The destination visitor center, which was once staffed with friendly travel advisors knowledgeable about the area, and ready to offer recommendations for dining and area attractions, rack cards and packages for weary road warriors, has given way to destination portal websites packaging attractions with hotels and purchased online in advance before the traveler is in-destination.
Discount travel sites like Expedia promising better deals on hotels, and review websites like Tripadvisor and call centres with staff that may or may not actually live in the area are the trusted resource for pre-travel planning.
In-destination, Google maps, GPS devices as well as tablets and other mobile devices offer virtual travel guides, maps and directions, search functions Geo-targeted to the location we are in, mobile special offers and apps have taken the place of the large fold-out printed maps and heavy printed travel guides.
What about the consumer who still likes to touch and feel the brochure and to talk to local travel councilors face to face about the region they are visiting?
It’s not about abandoning the Visitor Centre, but adapting to where consumers are spending much of their time – online. Fredericton’s new “Twisitor centre” is ultimately a virtual visitor information centre, working alongside the traditional visitor centre, with staff trained to interact through social media and engage with consumers who are less likely to get out of their cars to ask for travel advice.
Stacey Russell, Fredericton Tourism’s Digital Media Manager is excited for the launch. She said that more and more travelers are relying on their Smartphone’s when traveling, and that the new Twisitor centre offers ways to provide timely visitor counseling via a convenient medium for the mobile connected visitor. I could not agree more!
Of course, not all travelers are active “Tweeters,” but Fredericton Tourism has taken an important first step in reaching out to the online consumer in providing a service that may be more personalized than simply reading a Tripadvisor review. The Fredericton tourism peeps may also be able to engage with consumers they may not have reached had they not found the @seeFredericton Twitter handle.
Many other destinations have attempted to add Twitter to their CRM strategy. Some through the use of #Hashtags tagging relevant travel content, and others by morphing already existing Twitter communities into a place for travel information and advice.
Fredericton has taken this one step further by actually training two travel counselors in “Twitterquette”, and social media community management, and even defining hours of operation where the online centre will be staffed, and really physically staffed inside the bricks and mortar Fredericton Visitor Centre! The @seeFredericton digital travel councilors will also search geographically targeted conversations of Twitter users within particular interest levels, and attempt to engage them in Fredericton’s events and activities.
Brilliant! Perhaps the next evolution will be a full time Social Media community travel counselor, offering travel advice and engaging with consumers on Pinterest, YouTube and Facebook, as well as Twitter.
The new Fredericton Twisitor Centre will not just focus on communicating with visitors once they’ve arrived in New Brunswick’s capital city (a Canadian city also known for technology and innovation), but they will work to reach out to potential visitors who may not have made their travel decisions yet, and efficiently show them all that Fredericton New Brunswick has to offer as a travel destination.
In 140 characters or less, Fredericton tourism is re-defining the Visitor Center to reach the new digitally connected consumer, as well as those who still want the friendly advice from a local.