The discussion at Advertising Week’s day two travel seminar centered on how leading travel publishers, websites, and destinations are creatively embracing a range of digital platforms.
Tanzina Vega, digital advertising reporter for The New York Times, moderated the panel, and participants included John Boris, EVP, Lonely Planet, the worldwide travel publisher; Drew Patterson, CEO and co-founder of Jetsetter.com, a members-only commerce site for luxury travel; Valerie Edmonds, account director in the travel and lifestyle practice at Weber Shandwick, and Ed Hasbrouck, analyst at the Consumer Travel Alliance who also writes The Practical Nomad blog.
John Boris said social media is not new to Lonely Planet, but it has become more integral. “For us, social media began as an add-on for us to experiment with, but now it is part of our DNA. In 1996 we launched Thorn Tree, an online travel community, and now we have one million users.”
According to Boris, Lonely Planet benefits in many ways from using social media. “It establishes our brand as a thought leader, it also deepens our relationship with consumers and drives traffic to our website.” He said that with all of Lonely Planet’s media platforms, they “stay true to their mantra to enhance the travel experience, providing travel content that gets to the heart of a place.” They’re also careful not to over-saturate the market with information.
Drew Patterson echoed these sentiments, and described social media’s value to his one year-old site. “Social media is engrained in how Jetsetter’s members connect with each other. It is a powerful way to spread the message to increase our consumer base with other like-minded individuals. It also humanizes the experience and creates more cohesion with our members.”
Patterson said Jetsetter also uses Twitter to reach members. He cited an example where Jetsetter sent out requests during the launch of the summer movie Eat Pray Love asking their followers where are their favorite travel destinations around the world to eat pray and love.
Valerie Edmonds said Weber Shandwicks’s use of social media depends on the travel client, and she cited caveats. “Destinations can be among the more culturally conservative entities in the travel sphere. Our Bahamas client has ventured into Facebook to create a forum and venue, but mainly for the exchange of information.”
Other platforms such as mobile and video are either currently being used by these travel providers or they have efforts underway to explore them further.
Lonely Planet has utilized mobile to its advantage, especially with its City Guide apps. As Boris noted, “People take their wallets, keys, and phones with them when they travel, so it is critical that we nail mobile.”
During the Icelandic volcano explosion earlier this year, Boris was himself stuck in London. During that time, Lonely Planet made their City Guide app free for the 13 impacted European cities, which led to four million downloads.
Lonely Planet also uses video and has a You Tube channel to obtain user-generated content. In their contest called “My Journey,” they asked travelers to document what America means to them. According to Boris, they received 500 professional videos, many of which ended up on YouTube and were spread virally.