Travel goes Social:Tourism and Social Media
State Tourism Boards
Kerala Tourism Board
When it comes to state tourism boards and social media, Kerala is certainly at the forefront, followed by Gujarat. For a tourist, Kerala has an almost universal appeal. Kerala isn’t the only state that is rich in such natural beauty; almost the whole of India’s peninsula has a coastline to boast of.
But, there seems to be so much more awareness of what Kerala in particular has to offer.
The reason; smart, progressive and organized advertising strategies. ‘Your moment is waiting’, their latest campaign is one of the most intoxicatingly beautiful television commercials ever made.
Visual appealing tv commercials can only stir an initial curiosity. Kerala Tourism reached out to over 1,20,000 facebook fans, who by ‘liking’ the page have access to almost daily udates on what to do in the state. From which food is in season, to which temple is a must-visit, the page is loaded with information that is not available on their website or anywhere else for that matter. A special mention must be made of the photographs shared on this page; they are extremely visually appealing. Just glancing at the wall of their facebook page brings forth a montage of vivid imagery representative of the state. These small picture stories would really be ideal for a person researching Kerala before a trip.
Their twitter page has a more humble 8,000+ followers that can interact with @KeralaTourism. The hashtag #ThingsToDoInKerala has a small group of tweeple chirping. The twitter world hasn’t yet been taken by storm, but one must give props to the Kerala State Tourism board for being among the only ones to have a presence on twitter.
The Youtube page is extremely informative. There are a host of well made mini documentaries, which would really help demystify the destination, before actually reaching there.
Tourists tend to be put-off by excessive touting and over-selling. Kerala Tourism has managed to steer clear of these extremes. This is evident in their social (media) face, which is informative, but still aloof and not as interactive as one would imagine.
Private Travel Companies
Private Travel Companies probably have more to gain by being active in social media, as their popularity is more directly profitable. Consequently, travel companies take on a more hands-on and aggressive approach to social media. Among the more active on the social networking scene are Make My trip, Expedia and Cleartrip.
Make My Trip
Via their facebook page Make My Trip gives over 3.5 lakh people daily updates on the latest in travel. Seasonal travel destinations are promoted with little snippets of enticing information. Of course, these go hand in hand with ticket deals and hotel packages. To encourage people to visit the page, ‘fans’ can avail of special offers. For instance, they are offered additional discounts on tickets booked via Make My Trip.
Make My Trip uses social media to do market research as well. They take polls on a variety of topics. This helps understand where people want to travel, what their budgets are like and who their prefered travel companions are.
What’s interesting is that Make My Trip does not shy away from angry and displeased customers. Bad reviews, complaints and greviences about services aren’t hidden from the facebook wall.
People quite regularly rant about their woes, even on twitter as on Facebook and a representative patiently answers all questions in an open forum, before taking it up privately with the complainant. The tone is always polite and apologetic. In this way bad press, probably works in their favor and garners some respect for the company’s customer care.
In a note about their brand philosophy Cleartrip quotes on their blog : “We’ve always believed that travel is an inherently social activity – people travel to push their personal boundaries outwards through exploration.” Keeping this in mind, Cleartrip has gone social. They have a feature on their website where one can sync your Cleartrip account with your Facebook account. This way you can export a lot of your information from Facebook to Cleartrip (what you want to share on Cleartrip is your choice).
Most importantly you can “Autoshare” your Cleartrip activities with you network on Facebook, allowing everyone to know your travel plans. You can find out who else is traveling to the same destination as you, and maybe tempt your friends to also pack their bags and book that ticket!
Twitter & Youtube
Their twitter handle is fairly active. The Youtube channel has interviews with company heads and clips from news reports, which is probably not very interesting to the layman.
Facebook and Twitter
Expedia, one of the newer entrants in India, has regular contests that attract many eager participants. Both via twitter and facebook people answer pop-quizzes, and naturally questions revolve around popular sight-seeing destinations, exotic locations and other travel trivia.
Besides this, they use their facebook page to fulfill their social responsibilities and encourage people to contribute to their initiatives. Earlier in the year, they undertook a project called ‘Give Them Wings’, taking 100 street kids on a vacation. For every ‘Like’ Rs.10 was added to an account which would be used to fund this trip. Expedie did manage to garner enough likes to give these kids wings! What made the difference, what that after the project happened, Expedia shared the outcome of the project with people via their facebook page and garnered alot of goodwill.
They do not have a blog, but they more than make up for it with a rich Youtube channel, which has all their TV commercials and promotional videos. But more importantly the Youtube page even has testimonials by children who have benefitted from the social projects undertaken by Expedia India. A nice touch!
Quite clearly, these agencies and a lot more like them have changed the ease with which one can plan and excequte a vacation. Holidays go hand-in-hand with facebook albums that maintain a memory and rub salt in the wounds of those unfortunate colleages who sit at their office desk looking at you having fun. The tourism industry has recognized this inate need to share, and spread it’s net into our social network !
Featured image Courtesy JD Hancock