Travel brands expand TikTok presence to reach new audiences

Travel companies are increasingly turning to video-sharing app TikTok to build brand awareness and attract new customers. As the most downloaded app two years in a row, TikTok holds the promise of global reach, while the video format allows travel providers to transport viewers to a destination while showcasing their brand personality.

Although the app has been hugely popular for a few years, some travel brands are just now entering the TikTok world, eager for engagement with new audiences.

Booking.com launched its first TikTok-centric campaign, called TikTokMadeMeBookIt, on July 20. The company is giving away seven trips. To be eligible to win, TikTok users must live in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany or Japan, “like” the video, follow @bookingcom – and be able to leave within 48 hours.

In making its TikTok debut, Booking.com aims to inspire people to travel, create positive brand interactions and get people to think of the brand as the leader in travel, says Laura Kaye, Booking.com’s director of social media.

“The TikTok community is already actively engaged in travel content – #travel has more than 90 billion views – so it is a natural fit for Booking.com to be an active part of this,” Kaye says.

The company’s experience on the app will be as much a chance for Booking.com to learn about TikTok users as it will be for the app’s users to learn about Booking.com.

“We’re curating content specifically for TikTok in a way that lets our brand personality shine.”

Matt Clarke – Kayak

“We don’t really know what the TikTok community is looking for,” Kaye says. “We’re using the launch to build an audience, and we’re attracting people by giving away trips and putting out a bunch of different content to see what is resonating.”

Kaye finds video to be an especially effective format for promoting travel brands: “You can really convey the experience of a trip – from the flight, to the accommodation, to a slight breeze at sunset sitting poolside while sipping a frozen drink.”

Booking.com is working with influencers, also referred to as “spokespeople,” whom the company typically defines as having one million or more followers.

“We’re paying influencers to tell their community about Booking.com-focused messages,” Kaye says, “but we’re asking them to tell the story however their audiences would be most interested to hear it.”

The online travel agency is also partnering with content creators, who have audiences of fewer than 100,000. Content creators will produce and share content on Booking’s TikTok channel rather than their own channels. “We’re leveraging them as content producers – not for their audience,” Kaye says.

Test and learn

For Kayak, also owned by Booking Holdings, the metasearch brand is likewise learning as it goes. The company’s marketing strategy is “to meet travelers wherever they are, and increasingly that means TikTok,” says Matt Clarke, Kayak’s vice president of North America marketing. Kayak’s aim, Clarke says, is to connect with new audiences – travelers who wouldn’t naturally think of Kayak when they’re planning a trip.

“We are still in the early days of testing and learning what resonates with our travelers, so our approach is largely organic with the goal of scaling where we find success,” Clarke says.

Clarke likens it to Facebook when it first launched: “We needed to do some significant testing to learn how to use it to drive bookings – and that will be our goal here too. People come to TikTok for entertainment, and so we’re trying to provide that through our videos. “

Clarke points to a successful campaign from this year’s Super Bowl. With help from TikTokers, Kayak’s TikTok Super Bowl video received more than 150,000 views and 20,000 likes – “more than what we would have seen had we done this on other platforms,” Clarke says. The priority metric for Kayak is engagement, including views, shares and comments.

“The days of creating a few TV spots and reaching 75% of travelers are long gone,” Clarke says. “We’re curating content specifically for TikTok in a way that lets our brand personality shine.”

Kayak’s marketing has always been “edgy” and used humor, which “will work to our advantage on TikTok,” Clarke says.

Courting connection

Matt Lupoli, senior manager of public relations at Carnival Cruise Line, says the company creates TikTok videos to introduce new audiences to cruising and Carnival. Videos captured onboard in real time are the brand’s most popular posts.

“We are very focused on bringing the same energy to Tik Tok which our guests find onboard from our cruise directors and our Fun Squad (activity and sports hosts),” Lupoli says. “Even if you’re not currently on one of our ships, we still want to put that same smile on your face, and TikTok is one way of doing that.”

Skyscanner is another brand in the early stages of exploring the video sharing app. According to a spokesperson, TikTok is a great way to connect with travelers in the discovery phase of their journey. The metasearch brand has not yet posted videos, but it plans to get its TikTok channel going in-house and with influencers.

“We want Skyscanner to be top of mind for travelers when they are starting to think about taking a vacation, particularly as flights are often one of the first elements that travelers consider when deciding which particular destination to visit,” the spokesperson says.

Other brands active on TikTok include Expedia.com, Viator and Airbnb.

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