Travel industry will benefit when real-time interaction in social media finally kicks in
Graph Search, check-ins, timelines, Twitter, fan pages, reputation management, user reviews, sharing – the list of disciplines and services are endless.
But there is one element still missing – one so important to how the travel sector (especially destinations) and its use of social media evolves that it is, ironically, perhaps the main stumbling block to its progress.
Dimitrios Buhalis, president at International Federation for Information Technologies in Travel and Tourism (IFITT) and a professor at Bournemouth University, outlined the issue following a keynote this week from Facebook at the ENTER 2013 conference.
Social media is obviously changing the levels of engagement between the industry and customers. The missed opportunity, however, is co-creation of real-time experiences between marketers and travellers.
Right now, social media interaction is taking place pre-visit for research and post-visit as recommendations, according to academic research.
In other words, Buhalis argues, real-time social media isn’t happening as much yet because of high roaming costs for data usage, a “digital detox” mindset among many holiday-goers.
This is coupled with the fact that many travel companies have yet to organize their information well enough to make it easily accessible via social media on-the-go and in-the-moment.
Say, Buhalis says, you’re visiting Innsbruck in the summer and you want an update on snow conditions immediately or you would like to arrange a chance to see championship tennis players practicing this afternoon.
But that will change as semantic search improves and as DMOs start “theming” their information better, such as, at the most BASIC level, by using smarter hashtags.
Buhalis believes if DMOs put in the energy to invest in social media strategies now, even when they’re not yet yielding big direct returns to the bottom line, they’ll be prepared and have an advantage over competitors when technology catches up to let social media work at scale and the ROI is clearer.
The effort for helping one traveler on their trip will be amplified and magnified in positive word of mouth, so it doesn’t mean an intensive cost investment if done efficiently.
Sean O’Neill had roles as a reporter and editor-in-chief at Tnooz between July 2012 and January 2017.