How TikTok is taking over travel, for better or worse

Hotels and other travel brands go wild to attract TikTokers – Getty

Imagine the scene: you’re dragging your suitcase down the hall of a posh hotel at the start of a romantic mini-break when, suddenly, a naked man is pushed your way from one of the rooms. Is he a cheat lover? A nudist burglar? Or just another TikToker engaging in one of the platform’s trends, the #hotelprank?

The answer is most likely the latter. A search for “hotel prank” on the platform reveals that 43.6 million others have also searched for it. Practical jokes range from mildly irritating (hitting on strangers’ hotel rooms and running away) to downright terrifying (simulating a dead body with pillows and sheets and tying a phone cord around its neck for staff to maintenance can find it once the creator has checked it out). While this particular caper prompted a call from hotel employees to avoid replica videos that could cause employees distress, it generated a flurry of copycat pranks.

Yet one person’s bad taste is another’s must-scroll. TikTok is fast becoming the social media platform of choice for Gen Z. With over a billion monthly users, it is hot on Instagram (which has 1.4 billion) while its engaging content makes it addictive: people stay on TikTok for an hour and a half a day according to research from digital analyst Sensor Tower. They don’t all just watch dance move videos or practical jokes either. For many users, TikTok has become a search engine in its own right.

From social platform to search engine

At a conference this year, Prabhakar Raghavan, senior vice president of Google, told the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference: “In our studies, something like almost 40% of young people, when looking for a place to have lunch , they don’t go to Google Maps or search, they go to TikTok or Instagram. The same goes for hotels, with #travel attracting over 90 billion views on TikTok and content tagged “boujee on a budget “reflecting a generational need for price-conscious stays that look great on social media (“boujee” being an abbreviation of French “bourgeois”).

“I definitely go to TikTok to look for places,” says 23-year-old regular user and PR professional Aneesa Mahmood. “The difference between TikTok is that it’s fast and highly personalized and there are more people who aren’t sponsored or paid.” With up to ten minutes of video but usually much less, a TikTok post can also be more informative than a traditional Instagram post but less dense than browsing through Google reviews.

Thanks to the platform’s algorithm, users are fed highly personalized content (which is why Mahmood had never seen, or even been aware of, the #hotelpranks movement but regularly consumes videos about restaurants and cafes around the world. whole world). However, before it adapts to your preferences, watching TikTok can feel like browsing through a lot of nonsense that you never even thought of, let alone wanted to see. “It takes some getting used to,” says Mahmood.

Tiktoking Travel Brands

With a whole generation under 35 addicted and the number of users on the rise, it’s no wonder that hotels and other travel brands are scrambling to attract TikTokers, whether they annoy staff or not. For some, like the Best Western franchise, the platform has brought cachet where other marketing ploys have failed: the “best western themed room” has 22 million views on TikTok with the hit account @aprettycoolhoteltour tracing a path through several chain hotels across the United States to reveal extravaganzas themed around log cabins and spaceships.

Meanwhile, Marriott Bonvoy launched a high-profile #30days300stays contest last spring to find three official TikTok correspondents who could embark on trips around the world for the brand (the hashtag garnered 135.4 million views and the chosen trio is always busy documenting their stays in Ibiza, Melbourne, Barcelona and beyond).

Other travel brands are also gaining recognition on the platform. Mahmood verifies the name of the Ryanair account, which has 1.9 million followers, 23.3 million likes and a long series of funny videos. Meanwhile, Booking.com celebrated joining TikTok this summer with a seven-trip giveaway in which users had to like a video following the promotion, follow the company’s account — and be ready to go in 48 hours.

How to Plan a Vacation on TikTok

While planning for a recent trip to Copenhagen, Mahmood plotted all the places she found on the platform on a Google map, then used her findings to book accommodation in the center of the action. But no matter where you go, there will be plenty of TikTok users who have rated the restaurants they’ve visited and the sites they’ve viewed — and plenty of people who will follow in their footsteps after seeing their videos.

Data from mobile booking app Hopper shows that when destinations become the top trending cities on TikTok, there is a corresponding spike in bookings among its key audience (20s and 30s). In November 2022, for example, when #amsterdam recorded 6.9 billion views, searches for flights and hotels related to the city increased by 85% among its users.

Meanwhile, if you’re interested in a particular hotel, a TikTok user has probably been there and made the video – and, unlike Instagram where destinations are often airbrushed to perfection, you might see a depiction complete with your accommodation. of choice (however, if there are hundreds of videos of just one place to stay, you’ve probably sniffed out some secret marketing ploy). Reviews often highlight filthy rooms and hotel pitfalls or take viewers on mini-tours that reveal a more honest view than brochures or official websites.

You can also search for offers on the site. Trip planners such as @sabrinaescapes and @uktraveldeals offer great deals to faraway destinations, while a host of other accounts are full of nifty 21st century tips for finding the best deals yourself (like always using the mode incognito to search for flights or Skyscanner’s “everywhere” button to get the best deals on city breaks). With all that in mind, it might be worth a minute or two of your time – as long as the algorithm is on your side.

Would you like to search for a trip on TikTok? Please let us know in the comments below.

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