Comment: Selfie sticks at the ready

Travelzoo’s UK managing director Joel Brandon-Bravo on why he thinks social media-savvy hotels will win the battle for the younger customer

It’s almost impossible to dine in a restaurant these days without the people next to you whipping out a phone to do a quick ‘snap and share’ of their meal before picking up the cutlery. Indeed you could be forgiven for thinking that photographing the contents of your meal is now a more common practice than saying grace.

The appetite for capturing every moment of our lives and sharing the content is reaching fever-pitch. This is especially true when it comes to social sharing on holiday. Given it is August, I would say that right now over 50% of my social media feeds are made up of posts from various beaches and resorts around the world. Come February half term, it will be alpine family skiing shots clogging up my feed.

Travelzoo conducted research into generational attitudes around the pros and cons of using social media on holiday. We found that for 55% of Generation Z respondents (those born after 1996), how a holiday will look on their social platforms is a top priority and consideration when booking.

The focus on photogenic hotels and destinations drops as we go back each generation. For Millennials (those born between 1987-1995), it’s still very important (42%), but if we look at whether or not late and early Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1965) are worried about picking somewhere selfie-worthy, it drops to just 10%.

In terms of the power of social media to influence holiday bookings, the generational split is vast. Almost two thirds of Generation Z use social media for inspiration on what to book, but 90% of older Boomers (those born from 1946-1954) say social media has little influence on their decision making. For Millennials and Gen Z, Facebook and Instagram are the most powerful channels, with Facebook marginally more influential for Millennials.

Savvy hotels, restaurants and resorts are getting wise to how important it is to enable customers to create the best visual impression of their experience. Travelzoo works with London Restaurant Galvin at Windows, whose general manager Fred Sirieix says: “Our image online is very important. We take great care in the imagery we post and how we appear.” Staff at Galvin receive training in how to take photos that are suitable for Instagram and other platforms because they understand how important it is for their restaurant. Sirieix stresses that while the online image is managed carefully it is important to be authentic. He believes in the importance of not appearing too “manufactured” in your online imagery and explains how “our Instagram is loaded with fun videos in order to show our personality”.

A massive step-change is afoot at Thomas Cook, where the quest to attract the younger, affluent market translates into the rollout of Casa Cook. The company has recognised the power of selfie-ready interior design in winning over these customers and they are onto something. Other hotels such as the Dream Hotels Group in the US are incorporating what they call “unexpected, Instagrammable moments” in their properties. These are “hidden gems” for the guest to discover that go beyond bold feature walls and eye-catching furniture.

But shouldn’t the holiday experience be an opportunity to disconnect from our devices and have a digital switch-off? A paradox emerges in the survey we conducted. While Millennials and Gen Z find it hard – perhaps even traumatising – to be without their smartphones, over half of Millennials polled say they like the idea of a holiday without any digital devices and 60% of Gen Z say they believe a break from social media would help them recharge more on holiday.

Whether or not they can resist the urge to snap and share is debatable. What is certain is that hotels and restaurants that aren’t thinking of how best to present themselves for social media will get left behind and will lose customers to more photogenic and social-savvy competitors.

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