The Travel Technology Show billed itself as a landmark event providing technology solutions for the travel industry. Eric Ingrand, 10Best Solution’s Business Development Director, attended this European event and gleaned useful information related to some of the biggest trends and technology fueling today’s increasingly competitive travel/hospitality industry.
One of the presentations Eric attended was “Search & Social Media – The Opportunity for Travel Brands” led by David St. John, head of business development at icrossing. This presentation began with a reminder of the stark reality that lies ahead—the travel industry is in for a white-knuckle ride in 2009. Everyone in the hospitality industry is painfully aware of the declining spending numbers. Consumers are moving toward one big holiday a year. Fortunately, it’s not all bad news. Among the 50+ demographic, the forecast for travel is sunnier. Most in this age group actually plan to spend more on vacation in 2009.
So how does the travel industry survive? How do we thrive? The answer is twofold. We continue to focus on paid and natural search, such as PPC and SEO (search engine optimization), which will continue to generate ROI. The travel and hospitality industry must also take advantage of the changing face of the web and develop unique strategies to create value and generate interest for our brand. Social media know-how is necessary for the success of any online marketing campaign.
Studies show that within three years, 70% of all online content will be self-generated. Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, LinkedIn, networking sites that haven’t yet been dreamt up. Like everyone else, travel consumers navigate the web via search engines and social networks. The travel industry, then, will succeed by being willing to change and by using new media to establish or cultivate a reputation as a trusted brand.
In order to reach our consumers in the most useful way, we need to become aware of what the consumer wants by listening and actively participating. When we find the right networks and listen to what the consumer is saying, we can then effectively work with them to make our products better and geared toward consumer needs. We can energize our networks by getting our customers to promote our brand and our products. We can engage our business by helping our customers solve their own and each other’s problems.
Once we’re actively engaged in social media, how do we maintain (or build) the brand’s reputation? St. John points to three different avenues for being both useful and trustworthy:
1. Publish relevant content: Identify target sites and content needs and study the competition. Write articles and publish them online.
2. Promote: Do this through editorial news feeds, free link requests, online PR.
3. Syndicate: Achieve syndication via social bookmarks, RSS directories, article syndication, digital assets and widgets.
The web has changed the game. Consumers have more ways to share and distribute than they’ve ever had before. Our brand reputation depends on a variety of outlets: traditional media, word-of-mouth, digital points of sale, social, mobile, rich media, paid and natural search. Gone is the “purchase funnel” model. Consumer behavior is a complex thing, and brands must be connected to their consumers to succeed.