What Adventure Travel Professionals Need to Know About Creating and Distributing Video Content

16 April 2019

Online video is the new marketing currency. It is consumed voraciously and can pay off tremendously if done well.

Whether you represent a destination marketing organization or you’re a tour operator or travel content creator, producing video content is essential. Everyone is watching video content, but not every business is creating it … yet. To stay relevant in the future of digital content, you should understand why video content is important, how to create compelling travel-related videos, the types of videos you can produce, and how to distribute them so they are actually watched.

Done well, compelling video content is a powerful storytelling tool. Hokkaido, Japan © ATTA / BORDER FREE TRAVELS

Why Video Content is Important

Though text and photography remain relevant in marketing your products and services, online video has exploded in the past few years. In the travel industry, where destination representatives and tour operators are selling experiences, the ability to bring places and activities to life is particularly powerful.

How important is video? Just a few statistics highlight the relevance and significance of this digital medium:

  • By 2022, online videos will make up more than 82 percent of all consumer internet traffic. (Cisco)
  • Seventy-eight percent of people watch online videos every week, and 55 percent watch online videos every day. (Hubspot)
  • Social media posts with video have 48 percent more views. (Hubspot)
  • Social video gets shared 1200 percent more than text and images combined. (Wordstream)
  • Viewers retain 95 percent of a message when they watch it in a video compared to 10 percent when reading text. (Insivia)

Creating Great Travel Videos

One of the challenges for video creators is there is a lot of competition for eyeballs — a jaw-dropping 400 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute! It’s not as easy as it was 10 years ago to attract and amass an audience. In order to stand out above the fray, there is one way to do a better job: Be outstanding at storytelling.

At its essence, a good travel video informs or inspires — and doing both is best. To do that, you must tell your audience a story. It sounds fundamental, and it is, but it is rarely done and it’s much more difficult than it sounds. Most travel videos are no better than a slide show or home movie, and we all know what happens to home movies … they never get watched!

The ATTA’s storytelling team shares compelling stories from around the globe. Watch them in action.

A good story has a beginning, middle, and end. The beginning is where you make a promise to viewers that this story will lead somewhere worthy of their time. The middle is where you construct anticipation and conflict about what the outcome might be. The end is a conclusion and where you deliver on the promise you made at the beginning. Avoid on-camera rambling or a voiceover without supporting footage. Ultimately, a great story leaves viewers with an emotional reaction.

To tell a story, you need characters, a theme, and a setting. The character can be a host, a narrator, or someone viewers meet who is the focus of the story, however, the character doesn’t even have to be a person. The video above, which was filmed and edited during Adventure Travel World Summit 2017, is an example of using a narrator to tell a story.

Telling stories through video can be tough, and it takes a lot of practice. One of the best ways to learn about good video storytelling is to watch videos from other travel video creators. I’ve created a list of some I think are quite good.

What To Produce

There is no single “right” type of travel video. In fact, part of what makes video content interesting is it can be highly creative. These are a few types of video formats that might make for compelling storytelling about your travel product or service:

  • Promotional: These videos are more like advertising. They are typically highly professional and visually appealing, and generally produced by larger production firms for DMOs, tour operators, and brands. They tend to be the least effective videos in generating lots of views (unless you represent a popular brand).
  • Experiential: These are editorial in nature and feature a story narrative with a host showcasing the experience first hand, which makes them most impactful with viewers. They are most commonly produced by travel video content creators. A vlog is similar, but less polished.
  • Testimonial: These videos feature guests, customers, and/or stakeholders talking about a product, service, or brand. These can be very powerful as they are often seen as unbiased. Filmed during AdventureWeek Panama, the film above uses testimonials to promote a destination.
  • How to: These videos offer guidance. For example, “how to choose the perfect cycling trip in Tuscany” or “how to pick the best tour operator.”
  • Best of: Traditionally popular in a written format, these are just starting to gain traction in video. For example, “top 10 sights not to miss when visiting Brazil” or “best hikes in Sedona.” Filmed during the Adventure Travel World Summit 2018, the film below highlights five adventure highlights of Tuscany.
  • Interview: Usually created in a documentary style, short interviews can add a lot of credibility and dimension to a travel video.

If you’re convinced your business needs compelling video content, you’re on the right path. Now it’s time to actually create great travel videos. You have two choices at this point: do it yourself or bring in a professional to help.

While both are legitimate options for creating video content, there are important questions to consider before deciding which option is best for your company or destination:

  • When I have taken video in the past, has it been well received?
  • Do I have the proper gear for filming and capturing audio?
  • Do I have access to and experience with editing software?
  • Do I have an artistic attention to detail that will allow me to finesse the pieces into an amazing final product?
  • Will I have the time needed to get this done right?
  • Do I understand video technology and concepts like ProRes, H264, audio ducking, and sourcing rights to music?

DIY Filming Tips

If you’re ready to go it alone, set yourself up for video creation success.

Before even stepping a foot out the door, start the project where you’d expect to end the project: Write a description of the video as if it’s already on YouTube. Give your film a title and description, and imagine who this film would appeal to. Video professionals would call this part of the process a creative brief.

From there you’ll translate the film’s vision into a shot list (the scenes and shots you want to capture). You might even want to storyboard the entire shoot to ensure your idea tells an interesting story.

Keep this story in mind as you shoot. Establish shots that introduce the characters (people and places), show the action, and wrap up the story with a conclusion. Shots need to be good quality. Avoid shaking, and look for creative and unique shots, such as from a drone or using a timelapse feature. Also, avoid dramatic jump cuts. It is better to shoot a wide shot then move in a bit closer.

Additionally, It is much better to shoot a sequence of shots than a single shot. For example, instead of shooting a wide angle of someone getting in a car, shoot a series of shots like the hand on the car door opening the handle, a foot being placed in the car, the car door closing, hands on the steering wheel, and a key in the ignition.

Film several transition shots, and don’t be afraid to let the camera roll before and after a scene. Sometimes you’ll capture something you did not expect that could make your video so much better. Always film for a minimum of 10 seconds; depending on the shot, 20 seconds might be better. You often don’t know how you’re going to use a shot in the final video.

Quality visual footage is one part of the video puzzle, but also pay attention to audio. Though it goes unnoticed when done properly, poor audio is immediately noticed if there is excess wind or background noise. I highly recommend a good wireless lavalier microphone like Sennheiser, which is good at isolating audio against background noise. A shotgun mic from Rode is also a great choice for capturing quality audio and eliminating wind noise that often occurs when relying on the internal mic of a camera to pick up audio. Make sure to check audio levels so you don’t peak. It is much better to keep the audio low and raise it in post production versus having it too high and distort it.

Finding Quality Video Content Producers

Not every tour operator or DMO is equipped to create their own videos, and that’s okay. Video production can be outsourced — you just need to know where to look!

Video professionals spend their lives thinking about effective ways to emotionally connect with viewers; they live and breathe video and stay up-to-date on the latest film-making techniques and technology. Using a professional will usually save you time and allow your video to effectively reach your target audience.

However, don’t expect to skip the video’s vision just because you’re hiring a professional. You are still responsible for articulating the goals of this video, who the intended viewers are, and how your video is supposed to reach them.

So, how do you find a videographer for your project?

  • Word of mouth: This is, of course, the most powerful form of referral marketing. If you represent a DMO or tour company, look at videos posted on other destinations’ or tour operators’ websites. If you like what you see, ask who created their videos. Also, search YouTube for applicable videos and see who the creators are. And don’t forget to ask experts in the industry if they can recommend anyone.
  • Databases: Search for associations of local videographers and travel industry content creators.
  • Work-for-hire websites: Search freelance and work-for-hire websites to find video content creators that match your company's needs.

Aligning Video With Your Brand

Why should you care about branding? Because it helps establish a relationship between you and your audience. Video content offers a platform to get your brand in front of interested audiences, so bring your brand elements into the space.

Intros, outros, fonts, colors, transitions, music, and sound effects are all examples of branding elements. Be consistent throughout the video production process to develop rapport with your audience. Also, create custom video thumbnails. This is another branding element that establishes continuity and helps get attention for your video.


YouTube is king when it comes to video distribution. It is the second largest search engine after Google, and the SEO value of optimized videos makes distribution through YouTube a no-brainer. YouTube videos are shown at the top of Google search result pages for easy viewing. You can embed YouTube videos into your website or landing pages, and it’s easy to share videos on other social media platforms.

Creating playlists of related videos helps direct your audience to consume more of your content. Additionally, YouTube has a built-in community allowing people to subscribe to your channel for updates on when you post new videos.

In recent years, social networks like Facebook have given priority to films that are natively hosted on their platform. That means that if you share a YouTube video on your company’s Facebook page, it will receive less priority in your audiences’ news feeds than if it were hosted natively on your company’s Facebook page. Posting natively on Facebook is useful if your company already has a significant audience following your page. If you choose to post on YouTube, consider how many people already follow your channel or if you would be building your audience from scratch.

Creating quality video content can be time-consuming and complicated to navigate, but done well, it can significantly pay off for destinations and tour operators.