Yesterday, Google added a new layer to Google Maps:
This is perfect of course for HelloBC. A large part of what makes a BC vacation great is the geography and natural beauty. So here’s what happened yesterday and today.
3:04PM – I send out an email to the Web team about the new layer and that we should think about adding it to HelloBC
3:41PM – Ana, our Project Manager sends an email back with a link to the staging server with the new layer active (it’s now 6:41 PM in Toronto, where the techies are located).
9:07AM today – Holly, our Consumer Web Manager sends an email to Ana asking when we can put it in production.
9:09 AM – Ana tells Holly testing is already completed, so whenever we’re ready
9:16 AM – Holly gives the go-ahead
9:41 AM – New terrain layer active on HelloBC.
For a website with the complexity of HelloBC, this small example is a testimonial to our team and technology partner T4G that we are able to respond in this fashion. Great work everybody.
The father of the World Wide Web provides input into the Social Graph discussion. The internet allowed computers to connects without physically connecting them. The World Wide Web allowed many-to-many sharing of documents. The Social Graph allows us focus on the information itself instead of the document. Great insights. He ends with a travel example:
A situation-appropriate view. I’m going to be using that. A lot.
Today we launched Tourism BC’s first Facebook application. I’m very excited about it. Our team has done a great job at packing lots of information and functionality into a small space. Snow heights, new snow, places you’ve skied, places you want to ski, looking at where you’re friends have been, comments about current conditions, photos, it’s very impressive. I think it’s useful and fun for all ski and snowboard enthusiast. Go check it out for yourself.
There are opinions floating around about the viability and usefulness of destination based Social Networks. Karin Schmollgruber for example doesn’t have a lot of faith in a social network for a single destination.
Karin is one of the thought leaders in the travel 2.0 blogging community and I respect her opinion a lot. But I disagree with her about this one. I think the CoolAustria and Holland 2.0 experiments have taught us a few lessons. But I don’t reach the same conclusion.
The destination based Social Networks mentioned above (and now Sweden as well) all implemented some form of “be like Facebook” strategy, combined with a plethora of Web 2.0 tools. The core challenge with this approach is that travelers who are planning trips need information and don’t necessarily want to become part of another Social Network, create a profile, make friends and more, they just want to plan a vacation.
With Holland as an exception, these social networks are also separated from their official websites, a huge missed opportunity. The result from all of the above is that all these networks suffer from low participation, where high participation is needed. facebook is great, but a ‘be like Facebook’ approach is not going to work for a destination. Karin is absolutely right about that.
Some suggest that travel related social networks is just another source for content. Simply aggregate User Generated Content from third party networks, and you’re done. New Zealand has done it, Canada has done it. This is definitely useful content for travelers. And I like simplicity, but I don’t like to oversimplify things. I thought Web 2.0 was about interactivity and two way communication. Aggregating User Generated Content and publishing it on a website is Web 1.5.
DMO’s need to build strong relationships with consumers, and help them plan and book vacations, before and during their trip, by allowing all relevant stakeholders to participate on a destination website. These stakeholders are:
The opportunity for a destination based social network is to harness industry, passionate residents and past travelers, and engage them in a dialog with travelers to assist them with their trip planning. This is a natural extension of what DMOS’s do. They sell the destination by connecting travelers with tourism product (connecting supply with demand). Destinations already have relationships with their industry. They need find and encourage their ‘brand advocates’ to engage on their networks.
Groups for cities, towns, sectors, etc. will form. There will be differences of opinion, and that’s ok. That’s how trip planners can evaluate the opinion of many against their own criteria and make the best decision. Certain content can be sourced from third parties. What’s the point of creating your own product rating system when you can source it directly from Tripadvisor for example. Other content will have to be created on a destination based social network.
With the introduction open social standard, there is an opportunity to leverage existing networks people are already part of. If somebody can take their social graph with them, all of a sudden we can leverage the existing connections (friends) people already have, adding a whole layer of additional usefulness and credibility.
The social network I envision and intent to create for HelloBC.com is a mash-up of our official information, aggregated third party content, combined with our resident advocates, passionate past travelers and tourism businesses, all interacting with travelers in an open and transparent way. The direct, and two-way interaction is an opportunity to add the credibility, objectivity and authenticity travelers are looking for. And it will be nothing like Facebook.
It was fun wearing two hats at the PhoCusRight conference the last week. I heard about the production PhoCusWright puts on for this event and I wasn’t disappointed. Very slick. And it’s never bad to spend a week in Florida in November.
Wilhelmus (BC), Jens (Canada) and Charel (Holland)
In my role at Tourism BC, I’ve met some interesting people, had some great conversations, and heard things that made me think. In my role as travel industry blogger, I had a lot of fun on our panel and blogger summit. It was great to meet some of the bloggers I only know from reading their postings. I expected more destinations to attend the conference but it was great to talk to the ones that were there.
A big take away is the relentless change the industry continues to go through, with no end in sight. Keep up or go home. Lots of conversation about search, the move away from traditional media, social networks and user generated content, adding value to consumers instead of competing on price and a lot of rosy presentations from CEO’s, and interesting debates.
DMO’s as a collective need to wake up. There are only a few DMO’s who have set themselves up for keeping up with the changes in the industry. But when consumers don’t get the value from destinations collectively, there’s a risk they lose interest in us collectively. Collaboration and knowledge sharing will be important. That’s why it was great to talk to attendees from Austria, Holland, Quebec, Montreal and Canada.
Just as I was thinking how I hadn’t heard much about direct marketing at the conference, Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi addressed how they are moving forward with smarter electronic direct mail efforts. As an OLTA, going beyond the lowest price by creating relationships with and relevancy for consumers is a core strategy to stop the bleeding (that last bit is my interpretation of Khosrowshahi’s words). Makes sense.
He threw out impressive numbers. I didn’t get a chance to write down all of them. The onces I did write down were that 40% of consumers will return to Expedia to buy a hotel in the same destination as the first time. 7% will return to book a hotel during a same time frame a year later (a holiday weekend for example). This kind of intelligence allows Expedia to create targeted email campaigns. He reported increases in responses based on this intelligence to emails of 20x and more.
Another example is a follow-up email to a abandoned flight search. If the price drops days later, a follow-up email converts 30x higher than a regular email. When you consider that Expedia sends over 1 BILLION emails a year, you can understand why this is an area of strategic focus.
Farecast CEO Hugh Crean demo-ed of his travel meta search engine and used it as the basis for his argument that there is a difference between data and expertise, and that travel website should go beyond slapping data in front of consumers.
Currently, travel websites deliver an overwhelming volume of data to users, based on their search queries. Farecast tries to go beyond the data dump by providing consumers with the tools to make intelligent decisions about trade-offs between price and value. Most of the tools are ‘standard’ among meta search engines; # of stops, preferred airlines, preferred times, etc.
Farecast takes this to another level by making predictions about price (will it go up or down). Consumers can even by a “Fare Guard”, an insurance against future price changes. That’s a clear demonstration into their confidence about their predictive modeling. Impressive. 75% of their recommendations is “buy now”, because air travel usually gets more expensive as you get closer to departure date. I like it though, because it adds some confidence to a consumers purchase decision.
Farecast was a website I haven’t used before (they don’t include flight from or to Canada yet), and I was seriously impressed. Cream might very well deliver on his goal that his website needs to go beyond the data dump.
A session about 3 companies forays into Second Life at the PhoCusWright conference led me to conclude what I already suspected. The real value of opening shop in SecondLife is the associated PR value, although Costa Cruises also recognized the value of consumers engaging in their branded environment. The value of this is engagement is probably be more valuable than traditional advertising.
Phil from rezgo interviewed me last week at the Canada-E-Connect conference last week. I just walked out of a conversation with another DMO who expressed frustrations about the office politics. That probably skewed my response. And I want to apologize to Jeremy for confusing his trend hunter company with trend watchers.
Steve Barnhart did something novel, he actually addressed the theme of this PhoCusWright conference; the long tail. He did an excellent job of applying the long-tail principles outlined in Chris Anderson’s book of the same name.
Travel has always had a long tail of inventory. The challenge isn’t so much making it available to consumers, but also moving them down the tail. That often means, out of their comfort zone. Tail destinations and tail product means more risk. An example is satisfying your entire travel party. Destinations like Orlando are popular because it’s guaranteed that there’s something to do for the whole family. Besides inventory, lots of information has to be available to convince consumers to visit tail product and destinations.
Giving consumers access to inventory means adding value at each touch point. iTunes is more than just a large selection of available music, it’s a music management system. In order for consumers to move down the tail, the industry has to do a better job at integrating information to provide a similar experience.
The tail is filled with niche markets. Anderson’s books addresses the move from “hits” to niche product. Barnhart argues that there will always be “hits” in travel. Certain destinations are popular because of people visiting friends and family, or because they are business hubs. The opportunity lays in the long tail of activities. The niche of experiences consumers can have in any destination. His example was from his recent trip to Paris where he went on a Paris Sewer Tour.
I thought Barnhart’s presentation was excellent. No powerpoint (well, just a slide-show of Orbitz websites). Just a well crafted and delivered speech. It certainly made me think.