Trafalgar planning traveler to traveler communication before the tour
But, the wholesaler/tour operator is beginning to take social media seriously and Trafalgar is even testing having travelers communicate with one another well prior to the tour.
Gavin Tollman, the Switzerland-based Trafalgar CEO, says some of the tour operator’s winter departures will enable travel directors to communicate with travelers, and the tour participants to communicate with one another, through Trafalgar forums prior to departure.
The process has already been trialed on some of the company’s Italy tours, he adds.
When travelers use express check-in to check in for their tours, they will be able to open a social media account, post a profile and meet other travelers in a closed user group, Tollman says.
And, once the tour is under way, the travelers will be able to post their thoughts about the tour from the user group to social media outlets such as Facebook, he says.
Tollman admits that some of Trafalgar’s tour directors are apprehensive about giving travelers so much control.
“This is no longer their choice, this is our new reality,” Tollman says. “This genie is not going back in the bottle. Let’s embrace it.”
He adds: “If someone is pissed off at me, I’d rather them tell me directly,” Tollman says. “And that is what I want our travel directors to understand.”
The tour industry is known for being slow to adapt to new technologies. You can still order brochures by mail, although they have been supplemented by some companies with PDFs and even e-brochurs.
So Trafalgar’s still-modest efforts in social media (fewer than 2,700 followers of TrafalgarTours on Twitter) stand out in the sector.
Trafalgar recently recruited Evelyn Hannon, who writes the Journeywoman blog, and her daughter Erica Ehm, who authors the Yummy Mummy club blog, to blog about their experiences on a Trafalgar Castles & Kilts escorted tour from London to Edinburgh.
Tollman sees social media projects such as enlisting the mother and daughter bloggers as a way to combat what he says are outdated stereotypes about escorted tours.
Ehm’s two children took part on the trip and one thing Trafalgar wanted to show is that today’s tours aren’t just for seniors.
“The great thing about social media is it will get us there faster,” Tollman says, recalling that Trafalgar introduced message boards perhaps a decade ago. “We are getting independent third-party people to write about their experiences.”
One surprising lesson Trafalgar learned in its social media experiments is to avoid regionalization, which leads to duplication of efforts, Tollman says.
Trafalgar initially had its organizations in Australia and the U.S. carry out their own Facebook efforts.
He said the idea was that travelers in Australia, for example, would probably want to see or hear an “Australian tone of voice” on Facebook, but Trafalgar realized that “people wanted to hear what everyone in the world had to say.”
Dennis Schaal was North American editor for Tnooz.