Every year I use the ‘quite time’ around the holidays to have a look at what other DMO’s around the world are doing. I love poking around to see what I can learn. I’m thinking of creating a giant presentation with my findings (let me know if you’re interested).
One of the things I’m looking at is what DMO’s are doing to incorporate real time information. This is a trend DMO’s can’t ignore. Brochureware websites are no longer acceptable and consumers expect content that is timely as well.
Florida has created a Florida Live section on their website. The page includes their Twitter feed, Flickr photo’s, YouTube videos etc. It also includes a Google Map with the Twitter feeds from local DMO’s, live webcams, YouTube videos and Fishing Reports.
The fishing reports are very cool. Every day the captains call in from their boats to give an update of the fishing conditions of their area. Users can listen to each captain reporting on the conditions.
Incorporating expert content from industry members or residents is something I’ve been pitching for a long time now. Most DMO’s do this with expert bloggers (some better than others). This is a very creative idea to make it timely, relevant and credible.
Great idea, good content, good execution. I love it.
Do you have examples of ‘live information’ incorporated into DMO or other tourism websites?
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.
That was from Bob Hoffman’s brilliant “the ad contrarian” blog.
Does your tourism business or destination reflect your brand message Or do you have a schizobrand as well?
One thing I observed with some (most) of the Phocuswright innovators is that a lot of the products demo-ed are (still) conceived and created by engineers. Engineers are brilliantly smart. But most suffer from the “because we can” syndrome. FAIL.
Good products are simple and useful. If you don’t meet these criteria, you will fail guaranteed. Meet them, and you have a shot. They are your minimum requirements.
Take Twitter. Turns out Twitter us useful to millions of people. Twitter is also extremely simple. Post and follow. That’s pretty much it.
Twitter could add categories, replies, forwards, tags, google maps and much, much more. Twitter could allow its users to add pictures, voice messages, video. But they have resisted. Because it would stop being simple. And that’s a big reason why Twitter is successful.
Take Kayak. Kayak is also useful. Kayak is also extremely simple in it’s essence. From->to->dates->search and you’re done. The result page focuses on the core task; find the best flight. Features are optional after the core task is completed. These features are useful in itself, but don’t stop the core task from being simple.
I suggest to all the innovators to hire a product manager who understands this, focuses on the core task that’s being satisfied, and strips everything else.
Daniel pointed me to a blog post by a online consultant in Germany who is outraged his hotel is charging him 5 euros PER HOUR for Wifi internet. He’s wondering how much water or flushing the toilet costs.
The thing that makes it really funny is that he’s giving a web 2.0 talk at the same hotel. He’s posted complaints about all kinds of social networks and is creating a viral buzz about it. He will incorporate it in his talk. Now there’s a way to make a point!
I have 3 criteria when looking for a hotel 1) clean 2) free internet 3) safe location. I don’t care about anything else. So bad research on your part Bodenseepeter! [update: turns out he didn’t have a choice in the matter, see comment below]
Daniel is wondering about what the hotel can do to respond to the blogosphere. He’s offering a crate of beer for the best idea. I’m in!
Here’s mine. It depends on the exact situation. The hotel probably doesn’t generate any revenue but has a contract with a provider in return for installation and support. It also appears to be the norm in Europe to charge outrageous amounts for hotel internet access according to the comments below.
The hotel should respond by joining the conversation and promoting their rate as cheap compared to the competition! Further, they should create a “free wifi” viral campaign. Free Wifi for people who sign-up for our newsletter. The referrals they’ll generate will pay for itself. And they can keep a relationship going with the people who sign-up.
[UPDATE: The hotel will offer free Wifi starting in 2009; this was already in their plans]
I’ve started to incorporate 5 e-marketing tips for tourism operators in my presentations for a while. They were the inspiration for the “Marketing your small tourism business in the 21th century” were based on.
One of my tips is to start a blog. I always envision this blog were an operator can provide some ‘behind the scenes’ info about their property. Introduce the staff, the experience, guest comments, etc. I’m sure every business deals with hilareous moments as well that would be fun (and appropriate) to share.
The Opus Hotel here in Vancouver has an awesome blog, but I’m always looking for something a little less corporate. And I could never find one, until today. The Hawtorne Hotel is a 3 star hotel in Salem, MA. They’ve posted stories about the hotel, its gardens, the town, their staff, guest comments, special menu items from their restaurant since March 2005. In the 3.5 year, they’ve accumulated almost 2000 postings.
I think it’s a great example of using a blog to create a connection with potential visitors. I would suggest to share more stories instead of making announcements. Where people travel, stories happen.Where people work, stories happen. Somebody with a bit of wit can create a great blog that can create a following like a soap opera. People will want to visit the real deal and be part of the story.
Marketing your small tourism business in the 21th century:
I don’t know John from Terrace. But on April 4, 2007 he posted a blog post about the Seven Sisters Mountain Range on HelloBC’s blog. It’s a short paragraph, but contains perfect information and he added a beautiful photo as well. Great for us, great for our website users.
Google indexed the entry and the last month, the term “Seven Sisters Mountain Range” was the 14th most popular keyword driving organic traffic to HelloBC. There are 25 other variations of the keyword driving traffic to the website as well.
Thanks John, and all other HelloBC bloggers. You’re helping us market, and helping travelers plan.
VisitSweden launched its new website this last Tuesday. Besides that is looks very nice, provides great content and a nice Google map, it is also integrating the content it has generated from it CommunityOfSweden social network.
I like this approach. It compliments the official content with user generated content (we do the same). I also like that they take small steps and evolve. They experimented with the social network, and now feel comfortable to start tying it closer to the flagship.
Well done Sweden!
A blog posting on the Travolution blog about Google and Travel made me think. Is there going to be some big product launch, or will they simply keep connecting the dots?
This BusinessWeek article called “Google’s Travel Plans” is referenced in the posting. Google’s managing director for travel Rob Torres was interviewed. Torres says “the goal of Google’s travel division is to give users a destination where they can research travel plans, read user reviews, and see user uploaded videos and photos.”
The article also states “It’s worth noting one thing that any future Google offering won’t have—airline fares or hotel bookings.” But vertical search is the new disrupter in travel. Kayak.com will perform 45M queries this month according to its CEO, with 5M uniques in April and climbing (compete.com). Microsoft bought Farecast.com to enter into this space.
There’s no way Google will sit back and watch from the sideline. This is search, their core business. They have to make a move into vertical travel search. They won’t need to book anything. They can stay true to their advertising based revenue model, maybe complimented with a Pay-Per-Action model and they won’t alienate their customers or cannibalize their ad based revenue on their main search product.
Torres says in Businessweek “We are already so highly searched for travel. Why not give them a one-stop shop for travel information?”. Vertical Search offers a perfect possibilities to compliment travel information opportunities. The New Zealand campaign on YouTube has been widely covered, but Google Maps is probably even more relevant. Tim Armstrong, Google’s VP of advertising told us at Phocuswright in Orlando last November that “depending on the day, there could be 40% of the traffic to that goes to that service that’s travel related”. That’s huge.
Google is already starting to connect the dots. Google Maps recently integrated photos through Paronamio (a small company it acquired last year), Wikipedia content and YouTube videos. Businesses can also provide Google with their info for display on Google Maps. And the user generated maps cover a lot of tourism content.
A few months ago, Google announced Knol, a Wikipedia for experts. “A knol on a particular topic is meant to be the first thing someone who searches for this topic for the first time will want to read.” Here’s Google’s opportunity to create credible travel content, written by an expert.
Now think about Google’s massive user base of Google accounts, YouTube, Gmail and Orkut. Think about OpenID, Open Social. Think about Friend Connect. Here’s the User Generated Content piece, combined with a social network.
All Google needs to do is keep connecting dots and a strong travel product will evolve and emerge. It might not happen through a big bang approach, but simply as an organic evolution of their existing products. I’m sure there are plenty of Google engineers using their 20% pet-project time to connect dots and creating innovative travel related products.