Travel Media’s Shifting Landscape

By Nancy Lazarus Comment

Hemigram Photo TiltedIt appears that leisure travelers’ business is up for grabs, since only 16 percent are absolutely certain which travel brand they’ll book in advance. Reaching these impressionable voyagers is a challenge, especially given the “sea of sameness.” That’s how Mike Rooney, industry manager of global marketing solutions at Facebook Travel, described many brands’ travel images.

Rooney spoke at The New York Times Travel Show, along with editors and executives representing travel media outlets, research organizations and cultural attractions like New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. They provided updates on various digital travel tools, as well as ways that a couple favorite standbys, namely newspapers and magazines, are adapting.

Below is a brief tour with snapshots of the current state of 10 platforms:

1. In-flight magazines have a captive audience

Ink publishes 25 in-flight magazines worldwide, and according to company founder and CEO Simon Leslie, passengers spend an average of 28 uninterrupted minutes reading them. One of the brands, United Airlines’ Hemispheres magazine, launched #Hemigram to further engage readers by asking them to submit photos of their journeys.

2. Newspapers are multitasking

USA Today editor David Callaway said their print product is “morphing” and exists alongside their 24/7 digital news hub. Now their digital coverage helps determine what goes into the print edition the following day. He noted that when they send their journalists to cover a news story, they also make sure they cover a travel story.

3. Photos are always popular

Calllaway said that photo galleries generate lots of traffic, and readers will click through several slides, even up to 70 if that’s how many images are featured in a travel story.

4. Videos are making inroads

Videos serve as popular content for brands like USA Today, and they’re also being produced and shared more by social media users. Facebook Live Video launched to compete with Periscope, noted Sree Sreenivasan, the Metropolitan Museum’s chief digital officer. The feature is being rolled out to Facebook users nationwide, and will change how they share trips.

Met Museum Great Hall Empty Resized5. Websites are still key

Websites still influence two-thirds of travelers’ destination selections, according to Lorraine Sileo, svp of research at PhoCusWright. Australian travel blogger Erin Bender reported that typical travelers visit about 22 websites before booking a trip. Sreenivasan said the Met Museum is currently refreshing its website prior to the March opening of its Breuer building.

6. Instagram rules

The Met museum is active on several social media platforms, with an emphasis on Instagram, Sreenivasan said. Aside from the museum’s official account (>1 million followers), their director Thomas P. Campbell is one of the top art instagrammers in the world. He posts photos of the Met as well as other museums and art venues, which Sreenivasan believes adds great value.

7. TripAdvisor has reach

In the shopping phase, online reviews, especially TripAdvisor, wield strong influence, said Sileo. Indeed, Sreenivasan was pleased to herald the Met Museum’s rating as the top rated museum in the world on TripAdvisor.

8. Travel blogs have an ongoing role

Bender said travel bloggers exert influence over a quarter of trips, per the source Statista. She has traveled the world blogging about her adventures for her site,

USA Today Cuba  Courtesy of Alan Gomez9. Text messaging rises

Sileo also sees text messaging apps like Snapchat, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger being used more by consumers and the trade. Travel providers use them to promote their brands and travelers use them to share their travel experiences with friends and family.

10. Virtual reality in spotlight

Callaway said USA Today has experimented with virtual reality, most notably when reporting from Cuba in November. The media brand attached virtual reality equipment to a 1957 Chevy and conducted a 360 degree road tour of the island.

A New York Times article recently observed that Cuba is “no longer frozen in time.” While the island is evolving, so are the media platforms for chronicling the political and cultural changes.

In-flight photo courtesy of United Hemispheres #Hemigram Website

Metropolitan Museum photo taken during #EmptyMet tour

USA Today’s Cuba photo courtesy of Alan Gomez