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the online tourism industry and new media – who will be the influencers of the next generation?

I stumbled upon this fantastic review of the 10 most influential people in the online travel industry over the past ten years, which was put together by UK based Travolution.co.uk.  The article, which lists innovators in the online travel industry such as Simon Breakwell and Barry Diller from Expedia, Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page (obviously!), and Steve Kaufer and Langley Steinert, founders of Tripadvisor among others, but The article itself is a interesting look back at the evolution of the online travel space reminding us all that there was once a time that GDS was king and a website was an online brochure, if you were lucky enough to convince management that you needed one!

In 2007, we have search engines, major travel portals, online intermediaries, and dynamic packaging available to the travel consumer.  As well, we as tourism marketers have had to open up the lines of communication and embrace customer feedback as a critical part of our communications strategy.  New media such as Blogging, RSS and social media have changed the way that consumers research and buy travel online, and this continues to evolve every day.

I was recently speaking at the Student Youth and Travel Association (SYTA) conference in Whistler B.C. , and was asked during a session on New media how to engage this new online consumer without the worry of “losing control” of the message.  I guess the simple answer is that there is no real control anymore as it relates to online marketing.  The consumers are really more in control than ever before in shaping your brand.  I answered the question by saying that marketers should join the conversation and feed the message often.

Feed the message you ask?  Yes!  First and foremost, have your product available for purchase online across multiple online channels, make sure that your brand message is always consistent, update your content often, optimize your website so that it can be found by your target audience, read and comment on Blogs and other forums for customer testimonials (like tripadvisor), make sure that your site is user-friendly, and most importantly – test that your website is working the way that you had intended it to work – or more importantly, how your customers need it to work to close the sale.  Beyond that – you can be an innovator too by posting content online about your brand.  Content such as video’s, articles and images of your tourism product is easy to post to channels such as Flikr and YouTube, and can be virally distributed by both you and your customers! The power of an online video like this one from the Log Cabin Inn in New England MA, entitled “want the perfect wedding?”  illustrates that video’s posted to YouTube.com can engage (and amuse!) as well as point traffic back to a website, including an online audience who may have not found the website without seeing the video!Who knows what the next ten years will bring to the world of online marketing for tourism.  Maybe the future will include virtual vacations online! (oh ya – you can already have that on SecondLife.com!)

Interestingly enough, the most influential list of people in the online travel industry over the past ten years includes only one female in the entire group and short list!  It seems that Martha Lane-Fox, co-founder of lastminute.com is the only “chick” in the bunch!  Perhaps the next ten years will hatch a few more women tourism entrepreneurs into the mix!

[tags]tourism marketing, online marketing, hospitality industry, blogs, social media, tripadvisor, travolution, expedia, google, Log Cabin Inn, Youtube, Flikr, second life, search marketing, travel distribution, blogging, RSS, web marketing [/tags]
  

 

Comments ( 3 )
  • Matt Renner says:

    I like the fact that you are pointing towards marketers having more interaction at the point of Brand conversation – I feel it is important to have multiple sides to any story – especially when dealing with the volatility of user review and generated content.

    However, I think there are ways to control a brand online. In Niche portals, where the search engine more or less is a means to an end – if a brand in any segment can be viewed on an expert portal particularly pertaining to and only to that niche, then a brand can be seen and controlled in that environment, therefore driving higher CTR and quality impressions, heightening the chance at direct response through that media channel.

    Also, I think in the future, expert guides, by trained tourism proffessionals will become a more trusted source of information than user generated which can be jaded or misleading: Overall, this will contribute to helping control brand in the desired fashion.

    I enjoy reading your blog.

    Matt

  • Dean Owen says:

    Feeding the social networking community is ‘the’ way to get the message out there. The old ‘command and control’ marketing strategies may still work in some areas, but society as a whole is changing and consumers are tired of the same old song. They now want the control and thanks to such vehicles as social networking they can exercise that control.

    Matt Renner, in his comment to this post used the word control three times and in a context that I take as meaning that control should be in the hands of the marketer – not the consumer. With all due respect, Mr. Renner is correct in referring to experts as a key information source.

    Expert advice in combination with consumer perspectives could prove to be a powerful marketing tool. You can achieve this success with feeding the social network community not controlling it.

    Dean

  • Idea Hatching » Blogs, YouTube, break.com, Flickr, Facebook – can I control the message?! [Internet search, marketing & measurement e-marketing blog] says:

    […] A great example of using a channel like YouTube came from our next round of workshops for the Travel Media Association of Canada (TMAC) Conference held this year in Halifax, Canada.  We again explored the social media space live during the workshop (never really knowing what might be pulled as a relevant result and always making sure we warn the audience!)  We again searched Youtube.com – this time for the Days Inn brand of hotels,  and what we found was a perfect example of embracing and participating in the online conversations and experiences that your audience is engaging in through their research process. […]

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