About 7 years ago we ran some focus groups in San Francisco to learn more about the trip planning process. I remember that involving real people was a very important part of the process. I concluded that people prefer to talk to people in this order:
Tripadvisor is serving up information from group #4 very well; with it’s reviews and message boards. With their ‘destination experts’ on their message boards they also started using group #3.
Now Tripadvisor has also figured out a way to include groups #1 and #2, the most credible sources of information to a trip planner.
A few years ago, Tripadvisor bought the Facebook app “Where I’ve been” for a reported $3M. At the time it was a gimmicky app where you could plot pins on a map for places you’ve visited anywhere in the world. The app was successful because it taps into one key motivator for travel; making my friends and family jealous of the places I’ve been. Tripadvisor also bought it’s 2.3M users. Tripadvisor rebranded it “Cities I’ve visited” and incorporated it into it’s website and has done a decent job of improving it.
Users can add cities they’ve visited, where they want to go, their favourite cities and what cities they can give advise for. The app has an active userbase of 4.8M when I checked today. And I’m sure there are many more users on the Tripadvisor website. As a result, Tripadvisor has an incredible amount of intelligence about their member’s travel history and desires.
Tripadvisor has mashed up with own intelligence with Facebook’s through Facebook Connect and the Open Graph. When you log into Tripadvisor with Facebook connect, and you visit a city page, you’ll now see a list of your friends who:
Tripadvisor allows you to use Facebooks social networking tools to send a message to one or more of your friends to ask for advise about your upcoming trip based on this information.
Even though it’s a small step, it’s very useful and also a significant indicator of future possibilities for combining your own consumer data (like Tripadvisors data about where people have been) with Facebook’s social graph and social networking power.
“The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.”
Note: I intended to write this post much sooner. But the future is also unevenly distributed by individual and my attempts to login to Tripadvisor with Facebook connect has resulted in error messages for a month now. I’ve reported the error at least a dozen times but I had to resort to using my wife’s Facebook credentials to have a look at this feature.
With websites such as Tripadvisor, WAYN, Google Maps, Facebook, etc., do DMO/NTO/CVB’s need websites at all 10 years from now? Brand new director Armands Slokenbergs from the Latvian Tourism Development Agency asked for a show of hands and nobody raised even a finger. After 3 days of presentations and discussions it’s hard to ignore the fact that we need to go where the consumer is, instead convincing the consumer to come to us.
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to present some of my ideas and join about 50 online marketers from 25 European National Tourism Organizations for 3 days during their annual eBusiness Academy. The theme of the conversations was focussed on working with 3rd party websites to provide content and in the case of social networks, join the conversation. Isabel Mosk from Holland noted that “instead of asking to ‘please buy Holland’, we should be asking ‘how can Holland help you'”.
And the message from consumers is clear. You don’t help anybody traditional advertising but by adding value through relationships. Slokenbergs’ limited budget is focussed on encouraging word-of-mouth recommendations (bravo!). He shared some really cool research and one the conclusions was that the best opportunities for word-of-mouth is the though positive interactions between local people and their traditions. A great example is encouraging the celebration of your “Name Day” in Latvia; a local tradition that’s celebrated by everybody.
WAYN and Tripadvisor showed case studies of DMO campaigns. The WAYN campaign with South Africa was particulary impressive. A contest to win a trip (of course) resulted in 20,000 additions to South Africa’s consumer database at a very reasonable cost. The added bennefit was the community engagement who selected the winner and will probably be living vicaruasly through the (Canadian) winner when she goes on her trip soon.
To go where the consumers are is working well for some NTO’s. VisitBritain receives 18.5M visitors to its consumer websites and an equal number of visitors via syndication partners. Other NTO’s are doing interesting things well including Slovenia who works with local search angines and portals. Many syndicate to Google Maps and have developed widgets.
Joobili co-founder Jared Salter shared some interesting thoughts. Not every destination is a top 5 destination year-round. But many destinations are the best destination at least one day a year during a really cool festival. Joobili satisfies the for consumers need who plan a trip based on what the best place to visit is for a particular date or dates. Great way to provide a sense of urgency as well.
Google’s Andrew Pozniak tried really hard to convince us that Google has no intentions to enter the travel vertical but we all know they already have. Not through a big bang, but slowly though Google Maps, Streetview, Place Pages, YouTube and secret Android activities.
Isabel tweeted that we all might work for Google soon. But hey, if anybody is taking over from us, I hope it’s Google.