the rest of the world had to delve deep into their imaginations to create their own images of sun-kissed beaches and never ending boulevards.

Dreaming has always been a vital part of the holiday destination decision process.  According to our recently released Holiday Trends 2016 report, for each holiday Britons take we spend over two hours at this inspiration stage, dreaming about a holiday before we finally decide where to go.  And that doesn’t include the countless other hours spent dreaming of holidays we don’t even know we’re taking yet.

Self-evidently it’s vital for destination brands, and indeed holiday operators, to hook people in at this dreaming stage.  And there are so many more opportunities for brands to achieve this now than there used to be.

In the days before mass media, the primary tool that a destination had in its marketing box was word of mouth recommendation allied with the imaginations of potential visitors.  Then in the 60s and 70s we began to be sold the dream – poster visions of idyllic holidays in places we never thought we could go, brought alive by glossy ads and brochures.  Today, we’ve almost gone full circle as once again recommendation and peer review are by far the strongest influences on the holiday dreaming stage.  The only difference is that with the advent of social media, over time these dreams have become much more vivid, more based on reality than imagination.

Holiday Trends 2016 reveals that four of the top five influences on the holiday dreaming stage are personal recommendation, whether online review sites, friends posting comments or pictures on social media, or old fashioned talking to friends.

So destinations and operators need to think about how to stimulate and leverage these peer reviews before anything else.

Audley Travel is a great example of an operator that achieves this well.  Everything is geared towards inspiration at the dream stage and this culture runs through its business – from brochures through to website, social media and teams of specialist sales staff.  Brochures are full of images designed to inspire, rather than itineraries and prices.  Twitter posts almost always contain images and are often posted by their destination specialists.  And perhaps most importantly, when you speak to one of these destination specialists, they know your dream destination inside out – the ultimate peer review.

Audley Travel social media example

As we know, social media has taken ‘Keeping up with the Joneses' to a whole new level.  In the segmentation studies we undertake for our clients we increasingly find a distinct recurring segment – driven by Fear of Missing Out (FoMO).  These are individuals who may not have been remotely interested in visiting somewhere until their friends started going, started talking about it, spreading the word and their smiling faces on social media.  Now it’s a trendy place where you want to go.  If you can create this buzz about your destination it’s worth so much more than it used to be.

So as a destination or operator, how can you stimulate or at least tap into these inspiring peer reviews from visitors?

  • Make sure your links for TripAdvisor, Feefo etc. are nice and prominent on your website – it shows you’re proud of them
  • Work with transport operators to encourage sharing photos on social media
  • Run competitions on your website for destination reviews, photos or video
  • Harness influential bloggers

There will be a lot more information on peer reviews, social media and a wide range of other topics in Holiday Trends 2017. Pre-order your copy now.

Other Holiday Trends blogs/video:

Our opinions