6 years ago

Why Pinterest works in the travel industry (ESPECIALLY destinations)

This is not another post about how to promote via Pinterest. Nor is it a list, how-to or secret revealing, link-bait article which is deep on hype and light on substance.

I am not going to tell you how Pinterest can save, stimulate or solve your social media marketing strategy.

Nor we will recount the reports of referral traffic, copyright controversies and general love for the new social marketing panacea.

Disappointing, I know.

But I am going to tell you why Pinterest has the potential to be the most important social strategy component for destination marketers.


Aspirations and Inspirations

At its core, Pinterest is a bookmarking site. Albeit a very visually appealing and addictive bookmarking site. But the average user of Pinterest is not simply bookmarking common links, funny videos and reminders.

While previous digital memory-enhancing sites did a nice job of helping us remember, Pinterest is helping us plan.

Interactions on Pinterest are not a reflection of what our lives are like, but rather what we want our lives to be like.

Aspirations and inspirations, if you will.

And this is a critical point of understanding Pinterest. Users are not sharing images of their current life, travels or memories (a la Flickr), but rather hopes, dreams and plans for the future.

Including travel.

Entering the Funnel

For destination marketers there is a key moment of influence during the travel planning process. That singular moment when a destination goes from subconscious awareness to bucket-list focus.

Once that decision has been made, the DMO’s influence and impact is greatly reduced. Sure, they can supplement, assist and inform, but the travel decision – the top of the funnel moment – has been made.

Ideally, due to influence from the destination, but more likely due to a combination of random factors that contribute to the decision.

Watching a movie about Paris, eating at an Italian restaurant or listening to Uncle Alex talk about how wonderful Bilbao is during this time of year.

As much as destination marketers would like to believe that tourism advertising is the deciding factor for selecting a holiday or vacation location, we know this is rarely the case.

But what if that elusive moment was made more apparent by Pinterest?

Plans and Pins

The power of Pinterest is not its obvious, yet unproven ability to drive traffic and (perhaps) sales, but rather the window it opens into the travel aspirations of the consumer.

By telling the world where they want to go, rather than where they have been, travelers on Pinterest are sharing rare insights into their demographic and psychographic preferences.

And if given a choice, the majority of destination marketers would rather influence the traveling consumer prior to the destination selection, instead of after.

Pinterest could provide that opportunity.

This is why Pinterest should pique the interest of destination marketers everywhere. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, the content on Pinterest is not reflective of the current moment, but rather our future.

It is a chance to steer the visitor toward our destination before the decision has been made – an opportunity to influence at the very top of the travel planning funnel. The ideal window for destinations to attract a new set of dreamers.

Will it be easy to accomplish? No, certainly not.

But unlike the current group of social sites, where participation often seems forced rather than authentic, Pinterest presents a unique moment for destination marketers.

The moment when a destination moves from passive to possible… all via a pin.

NB: Google Travel, Facebook, Apple and … Pinterest?

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About the Writer :: Troy Thompson

Troy Thompson, a contributing Node to Tnooz, is an artist, consultant, and speaker who found a way to combine all three into creative leadership workshops.

He is the founder of Pattern, a strategy and service design consultancy. Troy believes in customer-centric innovation, simplicity, and short bios.



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  1. Jay Artale

    Great article Troy. I’m a big fan of Pinterest and use it extensively to showcase my travel guide images. I a travel guide writer, and it’s cost prohibitive to include too many colour images in a ebook, so I use Pinterest to feature my location images and point my readers to my website and to Pinterest to help them plan their holiday and travel itinerary.

  2. Martin Hatchuel

    Well put Troy – if you are correct, Pinterest may be a game changer for DMOs

  3. Thomas the Bescoverer

    Thanks for the article, it is really informative! I was just asked to get up to speed with Pinterest yesterday for our travel site bescover.com …boom, here it is. I love it! my interest in piqued.

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  6. Travopia

    How Pinterest is going to influence Travel Industry – a detailed analysis. http://www.travopia.com/2012/04/how-pinterest-is-going-to-influence.html

  7. Ryan Quiel

    This is a great post. I have used Pinterest for hyper-local Park destination that gets 27 million visitors a year.

    Ideally, what you need to do is dust off all the photos you have in Flickr, pick your favorite ones, and make a blog post for each with a title description on your main site. Than, once 50 or a 100 post are live, pin them to your boards.

    By having the source of the pin be your website rather than flickr, the extra effort of the migration pays off with back links (eg pin sourcing) to your site. They are also deep links, that will raise all ships, err, posts on your site.

    Also, while you are at it, make sure to create a Tumblr account and Tumble all of the photos as well. And don’t forget to also reblog many other photos you find on Tumblr for your destination area. That way your voice will get out into the Tumblr community.

  8. Madhu Nair

    Nice article … never realized it till you mentioned that pinterest is for the future where as other medias are for the current (for most part). Pinterest focusses on to do lists, and to see lists. makes perfect sense.

    I run a travel company and did not get much success out of facebook and twitter.
    Have been focussing my time on pinterest for the past few months with good success.
    It takes time … but definitely can see the results.

    • Troy Thompson

      Hey Madhu,

      Thanks for the comment. Yes, with all of the hype around traffic (which is a nice bonus), a lot of people are overlooking the differences between what people are actually doing on Facebook v. Pinterest.

      – Troy

  9. Kelly Lees

    What this trend highlights more than anything else is something the print travel publications have known for a long time – travel porn sells. Consumers like sexy pictures of beautiful places. Gogobot recognized the consumer desire for “travel porn” as inspiration last September when we launched out travel guides, which pre-dated the pinterest phenomena.

    The issue of how to make these beautiful images useful is important. We collect images, places and reviews in a visually compelling format that is also useful. These guides can be put into a trip plan which you can be accessed on our mobile app while you are on the go. And they can also be shared with friends and family after the fact to show them where you have gone almost as a scrapbook that also has useful information for their own use. They can also be curated by topic to create a plan for a specific type of person.example: http://www.gogobot.com/kelly_lees-family_friendly_london


    • Troy Thompson

      Hey Kelly,

      Thanks for the comment and the perspective.

      I will respectfully disagree with the ‘more than anything else’ assertion. Travel porn has been around for awhile…magazines, Flickr, etc…what changes with Pinterest is location and admission of the consumer in the travel planning funnel.

      Kudos to the Gogobot team for the development of the product, certainly a lot of hard work.

      – Troy

  10. Jonny Miller

    Interesting to see sites like Wanderfly and trippy pivot towards a pinterest-esque direction. There’s a really handy list of travel bloggers currently using pinterest http://pinterest.com/maptia/top-50-travel-bloggers/

    Will be interesting to see how many more join the ranks in the future…

    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @jonny – aaah, link-bait lists come to Pinterest, then? 😉

      • Troy Thompson

        Release the link bait!

        – Troy

        • Jonny Miller

          Agreed! highly curated baiting is the future! My reasoning is that if a seasoned vagabond blogger wants to list 20 super useful travel resources/websites – I’m betting their readers would much rather see those links in neatly categorised, glorious pinned images as opposed to the dirty blue-underlined urls… long live link bait 😉

  11. Jools Stone

    What do people think about Pinterest competitions? BMI launched the first travel one recently. Has lots of potential but could also get tired once too many cos jump on the bandwagon?
    Somehow, because the site’s so visual i spose, the duplication of pins which have been re-pinned multiple times among those you’re following gets annoying very quickly.

    • Troy Thompson

      Hey Jools,

      Thanks for the comment.

      Your thinking is spot-on. The BMI campaign is clever and fun, but easy to copy…and how will that impact the usefulness of Pinterest?

      Quality is going to become a major issue for the site. Right now, the ratio of quality content to active users is high. But as more people join the site, chances are they are just sharing, rather than creating. At that point, it is nothing but the same image pinned over, and over, and over…

      Personally, I have already seen a bit of this with travel images.

      That is a challenge for Pinterest. Not everyone is a good content creator…especially when it comes to photography and photoshop.

      – Troy

  12. Rahman Mehraby

    I can see why consumers would love be very likely to be attracted to our destination. As travelers are looking for eye-catching arts, landscapes, historical monuments, culture, etc Pinterest could be very helpful.

    Thanks for sharing your outlook. I appreciate it.

    Rahman Mehraby
    Travel Marketing Platform

  13. Bruce Martin

    Very interesting article & discussion.

    I totally agree that Pinterest is tailor-made for destinations.
    Tourism boards have ready-made access to some amazing photos which they can use without worrying about copyright as they already own them. Pinterest will become the norm for savvy tourism boards.

    There’s a real demand for luscious travel pics. If you just search for “travel” there is a huge amount of content http://pinterest.com/search/boards/?q=travel and that’s JUST boards called “travel”.

    We’ve had a dabble already ourselves: http://pinterest.com/OTTpins/ it’s not in the league of that excellent Croft Global Travel one though. But we DO at least have a Pinterest icon on our homepage FTW! (Croft do not… a missed opportunity to show of their lovely boards)

    At OTT, we already promote destinations via e-learning and we’re already have cleared access to some great photos to use to promote the destination via social media – so Pinterest was a logical step for us to try.

    It’s been interesting trying to use Pinterest. It is activity-hungry. You can get loads of re-pins & followers when you post things but ‘passing traffic’ is low. If we don’t get around to posting anything then it’s rare that you get any new followers.

    I will be very interesting to see how it all develops.

    • Troy Thompson

      Hey Bruce,

      Thanks for the comment, glad to hear you guys are working with Pinterest.

      I agree that the service is a great fit with the type of promotion and influence that a destination wants to provide, but I would recommend caution as brands jump into this newest of new social networks. Planning ahead could save a lot of work.

      And quality will be key. While some DMOs and CVBs have great images, that is not a rule. Recognizing and promoting truly great content will require some humility on the part of the destination.

      Thanks for adding to the conversation.

      – Troy

  14. Canada/s Boomergirl

    I’ve heard Pinterest is far more intuitive than Flickr. Any users find that so? Thanks for a good read.

    • Troy Thompson

      Hey Judy,

      Thanks for the kudos, appreciated.

      I think part of it is the social sharing opportunities, as well as the discovery process, with Pinterest. Anyone else, Pinterest more intuitive than Flickr?

      – Troy

  15. Réflexion & stats | Pearltrees

    […] But unlike the current group of social sites, where participation often seems forced rather than authentic, Pinterest presents a unique moment for destination marketers. The moment when a destination moves from passive to possible… all via a pin. Will it be easy to accomplish? No, certainly not. Why Pinterest works in the travel industry (ESPECIALLY destinations) | Tnooz […]

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    […] But unlike the current group of social sites, where participation often seems forced rather than authentic, Pinterest presents a unique moment for destination marketers. The moment when a destination moves from passive to possible… all via a pin. Why Pinterest works in the travel industry (ESPECIALLY destinations) | Tnooz […]

  17. Tim

    Pinterest is so effective for adventure travel operators as well because traveling is so visual. For example, Croft Global Travel: http://pinterest.com/CGT/

    • John

      Tim, enticing boards by Croft Global Travel but also a good example of what is wrong with Pinterest or should I say the lazy members who enhance their own reputations as content curators and in doing so rob the content creators of traffic.
      Looking up the photos pinned there many are from Google Images. The website that actually created the content does not get the link juice. Croft Global Travel is potentially making money by having their customers view the full size image on their Pinterest Board. Sadly the site that created / owns the image will likely as not get a second look. Why would you need to look at an image twice?

      • Troy Thompson

        Great point John, thanks for the comment.

        Your example with the Google images is accurate, due to the Google ‘filter’ the content originators are not getting full credit.

        As with the copyright issues, one would assume that Pinterest will provide a solution to this problem as the service evolves.

        – Troy

    • Troy Thompson

      Hey Tim,

      Thanks for the comment. Agreed, the visual appeal of Pinterest is certainly a fit with travel.

      – Troy

  18. jeremy head

    Seen what bmi is doing with Pinterest? Most interesting!

  19. Nate @yomadic

    Pinterest is a useful tool… but as a travel “blogger”, I am still searching for a way to use Pinterest for more than just a driver of traffic. I’ve only been onboard the Pinterest bandwagon for a few months, but would enjoy hearing any opinions on how other travel bloggers are making use of Pinterest?

    • Troy Thompson

      Hey Nate,

      Thanks for the comment and the question.

      As a fellow blogger, I am not really interested in Pinterest as a traffic driver. Meaning, I am not going to stretch my brand / blog just to grab a bit more traffic.

      For travel bloggers, Pinterest might just be a more social version of Flickr. Share some great images, extend your personal brand and just enjoy pinning.

      Plus, maybe find a few new content ideas / travel destinations based upon pins from others.

      – Troy

  20. Heddi Cundle

    Very interesting since a few weeks ago, we created a board called ‘bucket lists’ for pinterest.com/mytab Obviously this resonates with myTab.co’s objective to help users fund travel dreams but nice to know you are parallel with our vision for dream travel aspirations…:)

    • Troy Thompson

      Hi Heddi,

      Thanks for the comment.

      Pinterest certainly seems like an ideal research vehicle for myTab. People are dreaming about travel on Pinterest, but they could be doing (or saving) on myTab.

      I would think very strategically how to connect the two, beyond simply pinning great images.

      – Troy

      • Heddi Cundle

        Absolutely correct – we’re trying to work out the sequence & strategy. We know that between 4-5pm (pst) daily, we get the most traffic from adding new pins through hits to our website and also repins/comments, yet are trying our hardest to avoid the ‘sales pitch’ pinning of ‘its all about us’ pattern. So we’ve created a few boards of inspiration to dilute the direct pitch. If you do have any ideas, i’d absolutely love to hear your expert ideas since we’re trying to bridge that fine line!! We’re introducing a new public feature this week (think of kickstarter public profile style, for travel funding) on our website, so something may trigger a more direct call to action. (heddi@mytab.co). 🙂

        • Troy Thompson

          Hey Heddi,

          Good stuff. What about connecting the most popular trips on myTab, back to Pinterest?

          One would assume that there are patterns developing as people begin using the myTab system, I for one, would be more interested in those trip ideas, shown via pinboard.

          That way, you are just aggregating the community on myTab and using the Pinterest platform to highlight and socialize.

          Frankly, Pinterest might be my primary social site if I was running myTab.

          Either way, I think the products complement each other nicely.

          – Troy

          • Heddi Cundle

            Hi Troy! Well, at 4am when I couldn’t sleep and was in a Pinterest brainstorm flurry (!), I was analyzing trends and repins from followers. They prefer fun bright colors and not standard product placement images yet…I’ve followed your ideas and just trialing out a repin campaign to promote our new ‘kickstarter style’ feature for preview sign ups, launching this week. The new campaign seems to be working well. We get more traffic from Facebook & Twitter than Pinterest but our repins are doing well, so hoping this backlinks to our site with the new campaign accelerates (from checking about 5 mins ago, it seems to be working).

            And yes, the products really are a good match. Toes crossed and thank you!! 🙂

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  22. Ben Alcock

    One post about Pinterest here, and more comments/replies than I’ve ever seen before.

    Love it.

    • Troy Thompson

      Thanks Ben, that is very kind of you.

      All of this conversation, and I have not even mentioned the fact that I am a Liverpool supporter.

      – Troy

  23. Karl

    Hi Troy,

    I think you’re right. Travel is an ideal model for using Pinterest, especially as we are in the business of selling non physical products at time of sale.. We use Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/usrentacar/) to show our product offerings and also to visually inject a little bit of our company personality.



    • Troy Thompson

      Hey Karl,

      Thanks for the comment.

      Agreed, especially for destinations who are selling inspiration via other people’s products. It is certainly going to be a tough balance for tourism organizations on Pinterest…on one hand, to show personality, but on the other hand, show a little bit of marketing.

      I do like the personality aspect of your page. Making it social, if you will.

      – Troy

  24. Abby

    Great article! This is a good overview of where hotels and other travel industry businesses fit into this Pinterest frenzy.

    • Troy Thompson

      Thanks Abby, appreciate the kudos.

      I think Pinterest works well for those hotels with amazing or unexpected offerings. For example, the underwater hotel is a particular Pinterest favorite.

      Will it work the same way for the Best Western in Bakersfield? Probably not.

      – Troy

      • Ben Alcock

        Why not?

        If BW Bakersfield uses it to highlight the quirky and wonderful things nearby (or is that the problem?) and drives traffic back to its website then…result.

        Come on, have you seen the size of the Bakersfield sign?


        • Troy Thompson

          Hey Ben,

          Well, they certainly *could* do it, but would it be a significant benefit? Not sure.

          For a commodity brand, I think it comes down to passion (of the audience for the brand / area) and, in the case of Pinterest, quality of the content.

          It might work, I would just not recommend it as a strategy for my clients.

          – Troy

  25. Brian Harte

    Hi Troy,
    Good post, particularly about ‘entering the funnel’ the bit we’re calling ‘reaching above the funnel’ – very important. We found an interesting hack for Pinterest to see who’s posting what from our site: http://pinterest.com/source/discoverireland.com/ just edit the URL for your own site.

  26. Peter Murphy Lewis

    Thanks Troy! Great post. Will definitely include in our next meeting on helping put Santiago and Valparaiso on the map for South American travel.

    • Troy Thompson

      Thanks Peter, appreciated.

      It is certainly worth a conversation…whether you begin building a Pinterest presence or simply ‘listen’ for the next few months.

      – Troy

  27. Claude

    Jitendra at Hotelmarketer made a interesting post about Pinterest

    In France, I think DMO’s and other tourism pro will wait to play the game until Pinterest make new rules and copyright…

  28. Marni Blythe

    Thank you Troy for this article. I think its really smart and we are seeing many destinations getting excited about using Pinterest. I’m curious in your experience (and for others) what are the best applications for Pinterest? (e.g. having the social media icons on a DMO’s website? ) How are destination marketers currently using pinterest to help market their destinations?

    • Troy Thompson

      Hey Marni,

      Thanks for the comment and the question, appreciated.

      As for the best applications, I love the advice from Gregg at Slopefillers (a US-based, ski-resort blog): http://www.slopefillers.com/pinterest-for-ski-resorts-dont-create-an-account-seriously/

      In the article, he recommends searching for the images that are already pinned from your site…you can do that by putting your domain at the end of this URL string: http://pinterest.com/source/yourdomain.com/…finding those images and the optimizing for each individual image.

      No need to place a Pinterest button on each and every page, just the images that you want to promote and that people want to pin.

      For your second question, how are destination marketers currently using Pinterest…well, pretty basically right now. Most have simply started an account and have begun pinning images. It is a fine way to join the conversation, but I am not sure that it will deliver a long-term return, aside from enjoyment.

      Our friends at Sparkloft have done a nice job organizing and calculating the impact of DMO pinboards here: http://sparkloftmedia.com/blog/thoughts/pinterest/

      – Troy

  29. Joe Buhler

    Very useful insights, Troy.
    The potential and value of Pinterest in the inspiration phase are obvious. The challenge for DMOs will be how to best capitalize on this, not by only having their own pin boards but glean insights from the many destination relevant boards by people who could become possible visitors. Like elsewhere on the social web it’s about finding the conversation about you, learning from it and then join it in a relevant and non-intrusive way. On Pinterest this is no different but done visually.

    • Troy Thompson

      Thanks Joe, appreciated.

      Yes, the opportunity is there, but how to capitalize without overtly advertising your destination? No need to stalk everyone that has pinned Switzerland. ‘Hey, so, you want to come to Switzerland, huh? Call me.’

      The upcoming Pinterest API may help solve this problem.

      As a destination marketer, I would love to see the pins of my destination, the related pins, the people. And oh by the way, most have connected their Facebook pages as well.

      A lot of possibility. Will it all work out? Not sure.

      But as I said above, the insights being shared via pin are unique among social networks.

      – Troy

  30. Amelia

    @DT, good point, I did a search the other day in Pinterest for a travel destination and one of the results was a statement saying the pic was blocked for copyright reasons. I could still click through the link – it led to a travel agency specializing in that destination. Couldn’t help but think in this instance it’s very shortsighted of the travel agency to not want people admiring and linking to their product (the destination). Although it could always have been a situation where the agency only had rights to use that image on their site and not in other forms of advertising, I don’t know.

    • Troy Thompson

      Thanks for the info Amelia.

      I agree, one would think this promotion would be wanted by the travel agency. But, it certainly could have been a restricted-use photo.

      Even with the current frenzy of copyright questions, I simply don’t see this slowing down the growth of Pinterest. They need to address the issue, sure, but folks love their pin time.

      – Troy

  31. DT

    Just have a good understanding of copyright beforehand.

    Recent news from Pinterest: We are currently in the process of building a tool that will allow you to submit your domain to a list of sites that cannot be Pinned from. We are also in the process of rewriting our terms of use to be more clear, especially around content ownership. Thanks for your patience while we get this built.

    • Troy Thompson

      Hey DT,

      Thanks for the comment.

      Yes, Pinterest is receiving a lot of attention around the copyright issue. Not a surprise. With the added publicity, comes additional scrutiny.

      But, as we have seen with Facebook and Google, the majority is more concerned with convenience over privacy. As long as Pinterest can clean this up, the pundits and bloggers will move on to other link-friendly fodder.

      – Troy

  32. B J Garback

    I agree.
    Pininterest is a brillant new arrow, which needs to be added to every major travel/hospitality companies quiver.

    • Troy Thompson

      Hey BJ,

      Thanks for the comment. I won’t go as far as saying it needs to be in *every* quiver, but I think it is important to understand and consider.

      Like other social sites, Pinterest will work on different levels, for different organizations. Some will be best served by directly participating (pinning) with the site, members, pins. Others should simply curate the content, rather than creating directly. And finally, for some, just the act of listening and researching will be the best fit for their strategy.

      That said, this arrow does shine a bit more brightly than others.

      – Troy


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