New 100% UGC State Travel Guide First Of Its Kind

Account Director/Senior Content Director
Published 4/19/17
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When the professionals at Miles brainstorm new product concepts for our destination partners, we consider several factors before landing on the recommendations we ultimately present. The most up-to-date travel research, the latest marketing trends, our own forward-thinking ideas and – most importantly – our client’s overall goals all play a critical role in this process. 

And when all of those planets align, the results are pretty stellar. That’s exactly what happened when Miles recently published a groundbreaking new state travel guide for Wild, Wonderful West Virginia.

The West Virginia Division of Tourism had recently launched a new branding campaign focusing on “Real” experiences and people. Their goal for the Official State Travel Guide was to have a print fulfillment piece that also helped support this “Real” theme. We jumped into action by first diving into findings of the most recent “State of the American Traveler” research conducted by Destination Analysts. During that process, we learned …

  • Destination visitors want to be explorers, never tourists, and value authenticity in the travel content they consume
  • So much so that user-generated content (59.4%) and social media content (49.8%) are among the most popular types of information travelers now use to influence and plan their vacations
  • The use of such content had increased by 8% (social) and 5% (user-generated) since the previous study, showing continued popularity
  • And at the same time, print usage (50%) also had climbed to new heights

That’s when the light bulb went off.

West Virginia wanted to tell real, authentic stories to potential visitors and our research found that’s exactly what travel planners are looking for (in ever-increasing numbers) when they turn to peer recommendations to validate their chosen vacation spots. So instead of hiring professional writers to talk about their travel experiences, we found “real” people to share their own West Virginia vacation stories – in their own words. 

And not just for some of the guide’s content, but all of it, making the new 2017 West Virginia Official State Travel Guide the FIRST IN THE NATION to feature 100% USER-GENERATED CONTENT. We’re talking page after page of captivating consumer-submitted travel photos, blog posts, social comments and more, all carefully curated from the state’s social channels to present West Virginia’s diverse travel opportunities in the best possible light.

This tactic made the guide’s messages – and the messengers themselves – as real as you can get. It also gave the printed guide a much stronger appeal to the audience the state wanted to target most (those coveted Millennials) without alienating other groups in the process. Not only was this approach a natural evolution of the state’s “Real” campaign, but the “never been done” concept provided addition PR benefits a well. 

How so? Our West Virginia client was so excited about the new guide Miles delivered that they decided to hire the Travelocity Gnome to come in town for a media event to release it, followed by a tour of the state where the Gnome used the guide to plan his adventures. 

How cool is that?