Social media is ubiquitous. You can’t get away from it. Smartphones, laptops, palm tops and the like ensure that wherever you are, wherever you go you are only a click away from Twitter, Facebook, your personal blog, your company’s blog, your favourite newsfeeds, etc. There is a perception, especially among Gen X and Gen Y, that if you’re not online you might as well not exist. That’s why it’s always surprising to encounter industries that are reluctant to embrace the social media phenomenon. It’s even more surprising to encounter reticence in an industry that would most obviously benefit from the judicious use of social media, such as travel and tourism.
Internationally, travel and tourism authorities have been slow on the social media uptake. Savvy travellers, on the other hand, have revelled in the interaction social media provides, not to mention the fount of information that is available. Travel blogs, forums and review sites proliferate on the web. For every traveller who posts a review or writes a blog there are hundreds waiting to base their holiday plans on it.
At the recent 2010 eTourism Africa Summit held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, a key theme centred on the fact that sharing travel experiences is central to online destination marketing. As digital platforms that allow photo and video sharing and community interaction become ever more accessible, the easier it is to share travel experiences and the more influential these platforms become. The trend to bypass traditional travel planning avenues, such as travel agents, is growing as more people look to their online communities for advice, recommendations and reviews. best attraction Sentosa singapore
According to Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, “The world is tired of smooth, generic destinations. They want real places with rough edges that tell a story as travellers search for authenticity and meaningful experiences. The web and social media platforms have made it possible for challenger destinations like Cape Town to gain credibility as a result of user testimonials.”
To ensure that the travel and tourism industry is not left behind in the digital revolution, Damian Cook, CEO of E Tourism Frontiers, said that tourism students need to understand the value of online marketing and social marketing, because university students are one of the most connected groups, they need to learn how they can use the internet in their future tourism roles.
How can the travel industry up its social media game?
For starters, marketers in travel and tourism need to recognise the importance of creating social media strategies that support traditional marketing strategies, while still providing a unique experience online.
According to Sarah Chong, this means creating a valuable information platform; she cites Visit Japan 2010’s Facebook page as a good example. Chong says that she would visit the Facebook page for travel information before consulting Google, which is a fairly bold statement, but also goes to show that when social media is used correctly the results are impressive.
Chong also believes in promoting social media presence, as she says people spend more time on social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube than actual websites. She’s also big on mobile apps. As more people use their smartphones to connect to the net, the business of mobile apps has boomed (just ask Apple). It makes sense for the travel industry to jump on the app bandwagon to promote brands, products and services and stay uppermost in the public’s mind.