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WHAT DOES SOCIAL MEDIA MEAN FOR TOURISM?

E-tourism_social_media It’s All About Connections

It is vital that the Tourism Sector in emergeing markets be aware of the changes to the way the internet is being used around the world- and the implications this has for the way travel is distributed, marketed and sold. We have now entered the second wave of the web- commonly called Web 2.0. After a decade of gathering information online- we are now beginning to actually use it in our every day lives- as less of a tool and more of a lifestyle accessory. Web 2.0 is the participatory internet. This revolution was created by the programming language XML (extensible markup language) which has changed the way the web works. This new way of coding the web has meant that content can now be freed from the restraints of form and structure, allowing content to be shared, published and distributed without its surrounding web page format.

This has revolutionized the Internet and created an open database driven internet that allows user to utilize and manipulate (but also create and upload) content without knowledge of online programming or process. This has made content the driver and core asset of the web- and has made rich, flexible, customizable and web friendly content extremely valuable.

In a Web 2.0 environment content is

• The most important part of any online presence
• Able to be easily aggregated, categorized and sorted
• Sharable via varying channels and formats
• Often generated directly by the user
• Increasingly highly visual, with less text and more images and video

Information can be linked, related or connected by content alone- and this has significantly changed the way content is accessed, as users move away from searching and selecting from lists in a linear journey from enquiry to result. Users may see information aggregated in a personalized site, updated by a syndication system, and tagged, reviewed or updated by other users. The web is now often mapped by ‘tag clouds’ in which masses of relevancy-weighted information surround an initial point of interest.

The organization and structure of the web is largely defined and managed by its users. ‘ Tagging’ means applying labels to web content that describe it. This makes them searchable and sort-able by users. Tags can be applied by both suppliers and users- if a site allows them to. Popular Web 2.0 sites such as YouTube, Flickr and Gmail, work on user tagging systems. Increasingly, tagging and recognition of users identities via cookies means that XML websites are increasingly tailored to the users and that users each have a completely different experience of the website, making it their version of the site.

This environment of manageable, categorized content also allows XML to facilitate data exchange- which means that we can combine data from different sources into a single web page or application. This process is known as ‘Mashing’ and has become very important to tourism by allowing user generated content (UGC) to be embedded into supplier sites. The mashing of tourism content and links into online maps has created huge opportunities for the promotion and management of tourism resources in a highly visual and interactive manner.

With users effectively controlling the web, and gathering, combining and using data in their everyday lives- it is inevitable that creation of content by users has become widespread- and web logs ‘blogs’ are now being published at the rate of one very half second. Photo sharing and video logs ‘vlogs’ are now also becoming popular. People are increasingly being connected to each other online by sharing information and are forming social relationships with people who share common interests. The limitless scope of these relationships has created vast social networks of connected users- and the term social networking describes this highly personal, data driven form of interaction.

Personal sites such as Myspace and Facebook have become a part of many peoples’ everyday lives- a centre for extending, updating and managing the content within their social network. The implications for tourism in such an online environment are vast. Potential travellers now have access to vast repositories of travel information, reviews and multimedia, often generated by members of social networks they are part of, and published and shared without bias or vested interest. Travelling is largely a social activity, especially for the youth and independent travel market- and travel networks such as WAYN (Where Are You Now) allow users to interact, share information, advice and reviews while they are travelling. It is little wonder that this information is viewed as more credible and reliable than promotional information or official destination information- and is now a vital ingredient in the decision making processes for travel.

As social network marketing becomes widespread, many destinations and suppliers are forming partnerships with UGC aggregators and publishers to share and mash content. This content plays a major role in awareness and selection of destinations and travel suppliers, and is a key element in the distribution chain. With this decision made, web users are now using the web to book their travel. This can be done directly with suppliers, or via Online Intermediaries- which are essentially web evolved travel agencies. Intermediaries provide access to huge databases of customizable travel inventory that allow users to design and build a completely personalized trip via ‘dynamic packaging’. Alternatively, meta-search sites- such as kayak.com will allow the user to search across multiple supplier sites to aggregate and compare products by cost, quality or other personal preferences.

Achieving this means having XML enabled supplier sites or destination management systems that can provide realtime access to inventory of rooms, seats and travel product, supported by the ability to transact via e-commerce.

etourismfrontiers E-Tourism Frontiers Resources
Staying ahead of the game in the dynamic world of e-tourism can be a real challenge, especially for those of us in emerging markets. E-Tourism Frontiers aims to provide tourism and ICT professionals with the resources and guidance they need to succeed online. The material in this section is a general overview of the topics covered and resources provided in our training courses.

To gain full understanding and make maximum use of these resources, join on of our training seminars, which provide attendees with intensive hands training in online sales, marketing and management skills for both destinations and tourism companies. Our trainers are experienced professionals with extensive experience working in online tourism around the world, including first hand experience of working in emerging markets. We use live demonstrations of working websites and technologies and will give you the skills, resources and support to begin making changes to your business and use the web to improve your organization and business. For full information on our training seminars please see our training section.

The following is a basic overview of the topics that we cover, complete with more information and advice on each area:
What Does Social Media mean for Tourism?.
Online Travel Trends.
Social Networking and Travel.
Travel Social Networks.
New Technologies for Tourism.
Tourism eMarketing.
Destination Management.
Customer Relations Management (CRM).
Gathering Customer Data.
Email Marketing.
Website Design & Management.
E-Commerce.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Web Content.
Content Management Systems.
Online Advertising.

E-TOURISM FRONTIERS Who We Are
E-Tourism Frontiers is a global programme to develop online tourism in emerging markets around the world.
Our aim is to open the developing world’s tourism trade to the world of online travel distribution and marketing- a sector in which the region has been left far behind- with very little inventory available to the online travel shopper. This situation threatens the sustainability and diversity of Tourism and the communities and environment that it supports.
We hold pro-active business driven conference events and training seminars featuring leading online tourism companies, experts and trainers- as well as regional road-shows targeting the travel trade, destination managers and National and regional tourism offices in all emerging markets, including the Middle East, Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and Scandinavia.

The success of our events speaks for itself and is changing the way both the public and private sector do business, manage their resources and market themselves globally, and creating new business relationships with leading international players and technology providers. We work with a range of major international sponsors to be sure that these events are of the highest international standards, as well as accessible and affordable to the complete spectrum of tourism players, including Small to Medium Enterprise (SMEs), Community and Eco-Tourism projects.
Our sponsor partners to date have included major global brands includingMicrosoft, VISA, Safaricom, Vodacom and Coca-Cola and many more together with regional tourism and ICT authorities. Our events have been attended and opened by Ministers and Vice Presidents- and attended by a diverse range of tourism players, from Multinational CEOs to University tourism students.

This article is quoted from E-TOURISM FRONTIERS.

The article is uploaded by Majbritt Magnussen, administrator on ‘Views On Tourism’. Please join the online Views On Tourism network and discussion group in order to achieve personal goals as well as encourage a sustainable tourism development in Bangladesh and South Asia. Read more about this group and how to become a member here.

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Posted in Best practice, Development, Education and qualification, IT, Market knowledge, Performance and management, Sale and marketing.

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