Blogs, UGC, organic search… it’s getting harder for the destination professional to keep up-to-date with the latest terminology, and harder still to ensure that their online marketing activities fully embrace these new approaches. But experts are warning that destinations which fail to adapt could face disaster.
User-generated content, or UGC, is widely considered to be more persuasive than advertising, yet many destinations have been slow to recognise the benefits, preferring instead to maintain a tight control over their marketing message. But with the growing number of C2C sites such as MySpace, YouTube, Flickr, Tagzania, Gusto, Wikia, and RealTravel, it is fast becoming impossible to ignore UGC.
Analysts cite blogs, social networking sites and natural search engine optimisation as massive opportunities for the travel industry, with some going as far to suggest that they should form part of every organisation’s online marketing strategy.
A spokesman for the Internet Advertising Bureau, the UK trade association for the internet marketing industry, commented: ‘With such a choice of media at their finger-tips, marketers and brand managers have never had it better, but neither has it been more of a challenge to keep up with consumers.
‘As consumers are increasingly empowered to take control of brands online through a variety of social media such as user-generated content and blogs, brand managers must ‘unthink’ much of the traditional approach to brand management and learn how to use these forms of social media to liberate their brand communications.’
Traffic to blogs (web logs) has grown by more than 50% over the last year to nearly 60 million visitors, representing 34% of all internet users, according to the comScore Media Metrix. In addition, the research reveals that blogs are more likely to attract younger visitors from higher incomes homes, who will visit nearly twice as many web pages as the internet average and are much more likely to shop online.
Yeoh Siew Hoon, co-organiser of the Wired Travel Asia annual conference, commented recently on the growing power of social networking sites and the suggestion that travel writers and agents face an imminent demise: ‘Their argument is that, because of the power of social networking sites where everyone is now a journalist, writer, commentator, opinion-maker i.e. blogger, who needs travel writers to tell us where to go and what to see and travel agents to recommend places to stay?’
One recent blog success story is comes from Canada’s Bay of Fundy Tourism Partnership. Within just a few weeks of its launch, the blog was receiving several hundreds of visitors per week. Members of the Bay of Fundy Tourism Partnership throughout New Brunswick and Nova Scotia contribute regularly to the blog.
Partnership manager and committed blogger, Terri McCulloch, commented: ‘Our blog provides us with an emerging opportunity to share real time news, recipes, photos, videos, poetry and stories about the place that we enjoy inviting visitors to explore with us.’
But it’s not just the tourists that can benefit from blogging. A new tourism marketing blog, designed to support the industy by providing marketing tips, book reviews, market research and information on industry trends, has been developed by AudioConexus, an audio tour and marketing services company.
Tourism Internet Marketing