As one of the fastest growing tourism destinations in the United States, the Breckenridge Resort Chamber relies on social media to collect authentic content of visitor experiences, according to Scott Fortner, Marketing Director at Breckenridge Tourism Office. “We feel that sharing what others have experienced in our town is way more impactful than anything we as a destination marketing organization can do. It enables us to tell our story in an authentic way—and it works
.”Top travel and hospitality brands are using user-generated content in a variety of innovative ways. Travel brands, such as Northview Hotel Group, display real customer photos on their website to inspire new bookings. Others, such as Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, have made submitting customer photos an integral part of their loyalty programs.
Why this shift towards marketing with real customer photos? Because customers prefer and trust visual content that comes from real people. Customer photos are the purest form of earned media. When a customer organically posts a photo on social media praising their experience with your brand, his or her peers see it as a 5-star visual endorsement.
And although the travel industry is well versed in the importance of customer reviews in influencing purchasing decisions, Breckenridge relies on user-generated content to create an online community where loyal locals and visitors can share their passion for the town. Using Pixlee, the tourism bureau leverages user-generated content in multiple ways on its marketing channels.
A key area of Breckenridge site is “Breck Because,” which is a digital album where viewers can find hundreds of pictures of visitor-submitted photos of the Breckenridge landscapes and the reasons why they love the town. These photos and videos are “real, true, and inspiring—and enable us to tell our story authentically,” Fortner says.
To participate, visitors can upload photos on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with the hashtag #BreckBecause. Team members can then filter through photos and include them in relevant digital galleries or display advertisements.
The Pixlee platform integrates with Breckenridge’s advertising technology partner and allows the tourism office to seamlessly feature real customer photos in its display advertisements. These advertisements’ click-through rates are, on average, 35% higher than ads that do not feature real customer photos.
Moving forward, Breckenridge plans to continue its aggressive user generated content strategy, Fortner explained. “What’s best for the guest is at the core of everything that we do and we strongly feel that sharing visitor content is what’s most effective.”
 Pixlee, 2014