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#ConsumerCorner: Would a TikTok ban kill travel Marketing?

Travel Concept
By Fi Todd
16 April 2024
Consumer Industries
Travel, Tourism & Leisure
Consumer Campaigns & B2B

In recent years, TikTok has become an extremely popular platform for travellers seeking inspiration for their next trip. In fact, according to a recent study from the social media giant itself, TikTok has seen a whopping 410% increase in views of travel content since 2021, with the hashtag #travel racking up more than 125 billion views.

With recent figures showing that TikTok has become the second most used search engine, particularly among Gen Z and Millennials, there’s no doubt that the platform offers a significant number of opportunities for travel brands looking to build brand awareness and engage with new audiences.

Over the last few weeks however, there’s been growing discussions of a potential ban on the platform in the US after the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill that would compel TikTok parent company, ByteDance, to sell the app within six months or see it banned.

Although it’s likely that this is no more than an empty threat, many are questioning how such a ban would impact travel marketing given the platform’s significant influence on the industry.

If a TikTok ban did come into force, we’d likely see disruption across the entire global travel landscape – not just in the US. For example, with many travel brands headquartered in the US, employees based there would lose access to their TikTok accounts, meaning any marketing activity would immediately be impacted.   

Travel brands would no longer have the ability to advertise on the platform, one of the largest outbound tourism markets, which means companies would have to spend a significant amount of time and resource into either building or maintaining their presence across other marketing channels, like Instagram for example.

Although Instagram too presents many opportunities for travel brands, some believe that TikTok is much more powerful when it comes to driving engagement. For example, state tourism board, Travel South Dakota had grown its following on TikTok to more than 60,000 before they deleted their account and revised their marketing approach to target a similar audience via Instagram Reels and YouTube shorts. While the content did gain some traction, the tourism board haven’t yet been able to replicate the searchability and discoverability of TikTok. 

A ban would also see global travel creators immediately lose their US audience, and of course, any creators based in the country would lose their TikTok account altogether. Given the sheer amount of active travel creators there are in the US, the number of travel content accessible to users worldwide would dramatically decrease.

Although TikTok’s future in the US is currently unclear, what is clear is the detrimental impact such a ban could have on travel marketing across the globe.