At a time when once-trusted big-name travel review websites are facing accusations of publishing fake reviews, client-driven promotion over social media networks like Facebook is the new Holy Grail for tourism management teams. The reason?Word of mouth is credible, people believe it. In fact, in one study conducted by Deloitte in conjunction with members of the Canadian travel & tourism industry, respondents rated Facebook - over TripAdvisor and travel blogs - as the most useful social media tool for trip planning. Getting a handle on social media as a promotional tool can be a challenge for established tourism management staff, who may not have studied social media in hotel management school, for the simple but increasingly hard-to-fathom reason that it did not yet exist.Here is a quick social media primer for tourism management teams.Why is Facebook so important to travel & tourism?According to the same study:
Three-quarters of Canadian Internet users have a social media account. These accounts affect what they buy, including in some rather surprising ways, notably, new customers who are initially referred by loyal customers are much more likely to become repeat users of your travel & tourism services.
Youth aged 18 to 24 are the group with the most-likely-to-grow influence on the travel market. For this age group, more than any other, Facebook is the trip-planning tool of choice. Tourism management teams that wish to attract this all-important youth travel & tourism market will need to learn how to harness the power of word of mouth on Facebook, regardless of whether of not they had the opportunity to study it in hotel management school.
Chances are, your guests will post about your travel & tourism services. You want what they say to be positive. Make it easier for them, by:
creating a Facebook page for them to like
running a vacation photo contest on Facebook
following them on Twitter
hosting Foursquare scavenger hunts
responding to complaints
encouraging them to view your Facebook page as a resource, with information on weather and events
Some luxury tourism management teams will even try to predict their customers' tastes by tracking their online activity, so that they can, for example, greet them in the reception with their favourite cold drink in hand. One major airline even recently announced a social seating service that will allow people buying tickets for long-haul flights to peruse the Facebook and LinkedIn profiles of their fellow passengers to choose their own seatmates in advance of take-off.What do all of these initiatives have in common? Creativity.So, relax, experiment, and reap the benefits, in the form of greater customer retention and many new guests. When you've got these techniques down to your satisfaction, pay it forward by teaching a class or two at hotel management school. The tourism management professionals of the future will thank you.