In a post-pandemic, challenged world, travel decisions are no longer just an interplay of cost against luxury. Increasingly, the make-or-break factors are social, ethical and moral.
The most obvious dimension may be the growing focus on environmental and social concerns, part of a growing cry for companies to subscribe to measures associated with ESG or Environmental, Social and Governance.
Unsurprisingly, this ethos is spilling over into travel. Consider an Expedia survey that found that 90% of travelers looked for sustainable options when they are booking hotels, but it extends well beyond banning plastics.
A survey recently released by Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, part of IHG, polled 4,000 people in the U.S., UK, Japan and Australia on the hospitality industry’s social media output and found that they were looking for more inclusive content and more authentic content.
“Social media and marketing content within the travel industry hasn’t always reflected the people and experiences that truly make up our global community,” said Kathleen Reidenbach, Kimpton’s chief commercial officer.
The survey found that 85% of all respondents—rising to 90% in the U.S.—believed that travel industry brands’ social media content should be more inclusive of all kinds of travelers.
It is one of the curiosities of the advertising and social media accounts of the global travel industry, which almost by definition thrives on cultural and social exchange, that they skew heavily toward images of white guests and non-white locals.
The Kimpton survey reinforces the message of an Expedia report earlier this year, which showed that seven in 10 consumers would choose a destination, lodging or transportation option that is more inclusive to every type of traveler, even if it is more expensive.
“Diversity can mean many things—race, gender, age, family, couples, ability, activities—and should be a key consideration when developing marketing content. To develop authentic inclusive advertising campaigns, marketers should draw from stories of people in underrepresented groups,” the Expedia report found.
There are clear signs that many people are being put off by the traditional iconography of the industry. A third of the Kimpton survey respondents felt their travel style or personal needs are not being met or might not be met by offerings from travel brands.
In a sharp rebuff to the travel industry’s marketing juggernaut, 76% of respondents felt that more realistic depictions of travel from content creators on social media would be more valuable than what exists at the moment.
This search for authenticity ties in with the growing preference for experiential travel. The airbrushed perfection of most social media posts makes many digital natives cautious rather than curious. Although a degree of escapism is an integral part of most travel experiences, they are increasingly looking for something that reflects the world they inhabit.