Summer may have come to an end, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not still dreaming about vacations, and travel brands like it that way. From riverboat cruises to theme park destinations, everyone has a different dream vacation, and many of us spend a pretty good amount of time scrolling social media to see what’s new at the place we hope to venture to one day.
If you spend your lunch break scrolling through your favorite travel company’s social accounts, you’re not alone. According to our Social Media Industry Benchmark Report for 2023, the engagement rates for the travel industry are fairly average and on par with other industries. Though travel isn’t the industry with the highest engagement rates, it’s pretty clear that social media users love to see what their favorite travel company is up to.
That’s especially the case for travel brands on TikTok. Although travel companies were in the middle of the pack for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, they scored third place in terms of engagement rate on TikTok. Perhaps there’s just something about actually seeing your favorite travel destination in action in TikTok’s short-form videos.
However, there are brands that are outliers and outshining other industries across all four of these major social media platforms. Let’s get into the travel brands doing best on social media and how they found success on social.
Takeaways From Top Travel Brands
Top Travel Brand on Facebook: Viking Cruises
What They Do Well: Understanding their demographic
Some brands play to their audience well, and one travel brand that shows they understand their target audience perfectly is Viking Cruises. The ocean and riverboat cruise line focuses on social media platforms that their customers are more likely to use. From September 1, 2022, to August 31, 2023, Viking Cruises posted more on Facebook than on any other platform. During this time period, the cruise line posted 615 times.
In comparison, they posted 331 times on Instagram and 188 times on Twitter. They do not use TikTok at all.
Start analyzing with a free Rival IQ trial.
Start analyzing with a free Rival IQ trial.Get my free trial
According to Sprout Social’s research, a whopping 92% of adults aged 56 and up, often known as Baby Boomers, have a Facebook account. With Baby Boomers also reporting that their social media usage is going up, it appears to be a particularly ideal time for companies like Viking to focus on their Facebook strategy.
The Baby Boomer demographic aligns with Viking’s target audience. According to TripSavvy, Viking Cruises passengers are typically older adults, with many being retired and over the age of 60. Perhaps this alignment is why the engagement rate for Viking Cruises on Facebook during this time was 0.90%, which is just over 10x the average engagement rate of the travel industry on Facebook in 2023.
In addition to focusing on Facebook, Viking Cruises also made sure their posts were tailored toward the interests of their older audience. According to Sprout Social, 69% of Baby Boomers like to follow companies online to stay up to date on new products and services. Baby Boomers are also some of the hardest followers to keep. When they’re met with poor reviews of the companies or excessive ads, they’ll often unfollow. Viking may perform so well with this demographic because they don’t make their advertisements obvious.
Baby Boomers like to see positive reviews, which tend to encourage their purchases. Viking often incorporates these types of reviews subtly into their posts.
One of their posts with the highest engagement during this time period included a blurb from a former passenger talking about the incredible castles they saw on their trip. The post earned an engagement rate of 6.09%, nearly 70x the average engagement rate of the travel industry on Facebook in 2023. The comments section is filled with people talking about having taken this particular cruise themselves, which is even more likely to convince Baby Boomers to be interested in what Viking is offering.
Top Travel Brand on Instagram: Dollywood
What They Do Well: Leaning into their brand image
Dollywood, the theme park nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains named for its famous songstress founder, wasn’t always Dollywood. The theme park actually changed hands three times before it became Dollywood in the 1980s. Now, it’s hard to believe it was ever not tied to Dolly Parton and her beloved music. Parton is an integral part of the theme park’s brand.
Dollywood knows that, at least according to their social media presence. Dollywood is inextricably linked to Parton. For many of its fans and visitors, it’s one of the biggest reasons why they make plans to venture on through the park’s gates. This love for Parton is what Dollywood capitalizes on when putting together their Instagram strategy. This theme park earned an Instagram engagement rate of 1.61%, about 3.5x the average engagement rate of the travel industry on Instagram in 2023.
While some of Dollywood’s top posts for the year keep their audience updated on upcoming rides, many more posts simply celebrate all things Dolly. One of the park’s top posts by engagement wasn’t in celebration of Dollywood but instead honored 50 years of the hit song “I Will Always Love You.” The post earned a 4.86% engagement rate, more than 10x the average Instagram engagement rate of the travel industry in 2023.
A post that performed even better in terms of engagement was even simpler. With a picture of Parton herself riding down the streets of Dollywood and a caption saying, “Hi, Dreamer-in-Chief,” the post was just a shoutout to the woman who started it all.
Much like how Walt Disney World will forever be tied to Walt Disney, Dolly Parton will always be Dollywood’s “Dreamer-in-Chief.” That’s something worth celebrating for the park’s fans, who came out in droves in the comments to say how much they loved Parton and hoped to see her in the park themselves one day. The likes, comments, and shares earned the post an engagement rate of 5.78%, over 12x the industry average for 2023.
These posts demonstrate how well Dollywood understands its brand and knows that Parton herself is such a big part of it. While other theme parks may rely on costumed characters as mascots, Dollywood knows that Parton is, in a way, Dollywood’s biggest, most beloved mascot.
Top Travel Brand on Twitter: Vidanta
What They Do Well: Celebrity partnerships
Vidanta, known for their luxury hotels and experiences throughout Mexico, also has their own version of mascots. Rather than having a famous founder or costumed characters, Vidanta instead partners with well-known celebrities. This tactic seems to work particularly well on Twitter, where the brand has scored a 0.29% engagement rate, 9x the average engagement rate for the travel industry on Twitter.
Most of the brand’s top tweets by engagement involve actors Catherine Zeta-Jones, Mark Wahlberg, and Jaime Camil. However, the brand’s celebrity partnership usage greatly differs from how Dollywood uses their founder in their posts. Instead of talking about the person, Vidanta’s celebrity ambassadors showcase their properties and company news.
The top tweet in terms of engagement for Vidanta during this time period shows pictures of Camil in front of different parts of the company’s Nuevo Vallarta property. The tweet garnered an engagement rate of 1.04%, 32.5x the average engagement rate for the travel industry on Twitter in 2023.
Many of these posts also tie into company news, which may be beneficial for Twitter. According to Statista, Twitter is the most popular platform that users turn to for news. The company updates that Vidanta posts, such as a tweet featuring Camil that talks about the phased opening of Vidanta’s new theme park, may resonate with those who turn to Twitter to get insights into what’s happening.
The post earned a 0.91% engagement rate, about 28x the average engagement rate of the travel industry on Twitter. This successful post demonstrates that Vidanta’s followers want updates on what the company is doing and how they’re expanding. The celebrity endorsements just add to the excitement.
Top Travel Brand on TikTok: Hilton
What They Do Well: Showcasing experiences in bite-sized ways
While Vidanta showcases the properties they own, hotel conglomerate Hilton takes things a step further by showing off experiences instead. While Hilton does use the Dollywood tactic of having its famous founding family in their TikToks, the majority of posts veer away from celebrities. Instead, Hilton posts TikToks showing off all the fun their ambassadors and other individuals can have when they stay with Hilton. This strategy helped Hilton score an engagement rate of 7.83%, which is just above the travel industry’s average engagement rate for 2023.
One of the brand’s most successful posts in terms of engagement doesn’t come across much like an ad at all. In the TikTok, we see a family going on vacation and finding that their dad has booked a tiny home that’s hardly going to fit them all. Luckily, they managed to find more comfort in a Hilton hotel. The TikTok shows off their room, the friendly staff, dining, and more that you’ll find in a Hilton establishment.
The TikTok looks like influencer-generated content (IGC) or user-generated content (UGC). It would fit in elsewhere on TikTok beyond Hilton’s own social media pages, making the post feel more authentic and trustworthy. This post earned a 133% engagement rate, about 18x the average engagement rate on TikTok for the travel industry.
It’s also worth noting that Hilton follows another strategy that seems to work across social media video formats, like TikToks, Instagram Stories, and Instagram Reels. According to Facebook Blueprints Insights, the optimal length for a scene is just 2.8 seconds. For this reason, it’s better to do quick cuts rather than make a scene the entire length of a video.
This strategy is also apparent in another of the brand’s top posts, this time showcasing a dog staying at a Hilton hotel. This TikTok uses quick cuts to show off all the different amenities that a dog gets to enjoy here. Using this format, Hilton gets to demonstrate a lot of their experiences in a short time. The post earned a 73.6% engagement rate, just about 10x the average engagement rate of the travel industry on TikTok.
Methodology for the Best Travel Brands
To determine what the top travel brands on social media are, we first took a look at the engagement rates for some of the biggest travel brands active on social media between September 1, 2022, and August 31, 2023. Then, we compared those rates to the average engagement rates of the travel industry across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok in 2023, according to our Social Media Industry Benchmark Report.
Those with engagement rates higher than the average moved on to the next round, where they were compared with one another to determine who had the best social media presence. In addition to having to have the highest engagement rate on the specified social media platform, the company’s social media also had to have a regular posting schedule to be chosen as a top travel brand. Those that posted less than once per month on average were not eligible to make the list.
It’s also worth noting that no brand of those surveyed had an above-average engagement rate on all four platforms, which is why this list is broken down by each social network.
Wrapping Up the Top Travel Brands
The top travel companies on social media go to show how important it is to understand each social media platform and format. For those like Viking Cruises who focus on Facebook, it’s essential to cater to your target audience and the platform’s primary demographics.
Although some brands think that social media isn’t the place to be to target Baby Boomers, Viking demonstrates that idea is outdated. Meanwhile, those who focus on Twitter, like Vidanta, know they need to find exciting ways to keep their audience up to date on what’s happening at their company.
Those who rely on videos, like Hilton, know how important it is to keep their viewers engaged, which means quick cuts and a lot of content in one short video. Brands like Dollywood go to show that, no matter what platform you’re on or the format of content you’re creating, understanding what followers love about your brand is key.