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January 2008

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Print etourism and technology, Marketing ,

Destinations 2.0: Trend of the hour!

Web 2.0 offers organizations some amazing and effective opportunities. And it cannot be repeated often enough: consumers trust reviews from other customers and recommendations from experts more than they do official sources of information. Some destinations have truly got the message and put this principle into practice. The following article looks at some examples of destinations that have succeeded in getting insiders to spread the word.

Uwishunu.com (You wish you knew…)

Written by forty or so “in-the-know” contributors, this blog presents the contemporary, non-traditional side of Philadelphia. Real Philadelphians reveal their secrets about dining, nightlife, music, culture, fashion, outdoor activities, design, etc. The goal is to enable visitors to experience Philly like a local. Though created and maintained by the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, the site is presented as a separate entity. Readers are invited to post feedback and comments about the articles.

The site makes full use of Web 2.0 and social media with blogging, podcasts, online networking, photo and video sharing and RSS feeds. The site’s administrators even use Twitter (a social network and microblogging tool) to promote certain events.

Uwishunu is also home to Illadates, a popular weekly series of video podcasts where two amateur filmmakers take viewers to the best places around town.

This very inspiring site can serve as a model for most destinations and help them create an inexpensive promotional tool that is more effective than many other Web strategies.

Holland.com

The Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions recently launched a typical Web 2.0 site targeting the North American market. In addition to providing access to tourist information, the site also invites users to join its virtual community where they can share past trips and publish articles, videos and photos and thereby enable the site to constantly evolve. Using RSS feeds, the site also posts information from other sites like Google News, Yahoo Travel and YouTube.

Like many sites, Holland.com enables users to rate articles and add their comments, thereby highlighting the most relevant ones.

Site content is therefore generated by users, the Board of Tourism and by a few third parties. By using various news items, videos and comments to bring together past and potential visitors, the site has created a credible information source that offers visitors the best experience possible.

MtL_2008-01_dest_2point0_img2

And that’s not all: the Board of Tourism has also opened the first national tourism board in Second Life, yet another example of using the virtual world to encourage real-world discussion about its destination. Most importantly, this move has created another opportunity to attract media attention!

VisitMyBaltimore

To enhance the city’s allure, VisitMyBaltimore.com invites Baltimore fans and residents to upload amateur videos highlighting their favourite places, must-see events, and well-kept secrets. To launch the project and encourage locals to publish their videos, the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitor’s Association (BACVA) organized a contest offering the creator of the best video a prize of US$2007. For small businesses, the contest was an excellent opportunity for self-promotion and a chance to win the prize! The site is planning future contests to maintain user interest.

VisitMyBaltimore also had another good idea that has proved very popular: invite celebrities to upload their own videos of the town!

MtL_2008-01_dest_2point0_img4

Ifoundmymontreal.com

Montreal has also been busy, launching a blog where visitors, businesses and event organizers can publish their thoughts and comments and promote their site or event. IfoundmyMontreal.com is managed by Tourisme Montréal and aimed primarily at international travellers.

MtL_2008-01_dest_2point0_img4

The blog appears as an extension of the Tourism Bureau’s FindyourMontreal.com site, which introduces visitors to Montreal’s festivals, cuisine, eclectic architecture, shopping, nightlife and cultural scene. Information is presented in the form of videos, images and podcasts.

Tourisme Montréal is currently doing a complete overhaul of the city’s official Internet portal, creating a major section for user-generated content (comments, photos, creating and sharing itineraries).

To recap

Web 2.0 destination sites with “insider” content clearly benefit from being seen as new and credible information sources. Whether content comes solely from locals or from a mixture of travel professionals and select contributors, the unofficial character of such sites, combined with their opportunities for user interaction, questions and comments, gives the impression of authenticity and a sense of being able to experience the destination just like a local.

The top tips from our examples:

  • Provide a showcase for small businesses who can present themselves in an innovative way
  • Involve some celebrities
  • Organize a contest to encourage participation
  • Attract the attention of the media
  • Add content using RSS feeds, simply and freely

In addition to their relevant content, these sites have become popular thanks to significant media coverage. Their innovative, youthful, hip and off-the-beaten path character attracts users and creates a buzz. For locals, they offer an opportunity to introduce one’s favourites and experience 15 minutes of fame.>

Current Website development platforms make it relatively easy to include the functions needed for these new Web 2.0 sites (account creation, file sharing, comments, etc.) and, furthermore, are low-cost. However, be advised: despite the technological simplicity of such sites, their popularity is not guaranteed! Projects must still be well planned, well communicated and well managed. They must also be easily referenced by search engines.

Among other issues, it is difficult to accurately assess the impact of these new interfaces, but they do seem to enjoy good visibility. Also, these sites must strike a delicate balance between true user-generated content and that created by businesses, contributors and the tourism bureau. After all, a site’s very credibility is at stake. And although content is usually monitored, blogs are open to criticism and negative comments.

Is this a trend to monitor, or to try yourself? It is your decision, but once word-of-mouth gets going, you have no idea how far it can take you!

For more information on how customers can influence others, see:
Today’s customers influence tomorrow’s choices

Sources:
– Sauer, Abram. “Uwishunu,” [www.BrandChannel.com], June 25, 2007.
– [www.uwishunu.com]
– [www.findyourmontreal.com]
– [www.ifoundmymontreal.com]
– [http://us.holland.com/]
– [www.visitmybaltimore.com]

 

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