With the continued rise and evolution of social media and the accessibility and empowerment of these tools as placed in the hands of the public there inevitably have been natural business relationships that have developed over the course of this new style of marketing. However, with the rapid rise and usage of this technology there are also businesses that have been slower to adapt this platform despite the natural inclination that they would fit well together. Specifically, take the travel industry. Here is an industry that is naturally social by nature.
So the question then becomes, how is the travel industry using social media to it’s advantage? Are countries embracing user generated content or is it looked upon as a potential public relation disaster if the wrong content gets posted to the sites? Do you monitor the user generated content and take away the negative and leave prospective visitors with a potentially false sense of what they could be experiencing? All of those are considerably valid concerns, and all difficult conundrums to tackle. The question then becomes who then is using social media in the travel industry and why are they doing a good job integrating it. Below are the Top 9 social media savvy travel sites.
1. Nova Scotia Tourism www.novascotia.com
My first choice is the website for Nova Scotia Tourism for a number of reasons. The primary reasoning was a combination of aesthetic s and usability of the site. Most businesses are aware of social media and generally have the tools present on their site, but with this website the tools are regularly updated and done so with “expert” and user generated content. There is a ongoing blog role, live chat and multilink travel tools which are google map enabled. The combination of these tools and the presentation make the blend of social media and tourist travel inviting and usable.
2. Tourism Mexico www.visitmexico.com
Mexico is a natural hot spot for North American tourism, upon looking closely at the Canadian website they have also done a decent job with the presentation and functionality of their web media tools. The only downfall comes from the Youtube channel being heavily stock video generated and not user content. They do have live chat, an iphone app for travel in the country and google map technology for ease of planning.
3. British Columbia Tourism www.hellobc.com
Following in the footsteps of the Nova Scotia site, the layout is similar with the most popular social media tools present on the front page of the site. The blog and menu items associated are all user driven including and the video up link which is present on the front page vs being a separate link. The iphone application is designed to direct you to key locations in BC and also tracks and saves your experiences for future visits.
4. Virgin America Airlines
Moving towards business travel providers, Virgin America has taken the approach of giving users ambassador titles and allowing the appointed persons to represent the airline from a public point of view. The site itself hosts social media tools on front page with live twitter feeds at bottom of the page. Similar to the previous websites above, there is web booking functionality but no live chat options. Overall the engagement comes from one on one customer service with the airline and is filtered back to the social media tools.
5. Hilton Hotels
For this example, I looked specifically at the international Hilton Hotel website. Overall, it did house all the standard web media tools but was not as engaged as the other tourist sites. Items of note on the site: rolling news and updates, shop by destination powered by google maps and newsletter/incentive sign ups.
6. Jamaica Tourism www.visitjamaica.com
An aesthetically pleasing site, the Jamaican tourism site follows suite with the primary social media tools, booking options, login/registration and travel agency referral. Additionally though, it does go into more detail about the culture and what to expect when you visit.
7. Bahamas www.bahamas.com
Although not as heavily ensconced in the social media forum, they do take a different approach to how they engage visitors on the site. The travel packages are in silo’s and created to cater to a specific person’s tastes. Specifically, they have a marathon featured on the front page in lieu of sun worshipers and an island identifier tool that can recommend the best place for you to stay based on your tastes.
8. Cayman Islands www.caymanislands.ky
The Cayman Island site takes a more interactive approach to their web setup. With the usual social tools, they additionally have interactive puzzles and games as well as google earth so you can get a more direct image of where you would be staying on the islands. Not as technical as the other sites, it engages but not as deeply as some of the other site do.
9. Tahiti www.tahiti-tourisme.com
Tahiti was a surprise. They not only had a rolling blog with editorial coverage from various media outlets and travel bloggers but also a video center, live chat and trip assistance. The site was very detailed and housed an enormous amount of information. Although not heavily user generated it did have a strong portal of contact for any visitors wanting to engage.
All in, if there are any factors that stood out on one site more than another it was how transparent and open to user content they were which dictated whether it was a win or not. The tourist sites that housed iphone apps or engaged a user to become more heavily involved resonated more with me as a user vs. the sites that you simply “liked” their Facebook page but did not go any further. Overall, it appears to be a somewhat virgin landscape for social media but when tourists sites are able to find the balance between user generated content and corporate appeal I believe it will be an entity with limitless social and financial appeal.
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