Travelers are a social bunch. It is part of a traveler’s nature to seek out experiences and then share them. It is almost as if social media was created with the traveler in mind. Despite economic challenges across the globe, international tourism has risen to record numbers. In fact, the World Tourism Organization reports that, “International tourist arrivals grew by 5% in 2013, reaching a record 1,087 million arrivals“. Furthermore, international travel is expected to increase between 4 and 4.5% in 2014.
As marketers, we must strive to understand the traveler and their needs. We must also choose the proper channels in which to communicate our message. Thanks to popular social travel sites, TripAdvisor and AFAR, travelers have built a community where locals and visitors alike interact with recommendations and reviews that far exceed ratings in guide books.
The top social media recommendations for travel marketers for 2014 include the use of video and images rather than copious amounts of text. That makes sense, if travelers wanted to read they’d stay home with their Kindle e-reader. Travel is dynamic and experience driven. As such, images are key to driving interest and engagement.
Travel marketers that invest in social listening activities will benefit in 2014. While it is important to respond to compliments and even more important to complaints, social listening goes beyond your Facebook wall or Twitter Feed. Social listening should encompass blogs, Tweets, posts and pins in order to understand industry trends, concerns as well as traveler interests. While there are many free tools, GoogleAlerts is great for budget-constrained marketers. Create alerts based on topics and Google will e-mail you when it finds matching content.
It is an exciting time to be part of the travel industry. As more and more travelers turn to social media for trip planning, all travel related businesses have an equal chance at converting a potential visitor into customer and then into an advocate.
Prior to a European vacation, we searched for a B&B in Brügge, Belgium. Initial research led us to several interesting options. However, we experienced a bit of angst, “What if the hotel doesn’t look like it did on the travel booking site or worse, has bedbugs?”
More research was deemed necessary thus we consulted AFAR.com, posted a few questions and shortly thereafter received a number of recommendations. It was then that we visited the Sint Niklaas B&B website and contacted the innkeeper directly with questions. The trip was superb, the service impeccable, and the location perfect!
What is more impressive is that out of 207 B&B [and Inns] in Brügge, Sint Niklaas ranks nineteenth. Not by any fancy organization or guidebook but by the votes cast on TripAdvisor by everyday travelers. Social matters and it is time for all traveler marketers and travel related businesses to get social.
Encourage your patrons to write a review. Instead of a comment card, hand them the link to AFAR or Trip Advisor or any social media outlet where you have a presence and encourage them to share their experiences. Word-of-mouth is a powerful marketing tool that you cannot control but you can influence by providing superior customer experience to the global adventurer.
It is possible that a traveler can find the perfect B&B, the best local watering hole for a draft beer or a step back in time by visiting a small off-the-beaten-path Folklore museum without social media? Possibly, but do you really want your potential customers to be influenced by a one-dimensional printed guidebook or would you rather them read reviews by your guests?
From a narrow cozy two-story restaurant that serves the best Flammenkuchen in Köln to the Brug Beertje, the best beer bar in Brügge, every business can leverage social media to promote their business and become part of a global community.
Are you using social media yet? Your customers and potential customers are. Consider that, “approximately one-fifth of leisure travelers worldwide turn to social media platforms for inspiration within different categories of their travel planning including hotels (23%), activities (22%), attractions (21%) and restaurants (17%).”
What are you waiting for?