Role of Social Media in the world travel industry – thoughts from WTM London 2013

Published on : Wednesday, November 20, 2013

wtm-social-media-forumThe recently concluded World Travel Market provided a number of key factors that will augment the superfluous growth of the world travel industry. The importance of social media and its integration with the top notch travel portals and tourism boards have fired a lot of discussions.



Three days of social media seminars were run by Travel Perspective at World Travel Market last week. The speakers included Facebook, Sabre, Google, Visit England and the World Travel and Tourism Council.


Here are the top takeaways from the week.
1. Lee McCabe, Head of Travel at Facebook. “The Number One question I get is how can Facebook help me convert? Well, find the people that matter to your business.” The buzzword is multi-channels, targeting people across different devices. And then you can target your people on different devices. “People are omni-channel,” says McCabe. “Multi-screening is the new normal.” Scary stats from McCabe. – By 2016, more than 45% of the world’s population with a mobile will have a smartphone. Digital has overtaken TV. Digital will only increase, driven by mobile. “Facebook is now a mobile first company.” FB has 874m mobile daily active users, spending 30 minutes a day online.



2. More scary stats from Sarah Kennedy Ellis of Sabre Labs. “Two decades ago, there were 130 websites in the world. Plus…
* Instagram users are 40 times more engaged on brands than on Twitter, and 20 times more than Facebook.
* Social data is where social media was three years ago.
“Social has always been around – they just haven’t been recorded, stored or analysed. Big Data is still in nascent stage so nobody doing it properly – which is why topic is so fascinating to me.



3. Charlie Osmond of Triptease : “Very few brands are getting the most out of social media,” he says. “Reviews work – but people don’t hang out on review sites for fun.” And they love Instagram, he says – all those filters make people “feel like a photographer, and they are proud to share it.”



4. Visit Cornwall’s Head of Tourism, Malcolm Bell, spoke about the power of online video. Bell says his goal is to get on people’s initial shortlist of three or four destinations – “otherwise all is lost.” Visit Cornwall has spent £80,000 (including partner spend) in the past 18 months on creating 27 videos – resulting in 750,000 views on its YouTube channel. Create high quality content, he says, and make it interesting and shareable. Video, says Bell, allows customers to “really experience what they’re purchasing – the destination”. The county has a 12 month rolling calendar for planning video content and holds regular planning meetings with experienced journalists to decide on content. One key point is that the video they create is free of branding and URLs in order to make it more usable by online news outlets such as the Mail and Times websites. “We make it content rather than advertising. If people are searching for Cornwall, this is what comes up in YouTube regardless of whether we have branded it,” says Bell.


5. Rebecca Holloway, Head of PR at Visit England. “We are targeting Brits – it’s all about the staycation,” says Holloway. “Facebook has replaced the holiday photo album for a large portion of the population. But it’s not in the British psyche to boast about where they are from. All of our activity since the Olympics has been about heightening a sense of pride in the country.”



6. We had four speakers on a session on how to create a travel start-up. Their advice was brutal – don’t. Walk away, or better still – run, said Timothy O’Neil Dunne of Vaultpad. “I’d like to see hard data – tell me something valuable. Come to me with specific data elements that you understand and can apply. I don’t believe in inspirational ideas – give me proof.” Sabine de Witt of Blanco Tekst is asked for pitfalls. “You need a motivated team. It’s important you scale your model and idea – if it can’t grow with you, stop.” Thierry Wong of Umapped spent 15 years in financial services before deciding to follow his start-up dream. “Are you willing to quit your job?,” he asked? “Ready to leave that job and security?” Try and find a co-founder, he adds. “It’s hard and lonely and it’s good to find someone else who is as passionate as you are.



7. Google has four industry heads of travel, by sector – hotels, OTAs, air. And Holidays, recently rebranded from Tour Operators. And this is Sarah McDonald’s area. “Travel content is done, really. Video is the holiday brochure of the future,” she says. Where do we find travel information? Radio – at 7%, the bottom of the pile, with newspapers one up the ladder (12%) and travel agents at 18%. AirBnB deserves praise for putting places on the map – such as Brixton, in a way that has never been done before. “I came away after two minutes with enough information to make a decision.” Fact: YouTube search not as good as Google search.



Source: WTM – London (A blog from Steve Keenan)

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