Taking a summer vacation as a reward for working hard all year long is ingrained in our culture. The significance of these annual trips goes far beyond well-deserved relaxation. Local economies depend on tourism dollars to thrive, and, in some cases, just to function.
And as consumers look for information and make buying decisions for holidays, flights and hotels based around a range of factors from personalization of content, delivery of services to mobile devices, and recommendations from their peers in social networks and other online communities – so destinations have embraced social and digital media as a key means of communication.
This week we are looking at social media and the travel and tourism industry, starting with a look at a selection of campaigns and destinations, and providing some key takeaways on how travel brands can use social media.
Over the last three years, the Facebook presence of many destinations has improved considerably. The award-winning Pure Michigan Facebook page showcases upcoming events in Mighigan, offers a sweepstakes, the ability to connect with Michigan’s tourism experts, and even an F-commerce extension with the ability to shop directly in the Michigan online store. The page Wall is full of photos and advice from other travelers, making it a natural place to look for information on traveling to Michigan this summer. As a result, since its launch in 2006, the entire Pure Michigan campaign has attracted seven million new, out-of-state visitors to the state and generated $3.29 in tax revenue for each dollar spent on Pure Michigan advertising.
QUEENSLAND: THE BEST JOB IN THE WORLD
Queensland’s The Best Job in the World campaign is a well known success story, based around recruiting applicants for a six-month assignment to become a Great Barrier Reef island caretaker and the winner wrote a weekly blog reporting on his adventures. With social media as just one part of this program, Queensland’s integrated marketing campaign also included a website, advertising and PR. It brought 8.4 million website visitors and almost 35,000 job applications, at a time when Australian tourism was down; tourism in Queensland tourism rose 20% with 50% of Australian trips now including a Queensland component. Indeed, other resorts have emulated this successful model – The Canyons, Utah, also launched their own Ultimate Mountains Gig this winter with two winners including Andy Campbell, who rode the snowy hills daily blogging and tweeting his experiences in the resort daily – @Andy_Campbell
The Jordan Tourism Board‘s recent program was based around a photo contest encouraging people who visited Jordan to upload their pictures to their website. Several people then linked to their photos on Facebook, but this UGC focused contest encouraged more interaction with the destination Jordan, while re-living their memories and supporting tourism for the country, all generating more positive WOM.
With the goal of increasing tourism, fan engagement, and network exposure, LoveUK placed Facebook at the heart of their marketing efforts. Fans are encouraged to check-in using Facebook Places in at least two suggested British tourist destinations, to win a trip to the UK. This smart contest both drives awareness of destinations in the UK while growing fan numbers on the Facebook page.
But not every program needs to be built around million dollar activations. Here are some initial takeaways for brands in the travel and tourism space looking to engage with today’s consumer:
Twitter: An ideal way to connect quickly and efficiently with audiences looking for recommendations and conversations around travel and tourism. Tweet deals, include links to interactive video and photo content, write a monthly conversation calendar and plan and schedule tweets using a service like HootSuite. You can also set up searches to find people who are in the market for your type of deal or destination getaway. Then, follow them and reply with a link to a specific recommendation, you’ll soon see your numbers grow.
Facebook: Facebook marketing for destinations has come a long way in the past three years. Build a customized landing page where you can feature awards and news unique to your destination. Integrating different API’s into Facebook is all the rage, so why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of Google Earth or Twitter API’s? For example, Vodafone’s #ukhols campaign brought together Twitter and Google maps to plot the UK’s summer holiday destinations.
Contests and Sweepstakes: Offer compelling deals and discounts to your fans, as a step on the path to gaining “Likes”. Using location, you can offer discounts for Facebook or FourSquare check-ins or free stays for contest entrants, such as the Kimpton 30th anniversary Write Here, Right Now Facebook contest.
Flickr and YouTube: Upload and tag photos and videos to flickr with SEO in mind (perhaps there are amenities your hotel has that would be a draw in the summer family friendly hotels/pools). Spend the extra money to find out how people are organically searching and use those insights to provide relevant content.
Blogs: Include a blog on your tourism site. Blogs provide a steady stream of content, rank well on Google/Yahoo/Bing, and encourage interaction through commentary. Plus, they provide your business with an approachable voice such as The Canyons, Utah’s Andy Campbell, who rode the snowy hills daily blogging and tweeting his experiences in the resort daily.
Tourism-focused communities: Consider starting profiles on sites like TripAdvisor, WAYN and social media spaces like Matador Travel, asmallword.net, Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree, Tripit, tripwolf and TravelMole. These all have loyal fan bases and give you an easy way to target an appropriate demographic while understanding ongoing topics of interest to those groups.