TikTok: The Future Of Travel Research

By Lucy Robb

If you’ve got a phone and you’re living in 2024, the likelihood is you’ve at least heard of TikTok. Whether you spend hours a day scrolling through its riches or aren’t ready to approach the beast yet, you know your brand should probably get onto it in some capacity.

What was once considered a ‘dancing app for teens’ is quickly becoming one of the world’s most popular and most diverse social, news, research AND sales platforms. It’s stepping on the toes of YouTube as a long-form content platform and Amazon as a quick-purchase sales platform, meanwhile it mocks Meta for its focus on aesthetics and lack of authenticity, and it’s now competing with Google as a search platform. Based on my predictions for 2024, TikTok will rival Spotify as a video-podcasting and music streaming platform too.

The fact that the majority of these apps are taking inspiration from TikTok in some shape or form demonstrates just how influential its format is, and how aware these huge corporations are that they need to adapt, because the way we research and buy and consume content and products is changing. TikTok is fast-becoming a one-stop-shop for everything, and we’re absolutely lapping it up (and it’s not just Gen-Z!).

“We’re bored of being sold to, we’re bored of brands showing us the end result and not the process, we’re BORED of BORING content…”

We’re bored of being sold to, we’re bored of brands showing us the end result and not the process, we’re BORED of BORING content, and in this incredibly fast-paced day and age, we don’t always have TIME to spend searching for the answers we want in a long-form article. Here’s why TikTok is beginning to succeed so brilliantly as a search engine… 1) the majority of the content out there is not branded and created by everyday individuals. This means that these individuals’ reviews are most likely honest (because they’re not being paid to say it), they’re visual which means we can SEE said product or place in action, and they’re ENGAGING because people are fighting for a place on our FYPs, and to achieve that the content HAS to be good.

We’ve got SO good at reading inauthenticity, and if we don’t like what we see – guess what? We can swipe down to the next video in a millisecond, and that piece of content becomes lost in the ether, probably never to be seen again.

So let’s get onto how TikTok is changing the travel industry, and how you can benefit from it as both an individual who wants to travel, and as a brand, both within and separate from the travel industry.

Travel creators are HUGE right now – while Instagram was more about the picture-perfect shots of a beach day in the Maldives, TikTok’s travel creators take us on experiences and tell us about them through storytelling and voiceovers and raw footage that we relate to and connect with because it’s REAL.

Not only this, but brands are showcasing their venues by giving us digital experiences that offer a taste of the real-life experience through a screen: The Ritz (@theritzlondon) do this brilliantly. The beauty of this is that it gives us that initial desire to have that experience in person, and ultimately turns us into potential customers. Alongside The Ritz, there are restaurants showing us their chefs and how they prepare for the day, tour guides giving us a glimpse of a day in their life, individuals taking us with them to the fishing villages in Bangkok, their three favourite markets in Paris, and to the best falafel in Lebanon.

“The real magic in TikTok is that hostels and hotels and restaurants with zero budget or social media spend have the opportunity to go viral and build a community”

Meanwhile, airlines remind us that the pilots that land us safely and the air hostesses who serve us are real people, which builds so much connection and trust with the brand – British Airways (@british_airways) have been on my radar recently for smashing it on TikTok. If I can see that the pilots who work at an airline have a personality and a sense of humour, and are likeable, OF COURSE I’m more likely to sign over my life to them while I travel from London to Tokyo.

The real magic in TikTok is that hostels and hotels and restaurants with zero budget or social media spend have the opportunity to go viral and build a community (and ultimately convert sales!). And it’s the low-production, in the moment, behind-the-scenes content that performs the best too. As well as this, if your product is GOOD then individuals will create content about it, and that also gets your name out there.

Whether it be a capybara cafe in Tokyo, a secret sandwich shop in Notting Hill, or a sunrise spot in Peru that only the locals know, TikTok is diversifying our travel options so much more. Where holiday destinations were previously influenced by recommendations from friends, or OOH billboard ads, or a tagged hotel in an influencer’s Instagram post, we now have access to hundreds of thousands of digital & visual reviews and stories about the less touched places of the world. Our eyes are being opened to it. TikTok’s potential to help hotels that have little marketing budget, restaurants struggling to stay open and even areas that are thirsty for tourism is monumental.

“…all you need is a phone.”

Ultimately, TikTok content is more digestible, more inspiring, and more trustworthy than any other travel content and travel ads that are out there right now. We’re all desperate for more authentic experiences when we travel, and TikTok is the key that unlocks access to these less-known locations, hidden gems, and bars that only the locals go to.

Whatever your business, whether you’re a hotel, a restaurant, an experience… all you need is a phone. Those with less budget for expensive marketing do not lose with this app – in fact, generally, it’s these accounts that come out on top.


Leave a Comment