Marketing and PR in the Travel Industry: Recent Artcles to Investigate

  • Does Your Brand Have a Point of Difference or a Red Flag by Kevin Dugan – Dugan uses the example of a hotel he recently stayed in as an example for highlighting obscure facts that won’t resonate with target audiences.  He makes the excellent point that claiming to be “one of six best buildings in the world” will not have travelers flocking to your hotel.  Point: Even if you believe an obscure award or fact is important, try drawing attention to what sets you apart and will provide audiences with unique value or experiences.
  • A Recession Summer Theme: Come On In, The Travel’s Cheap by Stuart Elliot – Elliot points out that many in the travel industry are spending on public relations campaigns rather than advertising in today’s tough economy.  He also looks at how these campaigns are capitalizing on the thrifty nature of today’s travelers with travel sites, CVBs, and hotels offering discounted rates, sales, and cash prizes to draw attention.  Point: A tough economic market means those in the industry should make use of innovative PR campaigns to draw attention to their locations while also providing incentive to travel when money might be scarce.
  • Fortune 100 CEOs Should Be Social Media Slackers by Ryan Stephens – Stephens makes a valid point in this post: Social media is time consuming, and CEOs should be spending their time innovating, managing, and leading their businesses.  Point: If a CEO isn’t blogging, Tweeting, or Facebooking, this doesn’t mean the company doesn’t understand the value of social media! Companies can engage with consumers via these tools by tapping an employee who gets these channels and can use them effectively to build relationships on behalf of the brand, website, or location.
  • Yemenia Airbus Crashes With 154 Passengers Onboard by Scott Carmichael – This news flooded my Twitter stream last night, and more and more people began questioning aviation safety in light of the recent crashes, malfunctions, and emergency landings.  On Facebook, one of my friends changed her status to read, “Seriously considering canceling my flight with all these deadly crashes.”  On Twitter, people asked “What’s going on with the airline industry?” and “Why so many problems lately?”  Point: People are starting to worry about how safe they will be during air travel.  Airlines should make a point to ease people’s fears, and I’m interested to see if any PR campaigns on this topic will launch, attempting to show how safe air travel is.
  • Google Enters The Travel Market, Will Create Your Next Vacation For You by Omri – Google City Tours attemps to create several intineraries for travelrs.  According to Omri, “Type in the name of your city and City Tours will return a series of trips designed to take you around the area’s major landmarks. It displays locations, hours, and even the estimated time you should expect to spend at each site. The service uses Google Maps to figure out which landmarks are closest to each other and then plans your day accordingly.” This sounds like a useful application, but I still like to check out what other people think about different sites and I’ve found that Google’s ratings system doesn’t work as well as a site like Yelp.com.  I wonder if we’ll see a partnership between Google and another social review site to make this tool even more powerful.  Also, another interesting opportunity might arise as small businesses try to get on City Tour’s radar to attract new customers.  Point: City tours is a nifty little tool for travelers that has the potential to be huge with key partnerships.

June 30, 2009 at 10:11 am 2 comments

An Entertaining Flight Attendant Generates Significant Buzz for Southwest Airlines

My grandmother, every time she flies, tells me about the days when flying “used to be an experience that people felt privileged to take part in.”  This no longer appears to hold true as the airline industry finds itself sacrificing customer satisfaction to bolster faltering revenues.

In fact, I’m one of the many who complains every time an airline tries to charge me for checking luggage, ordering a soft drink, or selecting a seat so I can sit next to my travel partner.  I understand the industry needs to make up for some incredible Q1 and Q2 losses, but do they have to compromise their customers’ happiness in the process?

It looks like this flight attendant on Southwest Airlines would have lived up to my grandmother’s flying expectations.  By having fun with his job and the passengers on-board, this steward will probably be credited with all the positive buzz that is sure to abound for Southwest in the next couple of days.

H/T to Gadling.com for sharing it!

June 24, 2009 at 4:25 pm 1 comment

Orbtiz.com Launches Twitter Campaign

I was browsing my Tweet stream when I saw several people Retweeting the Orbitz account.  Then, I realized why: every person who follows the account and retweets the message will be entered into a drawing to win free airfare.

Twitter - Orbitz - We’re giving away a free a ..._1245861855895Several of my co-workers have already followed the account in hopes of winning a free ticket, but I wonder how many will actually stick around once the promotion ends?

Twitter giveaways like this certainly draw attention, especially for travel and tourism companies who can give away tempting prizes such as free airfare, cruises, or hotel stays.  Most people want to travel, which means these types of contests usually go over well, but I wonder what the sustainability of these campaigns actually is?

Social media allows companies (who understand the value) to engage in conversations with consumers about their products and services, which can create better business models that lead to satisfied consumers acting as brand ambassadors.  Jet Blue and Southwest are two great examples of airlines using Twitter in this way.

Is Orbitz going for the same result? Or are they just trying to raise awareness of their brand without any lasting impact?

I highly doubt everyone who follows Orbitz today will remain active users who engage with the handle once the winner of the raffle has been decided, unless Orbitz can keep hosting regular contests.  If they can’t lure people to sticking around on Twitter, the marketing team has to hope that the number of people  exposed to the account will in turn increase traffic and revenue to Orbitz.com for a prolonged period of time.

What do you think? Are tactics like these giveaways beneficial and cost-effective? Or should brands be focusing on better ways to truly engage with current and potential customers?

June 24, 2009 at 12:07 pm 2 comments

CVBs: Will Social Media Hurt or Help Their Business Models?

It’s practically passé to say social media is altering how travel and hospitality businesses function.  Online platforms and sites allow various audiences to participate in dynamic, multi-faceted conversations – from consumers seeking travel recommendations to companies building awareness about their brands to CEOs and marketers bridging the gap with their customers, the tools can dramatically alter the landscape for the hospitality and tourism industries.

While it’s easy to find countless reviews for accommodations and transportation, I have to wonder if CVBs (Convention and Visitor’s Bureaus) are optimizing the value these conversations could have in drawing attention to their destinations, therefore increasing revenue.

As Josh Hallett pointed out two years ago, CVBs face significant challenges when implementing social media strategies because travelers seek honest opinions that highlight the good AND the bad.  Plus, they are far more likely to trust their peers over businesses.  CVBs are businesses – hoping to attract customers (travelers) and their wallets.

Can CVBs use social media effectively, meaning they provide valuable information and reviews to potential travelers while also maintaining a sound business model?

In the coming weeks, as mentioned in my previous post, I hope to explore examples of CBVs using social media and evaluate their effectiveness.  These include: VisitFlorida, Greater Phoenix CVB, Fort Lauderdale’s iPhone App, Queensland’s Dream Job, and Your Philadelphia.

Are there any other case studies I should investigate?

June 22, 2009 at 7:35 am Leave a comment

The Travel Sector: Is It Really Stuck in Web 1.0?

There are many reasons why I launched this blog, but one of the main ones is because of an article I recently read on Travolution.com titled, Is the Travel Sector Stuck in Web 1.0?  The post and subsequent comments raised issues that I wasn’t aware were considered issues in the industry.

As a social media marketer, I’ve always considered those in the travel and hospitality fields as early adopters.  In fact, examples such as Trip Advisor, Expedia, and the forums associated with travel guides such as Frommer’s and Fodor’s come to mind.  In fact, the first blog platform I ever used was Matador, a travel community that allows users to blog about their trips Web 2.0as well as seek recommendations and advice from other travelers.

The author of the Travolution post, Mark Seall, argues that the hospitality and tourism industries can do a much better job engaging consumers (and potential clients) using social media tools such as Facebook.  I completely agree with his statement, but in my humble opinion, I already thought the travel industry was doing a great job of marketing itself through tools such as Twitter, Facebook, and other more travel-specific communities.

I plan to find and research case studies on this topic more in depth in the near future, but I wanted to highlight two key issues that might be limiting the industry’s foray on digital tactics as Seall states in his post.

  • Loyalty vs. Deals: Social media focuses on building relationships to not only promote and build awareness about a brand or product, but also to develop mutually beneficial relationships that almost always reward loyalty.  Many travelers, however, are more inclined to go with the best deals rather than loyalty. This is why frequent flyer miles and hotel reward memberships have become almost a necessity, but I often wonder how effective they are for the more casual traveler.  For example, I don’t travel that often so even though I have frequent flyer accounts at various airlines, I almost always go with the cheapest flight rather than the airline that will help build my miles.  The industry needs to find a way to use social media to establish relationships, communicate with consumers, build awareness and turn each of these into profitable measures.
  • Past Trips Aren’t Always Indicative of Future Plans: A great benefit of Web 2.0 is that the conversations drive people and businesses to make product recommendations based on a users’ past behavior, e.g. the “You Might Also Like” feature that Amazon.com provides.  Several people addressed this issue in the comments of this post, explaining that just because a person books one trip a certain way doesn’t mean it is an excellent indicator of future plans. While this is true, I still side with Seall that this can be beneficial in some areas.  If one customer keeps booking trips in budget hotels, it makes sense to provide him with more information about similarly or slightly higher priced options rather than a luxury suite that might be out of his price range.  This data, when personalized and helpful, can help create a more sustainable relationship between business and consumer, but the challenge is finding  a way to measure the ROI on these endeavors.

I think the travel sector is one of the industries that can benefit the most from that can benefit the most from the conversatonal dynamic that is prevelant on social media platforms.  While it’s not still stuck in Web 1.0, there are obviously many areas where professionals can make better use of Web 2.0, and innovation will be integral to overcome the challenges addressed above.

June 19, 2009 at 8:38 am Leave a comment

Taking Flight

I’ve always had the travel bug – a desperate desire to experience the myriad cultures and sites in our world.  From this passion grew a fascination with the industries that made these adventures possible: hotels, restaurants, airlines, cruise ships, travel agents and guidebooks, venues, events.  As the online world continues to shape the way these entities do business, it’s been exciting to watch the companies in these sectors adapt their business practices to match a social, digital consumer base.

I’m constantly reading about these changes in news articles and on blogs, but I wanted a place where I could explore these issues more in depth and provide my own analysis since I work at a company that counsels organizations on social media tools and tactics.  I don’t know where this blog will take me exactly, but that’s the great part about taking flight on a new path, right?

Here’s to a new adventure in the blogosphere.

June 18, 2009 at 4:30 pm Leave a comment


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