Social Sites And Travel: Good For Looking, Not Buying

social sitesSocial sites like Facebook are one of the sources considered when travelers look to find some sort of shopping-related deal. But how many travelers use social sites to actually book a trip?

According to PhoCusWright’s Social Media in Travel 2012: Social Networks and Traveler Reviews, more than three-fourths of travelers turn to social networks to find some type of shopping-related deal, and 30% specifically seek out travel-related deals. But companies that have implemented booking tools within Facebook have so far reported mixed results.

“Everybody and their grandma may be on Facebook, but for many in the travel industry, that has not made social into a reliably actionable and demonstrably profitable marketing medium,” said Douglas Quinby, senior director of research at PhoCusWright in Travel Daily News.

According to the study, travelers do not use social networks to purchase travel, as they would search or travel sites. Sharing travel photos and stories on social sites is popular. Making purchases, not so much.
“The potential of social for travel may lie less in any one platform and more in the ecosystem of social data,” says Quinby, “to socialize a traveler’s experience across a variety of online travel websites and mobile applications.”

Need travel information in person? The up close and personal nature of travel shows like the New York Times Travel Show might be the answer. Travel shows feature exhibitors representing countries from around the world with a focus on travel destinations, packages and special offers, as well as tour operators, cruise lines and live entertainment for the whole family as we see in this video:




[Flickr photo by ideagirlmedia]

Vacation homes and social media worth a million dollars

Did someone mention a travel slump? Second Porch, up in Portland, Oregon, must not have received the memo.

Damned memos.

The new company just picked up $1 million in A-round financing (an early round, for those not of the finance world) which was led by the Oregon Angel Fund. Translation: a few people are making a seven-figure bet on a travel company in a shitty market. And I think it’s pure genius. Now is the time to make a play in the travel market, as there’s nowhere to go but up. Also, Second Porch has a nice social media connection which is not only all the rage with the kids right now (and the Baby Boomers and everyone else, for that matter) but has demonstrated continued potential for the travel and tourism industry.

The premise behind Second Porch is straightforward: these guys want to harness the power of social media to make it easier for you to book a vacation home. The company has put together a free Facebook application – a portal into the vacation home rental process. End-user ease, however, is only part of the plan. Second Porch CEO Brent Hieggelke says, “The typical Facebook personal network comprised of ‘friends of friends’ reaches almost 17,000 people, all of whom can be vouched for by a friend in common. For a homeowner, this is an obvious opportunity to find prospective guests to rent to with a higher level of comfort and peace of mind.”

Right now, Second Porch has only 1,100 fans and 2,450 users … but give it time. A million dollars buys a lot of friends.

Spain giving away travel on Facebook

It looks like Spain is the latest destination to use a clever Facebook campaign to drum up some interest among traveling social media users. Free vacations are being offered to users who provide the best answers to questions about Spain and its customs. The contest is set to last through the end of February, so there’s still time for you to get in on the action. Winners wil receive a one-week trip ever year for three years, including airfare and lodging at Parador hotels, which are refurbished castles and monasteries – not a bad way to roll. If you think you have what it takes to get your vacations covered for the next three years,head over to Facebook to prove it!

Salt Lake City uses Facebook contest to get you psyched

The #1 Fan Sweepstakes for the Salt Lake City CVB’s Facebook fan page kicked off on January 15, 2010 and runs until February 12, 2010. The goal is to get the number of fans pumped up to 5,000, while giving potential visitors information about everything Utah: from skiing to genealogy to Mormonism to convention business. Already, the number of fans has almost doubled — from 1,200 to 2,200 — indicating that the new Facebook push is working.

This is a trend that’s becoming increasingly common: travel companies and destinations are turning to Facebook to promote themselves and attract tourists. Recently, JetBlue and the Mexican Council for the Promotion of Tourism kicked off Facebook programs to attract interest and (hopefully) generate the sort of interest that will help them overcome the severe travel industry slump that we’ve been coping with for more than a year now. For Salt Lake City, which has been executing an aggressive media campaign, the move into social media isn’t at all surprising.

According to Inside Facebook, the #1 Fan Sweepstakes isn’t the first push that the Salt Lake City CVB has made on Facebook. Rather, it reflects the lessons learned from previous efforts. Says Shawn Stinson, Director of Communications for the CVB, “We started with a number of different Facebook fan pages: ski, visit, genealogy, meetings, and that didn’t work. It was too littered. So we went to simply Visit Salt Lake.” The straightforward approach is anchored in this new initiative. According to Stinson, “This contest in particular is being used to drive an increase in our fan base because we are looking to distribute more and more information via Facebook.”

The grand prize is a ski trip for two that is packed with extras beyond airfare and lodging: ski passes and a FLIP video camera are included, and the winner is expected to shoot video for a blog about the trip. Other prizes include a set of Dynastar skis and bindings, a two-day Ski Salt Lake pass valid at any of the four resorts in Salt Lake and 20 Ski Salt Lake belt buckles and t-shirts.

Are you a fan of Gadling on Facebook yet?

Mexico relies on Facebook to kick travel slump

Travel to Mexico got a big ol’ kick in the cojones last year. The global recession spanked airlines and hotels around the world, and since the United States was ground zero for the financial crisis that accelerated the recession, Mexico likely lost some action from its biggest trading partner. And then swine flu came along, bringing much of the Mexican tourism and travel industry to a crawl. When I was in Los Cabos last May, I didn’t lack elbow room. Well, an 82 percent drop in Mexican tourism, according to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, can have that effect.

To kickstart the industry and attract more people to the warm sun south of the border, the Mexican Council for the Promotion of Tourism just completed a combination game and giveaway through Facebook. The Gracias A Ti Vive Mexcio website used Facebook Connect to make 10 people incredibly happy with free trips awarded from December 21, 2009 through the end of the year. The only catch was that you had to live in Mexico and have a Facebook page. Winners were selected by game rankings (more details over at Inside Facebook), and the top scorer got to choose from Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Huatulco – and bring a guest.

With more than 1,300 fans on the Facebook page, it looks like the promotion was a success. And, why wouldn’t it be? Mexico is one of the fastest growing countries in Latin America for Facebook, with 6.67 million users.