Social media may have an influence, but established channels remain the biggest sources of inspiration for British travellers: Is this a global trend?

New research has revealed that social media influencers and bloggers on sites like Instagram are in decline as a source of holiday inspiration: only 7% of UK holidaymakers said this was their main source of ideas when thinking about travel, in a survey of 2,000 UK adults commissioned by creative and media agency eight&four, which works with a wide range of travel and leisure brands.

By comparison, it found that TV programmes and movies are the biggest sources of inspiration for British travellers (25% say so, rising to 31% of millennials and 29% of Gen Z). However, only 14% of Britons are influenced by traditional TV adverts and only 10% look to social media ads as their main source for ideas.

Whilst the figures are damning for social media, millennials are still engaged by the likes of Instagram and Snapchat. A fifth (20%) of travellers aged 25-35 say that social media influencers are their main source of travel inspiration, but the figure plummets to just 7% among Gen Z. It’s a similar story for social media advertising: 23% of millennials said it influenced them, but only 9% of Gen Z, demonstrating the growing divide amongst these two youth audiences and their advocacy of social media channels.

The findings suggest that mainstream television and streaming sites are presenting a wealth of programming content that showcases desirable locations. Game of Thrones is just one example that has effectively brought a whole new type of travel into the market.

“Consumers of all ages are tuning in and feeling inspired to travel to these places. It suggests travel brands should consider more innovative ways of using TV shows to reach mass audiences, whether that’s through product placement or editorial,” says Caroline Brosnan, head of marketing at eight&four.

The research also showed the increasing influence of physical media and ‘real people’. Gen Z is driving this trend, as 29% of those aged 18-24 look to their friends and family for holiday ideas and 20% use physical brochures. When booking a holiday, 27% of Gen Z believe face-to-face travel agents are more personal.

The biggest source of inspiration overall for UK consumers is online reviews, with a quarter (26%) using tips and recommendations from others to inform their own plans. The least popular source was radio, chosen by only 6% of holidaymakers.

“Online reviews still top the list for the majority of UK travel consumers looking for holidays. The reassurance provided by other travellers that you’re choosing the right destination and places to book is hard to find elsewhere,” adds Ms Brosnan.

Despite the arrival of LCCs, home share and ride hail options, travel remains a costly exercise and therefore having some form of endorsement of what is a major investment is very important. “In the end, it all comes down to trust. People want to know that their holiday experience will be what they signed up for,” concludes Ms Brosnan.

These survey findings provide some interesting insights into UK travellers. It would be interesting to see if these patterns are matched in other major markets and could redefine travel marketing and selection.