The retro resurgence in travel and tourism

The retro resurgence in travel and tourism

When travelling around America in the 1980s, helpful signs directed you to park the car and photograph a view. With a camera back then, not a smartphone.

These viewpoints were jokingly known as ‘Kodak Moments,’ a reference to a brand that then sold 90% of film and 85% of cameras in the USA. I still the use the term today in reference to iconic photo locations.

What happened to Kodak is a legendary story of how some brands failed to embrace change. Even though it produced the first digital camera (in 1975), film camera sales collapsed and the company filed for bankruptcy protection.

Times are still a’changing but Kodak, which survived selling technology to print industries, has learned that nostalgia/retro is back in favour. It’s not what it used to be, but non-digital is very fashionable.

Another photo brand had already found this out. Polaroid cameras, which printed an image instantly, were a sensation in the 1980s but also fell by the wayside. The last factory and film stock was bought for just £1.5m in 2008.

But feeding on retro, its’ new owners produced two new cameras in the past two years. “The cameras on iPhones are almost too perfect in quality whereas the imperfection of a Polaroid gives the resulting photo a cooler emotional pull. It’s more visceral,” says the company’s marketing boss, Martin Franklin.

Kodak’s chief brand officer Dany Atkins echoes the sentiment. “People are discovering film and analogue again, and we’ve got this incredible portfolio of products, brand names and graphic design that we can pull from and bring back to life in new ways.”

One initiative has been to create a platform to commission photographers for shoots. Kodak manages the whole process, including payments, and has sourced many snappers from Instagram. In October, it also started using YouTube as a publishing platform, filming the video launch of a London band on Super 8 film.

Some travel and tourism brands have not been slow in recognising the strength of the retro resurgence. In 2012, we worked with Erna Low Ski Holidays to unleash the wealth of photos, old 8mm and 16mm film and correspondence created by the company’s founder, who had died a decade earlier.

In time for its 80th anniversary, we produced a biography of Erna Low and several social media short films, plus one 10-minute compilation. One short, on the magnificent ski fashions of the 1950s-1970s, has now had 1.8k views.

In subsequent years, there have been campaigns to ally retro and travel, including Meridien Hotels on Instagram and Hovertravel, which runs the last commercial hovercraft in Britain and which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015.

However, the rapid change of ownership in travel more often sees brands go for short-term marketing rather more than recognising where it comes from. As we often say, if it comes down to choosing one brand over another, wouldn’t you go with the one that can say  ‘We’ve got history?’

OK, Polaroid and Kodak were brands brought to their knees and had to adapt. And they are looking to rebuild in new markets, with a focus on new products and a youth-orientated market.

But we believe there is so much opportunity for travel and tourism brands to embrace retro in current marketing. Look what’s being talked about, which brands can tap into to add to its portfolio – and bring alive its past:

The resurgence of:

Retro resurgence is a trend and one to be considered. Recent research on a campaign by Traverse showed that figures in the second half of a six-month period, compared to the first three months, had interaction growth of just 2% on Facebook video and 9% on Instagram – compared with 228% on a blog and 117% on YouTube.

So unleash your retro videos and start bigging up your history, in addition to running short-term social media. Because you all have history, and retro is in demand.

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Steve Keenan has been a travel journalist for 25 years. He started at a Reed paper, news editing at Travel News in London - now Travel Weekly - having spent a decade reporting general news in the UK and abroad. He also taught English in Peru, delivered cars in the USA, ran the Sydney desk at AAP and took the train home from Hong Kong. He left Travel News in 1990 to freelance for several publications, including The Times of London, which he later joined as deputy travel editor. In December 2004, he became the first national digital travel editor in the UK, running the combined travel website of The Times and Sunday Times. The introduction of a paywall at the papers in 2010 persuaded him that the connected world might continue outside of Wapping and he left to co-found Travel Perspective. The company runs the social media seminars at World Travel Market London, and works with Reed Expos and others in helping the travel and tourism industry best communicate stories in all forms of publishing.

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