Become a Travel Expert with Tripoto

tripoto
While there are many different social travel startups that have emerged the past few years, Tripoto has taken a crowdsourced approach to creating itineraries and also focuses on providing the best tools for travel bloggers to create those itineraries.

People can write their travel stories in a structured format – trip summary, type (nature, backpacker etc), cost, duration, detailed itinerary, and pictures. Users can also send messages to the author of a travel story. This way, the author becomes a tour guide as well.

Started by Anirudh Gupta (ex-founder of NotionInk and was an EIR at Rocket Internet) and Michael Lyngdoh (ex-founder of Helios Suntrough operations), the travel site has 100+ high quality travel itineraries from around the world and attracted celebrity early adopters like Baichung Bhutia.

“Tripoto was founded after listening to stories of thousands of travellers,” explained Gupta. “We realized that these amazing travel stories need to be brought together on a single platform for easy search and discovery. We wanted to make it easy for people to share their stories and more importantly present these stories in a way that other travellers can use them.”

tripoto

While many sites focus primarily on commercial destinations and exclude lesser known regions, the Tripoto team aims to map every single destination and get credible information about it from real travelers.

“People’s desire to travel to offbeat places has increased exponentially in India and they are no longer satisfied with the usual ‘Agra tours’ or ‘Golden Triangle’ tours. They are constantly looking for inspiring experiences,” says Gupta.

Tripoto is useful for travelers as, instead of searching for information across multiple blogs and spot based recommendations, a Tripoto use can scour thoroughly details itineraries of fellow travelers, experts and guides.

Users can filter searches based on personality type, interests, duration and cost. If they really like a trip, they can even connect with the traveler that created it to learn more from his/her first-hand experience.

Similarly, for travel bloggers and sharers, Tripoto leverages technology to provide tools that enable sharing of itineraries and stories in an easy and beautiful way (either privately or publicly).

Tripoto also serves as a platform wherein travelers can create a beautiful travel portfolio, expand their reach and build their personal brand.

Would you use a platform like Tripoto to plan your travel itinerary?

Destination Branding: How Europe is Going Social

With the run up to Christmas in full swing, European destinations are entering one of the busiest periods of the calendar. Cities like Milan, Vienna and Madrid are desperate to attract the hoards of tourists looking to shop, eat and drink on a Continental city break as the months grow colder.

So how has Europe been branding itself, ahead of the winter season? Let’s take a look at three of the biggest winter hotspots in Europe and how they’re faring in terms of online marketing and social media…

Milan

Weekend breaks to Milan are always enticing, what with all the huge fashion greats conglomerated in one place. But it’s not the fashion tourism that’s enticing those looking for a trip to Milan this winter. For a number of years, Milan has been trying to shed the ‘business travel’ connections in favour of a reputation as an all-round holiday destination.

And thanks to Milano è Turismo, the Facebook page for the Milan Tourist Board, visitors this year are being tempted with an events programme featuring outdoor acrobatics, the international toy fair ‘G! Come Giocare’ and a rare document by the hand of one Leonardo Da Vinci on display at the Castello Sforzesco.

With the much-anticipated Social Media Week program here in February 2014, the city is certainly getting to grips with what new media can do for its all-important designer image.

Madrid

Madrid ranks as the third best city for good prices on luxury items, so it’s no surprise it becomes a magnet for shopping tourism at this time of year. This year, Madrid has been keen to stress its ongoing dedication and success when it comes to the tourism industry, fighting against panic reports in the media about Spanish recession woes.

However, reports suggest that branding has not been as strong as it could have been for this Spanish city, particularly compared to Barcelona, which enjoyed success with its Digital Tourism Innovation Campus last year and has just finished hosting this year’s event.

In fact, Madrid saw a drop in incoming visitors this August, while the rest of the country received a welcomed rise in numbers. However, the city mayor Ana Botella has announced plans are in the pipeline for boosting Madrid’s prospects across various media channels, so it may be a case of watch this space…

Vienna

With its festive markets and Strauss tours, Vienna is an ideal winter break destination and it knows it. Over the past few years, the Vienna Tourist Board has been strategic in its social media dealings, creating a ‘Social Media Newsroom’ in 2012, which gathered content from various media channels into one innovative website, which features multimedia and RSS feeds.

With 13 different language versions, and adaptive layout for mobile and other devices, and plans to integrate content from sites like FourSquare in the future, Vienna seems to be on the ball when it comes to self-promotion.

So it seems there’s still a slightly uneven success rate when it comes to destination branding in Europe, although other cities such as Paris continue to set a good example with its dedicated social media platform ‘Travelshake.com’ and linked Twitter feed.

As everyone in the hospitality and travel industry should know, social is the way forward for inbound marketing, so cities like Madrid would be wise to take heed from those out in front.

This article was contributed by Terri Johnson. Terri is a journalist and writer with a back catalogue of travel articles from around Europe and beyond. She is currently based in Milan.

Image by Italy Chronicles Photos and Robert Arno, used under Creative Comms license.

Adelaide named Top City to Visit in 2014 by Lonely Planet

Adelaide has been chosen as one of the world’s top 10 cities to visit in 2014 by travel guide publisher, Lonely Planet.

The only Australian city to be listed, South Australia‘s capital is ranked ninth on the list included in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2014 guide.

Adelaide has been placed alongside capitals including Zurich, Paris, Shanghai and Vancouver in the annual roundup of best destinations around the world for the upcoming year.

The capital city of South Australia is described in the guide as “effortlessly chic – and like a perfectly cellared red, it’s ready to be uncorked and sampled.”

Adelaide is recognized for its strong cultural focus, with a thriving food scene, immersive local music community and frequent, world-class visual arts exhibitions.

Lauded as the “perfect host city,” the Lonely Planet entry recognizes Adelaide’s festivals including the Santos Tour Down Under, WOMADelaide, the Adelaide Festival, and the Adelaide Fringe Festival.

One of the world’s leading guidebooks on travel has named Adelaide one of the top 10 destinations for travel in 2014

Adelaide cityscape along the Torrens River in South Australia

It also highlights the refurbishment of the Adelaide Oval sports ground—which has undergone an AUD$535 million redevelopment—for such sports as Australian rules football and cricket.

The Lonely Planet guide draws attention to the diversity of the city’s eating precincts including the revitalized Leigh, Gouger and Rundle Streets and the vast range of dining experiences throughout the city.

Embracing Adelaide’s quirkiness, Lonely Planet features Adelaide’s “parklets” as a recent trend—converting the undersused public spaces, such as parking lots, into temporary landscaped areas for the public to enjoy alongside cafes and restaurants.

To mark the achievement, the South Australian Tourism Commission (SATC) has released a video clip that highlights the city’s recent transformation, which can be viewed on the SATC’s YouTube channel.

Have you ever been to Australia? What’s your favorite reason to visit?

 

Expedia & Egencia Future of Travel Study

“Millennial” travelers – defined as those between 18 and 30 years old – have sharply different business and leisure travel habits and expectations than do their older peers, according to a global study released by Expedia.com® and Egencia®.

The Future of Travel study was conducted across five continents, asking 8,535 employed adults in 24 countries about how they conduct business and leisure travel – their likes, dislikes, preferences and pet peeves. The study aims to discover how millennials will impact the travel landscape as they gain decision-making power at work and purchase power in their personal lives.

The Future of Travel Study was conducted online between August 20 and September 12, 2013 by Harris Interactive on behalf of Expedia. Full details on the Future of Travel Study can be found on the Expedia® Viewfinder Blog here: viewfinder.expedia.com.

Future of Travel Study

Sharp differences emerged in the Future of Travel analysis, particularly the differing value that younger travelers place on mobile and on loyalty. Millennials are far likelier to embrace loyalty programs while en route; half of millennials find loyalty programs important when booking flights (48%) or hotels (51%), versus only three in ten of travelers aged 46-65 (31% & 30% respectively).

Mobile and other form factors are clearly important to the future of travel. In fact, for booking business travel, 32% of those 30 and under report using a smartphone and 20% report booking on a tablet. That’s compared to just 12% for smartphone and 9% for tablet for those over 45. And 18-30 year-olds are far likelier than 46-65 year-olds to use mobile devices to enhance their travel experience.

The study found that younger travelers were freer with their company’s money when traveling. Globally, business travelers aged 18-30 more frequently report that they will spend more of their company’s money on high-end meals (42%) than they would their own money compared to those aged 46-65 (26%). Millennials are also fans of room service: 37% would spend more of their company’s money on room service, versus only 21% of 46-65 year-olds.

Younger Americans (34 and under) are slightly more likely to spend company money on a flight upgrade to business- or first-class than are their older peers (35 and older). They are also slightly more likely to spend company money on high-end meals, room service and wine/alcohol, although not significant.

Millennials have more opportunities to order room service than any other age demographic, because they travel slightly more on business. Worldwide, 30-and-unders report traveling 4.7 times per year on business, versus 3.6 times per year among 30-45 year-olds, and 4.2 times per year among 46-65 year-olds. Millennials take more leisure trips as well, at 4.2 trips a year, versus 2.9 for 31-45 year-olds and 3.2 for 46-65 year-olds.

Among Americans, 45% of respondents aged 34 and younger claim to work fewer hours when they travel than they do at the office, versus 24% of Americans aged 35 and older.

American and Canadian millennials travel more frequently of any age group across any nation, reporting that they take a full 7.8 leisure trips per year. On the contrary, European respondents aged 31-45 take 2.7 leisure trips per year.

“Together, Expedia.com and Egencia help many millions of business travelers book travel each year,” said Dara Khosrowshahi, chief executive officer, Expedia Inc., of which Expedia.com and Egencia are a part. “As millennials increase their decision-making power at work and at home, they’ll be increasingly disruptive in both areas of travel and our aim is to have the right mix of technology, supply and programs to make the most of every trip they take.”

Business travelers are early adopters of technology—millennial travelers even faster—and all on the move from device-to-device, from online to offline and back again,” said Rob Greyber, president of Egencia. “We realize that keeping pace with millennials and future generations of corporate travelers demands significant focus on mobile in order to sustainably engage them with the right information.”

Greyber added that with the company’s upcoming global launch of Egencia® TripNavigator, a smart travel companion iPhone app, corporate travelers of today and tomorrow will be well equipped when on the road. The app helps travelers better navigate their in-trip experience by displaying a contextual, actionable view of the itinerary and integrating real-time trip alerts to reduce agony as travel plans change, expectedly or unexpectedly.

On the whole, the study found that:

  • Millennials are more comfortable mixing business with pleasure. They are more likely to extend a business trip into a personal vacation than older employees are. 62% of 18-30 year olds have done so, vs. 51% of 31-45 year olds and 37% of 46-65 year olds. Younger Americans and Canadians are more likely to do this (70%), than those age 31-45 (50%) or 46+ (31%).
  • 39% of all business travelers report that they work more hours when they travel than they do at the office. Europeans (45%) are more likely than Asia-Pacific (35%) and North American (32%) travelers to say that they work more hours than normal when traveling.
  • Millennials are also more likely to voice their displeasure. 18-30 year old business travelers are likeliest to post a negative review online, as it relates to their experience with hotels, restaurants, flights, public transportation, taxis and rental cars. Negative reviews are still relatively rare, however; 67% of travelers worldwide have never done so. Reviews themselves are considered highly important for both business and leisure travel, particularly among Millennials as; eight in ten (77% and 82% respectively) 18-30 year olds worldwide consider travel reviews to be “very important” or “somewhat important.” This sentiment holds true across a majority of all age groups and regions.
  • Americans under the age of 34 more frequently posted negative reviews of hotels (26%) within the last year, versus 14% of their older peers. Hotels received the most negative reviews among American business travelers, narrowly edging out restaurants. 66% of older Americans would not expect a response from the business they had negatively reviewed online, a skepticism shared by 65% of their younger peers.
  • Mobile devices are nearing ubiquity for business travelers across all regions and all demographics, but more so for millennials than any other group, unsurprisingly. 75% of travelers surveyed worldwide use smartphones and tablets for both personal and business reasons when traveling.
  • Location, location, location. Location matters over everything when business travelers book hotels, with travelers most frequently citing it as the most important feature (53%). The price of the hotel room (44%) narrowly edged out travel time to the city in question (42%) as next most-important features. Airfare price, at 36%, ranked fourth. In-flight Wi-Fi was not a high priority among business travelers worldwide, though in every region, the importance of in-flight Wi-Fi declines as travelers aged.
  • For leisure travelers, hotel room price was among the top three most important features (63%).Hotel location and air fare price were tied, at 50%. On-board Wi-Fi was less important for leisure travelers than for business travelers, across all age groups and regions.
  • When traveling on business, 83% of respondents worldwide feel that they should be personally entitled to travel reward points. Globally, workers under the age of 45 surveyed tend to feel more entitled to their points than older employees.
  • A majority (68%) of employees are compensated for their business trips on nights and weekends, either with extra money or with additional compensation days. Across all regions surveyed, 18-30 year olds are more likely to be compensated with either money or added vacation time (78%).
  • A majority of employees (67%) do tend to save some type of personal information online to streamline the booking process, however, one-third (33%) still prefer not to save any personal data online. Of the majority of respondents who save personal information online, millennial employees tend to be more comfortable doing so than their older counterparts.

Survey Methodology

This Expedia survey was conducted online from August 20, 2013 to September 12, 2013 across Europe, North America, South America and Asia Pacific by Harris Interactive among 8,535 respondents over the age of 18. In order to qualify to take the full survey, respondents had to be employed full time, part time or self-employed. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact: expediapr@hlgrp.com.

The survey examined business and leisure travel attitudes and behaviors among the residents of Europe (United Kingdom, Denmark, France, Austria, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands and Norway), Asia Pacific (India, Japan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand), North America (United States, Canada, and Mexico), and Brazil.

Top Mobile Sites For London Hotels

The world is shrinking every moment. No, no, the 2012 prophecy isn’t coming true in 2013. In fact, I am talking about the new travel apps and mobile websites that have changed the very way we travel across continents. Holding a smart phone in your hands seems as If the whole world is just clicks away.

These mobile-friendly websites are truly perfect for busy travelers who are always “on the go.” You need not visit a travel agent or sit on a computer, as you have thousands of hotels and flight deals right in your pocket. Here are some of the most user-friendly hotel-finding mobile websites to book your vacation in London.

London Travel

Photo courtesy of www.bestlondonguide.com

Tripadvisor.com

Rather than replicating the whole website, the mobile website is a sort of restricted version of the original tripadvisor.com but is quite easy to use. Reviews, prices, and all the information is given, making the booking process easier. There are special filters which turn out to quite handy especially when booking a hotel in London.

For example, you can decide the price range as per your budget. However, completing the booking process means visiting an external website, most of which have not been optimized for the mobile users which makes the booking process a little tricky.

And we can never ignore that travelers use social media channels to make hotel choice decisions. Be it Facebook or Twitter, TripAdvisor makes its social presence felt in the form of interesting destination ideas, contests, and reviews. However, it’s not focused on London.

Londonhotels4u.com

Not an iPhone app but a well-developed mobile website where you can book your stay within minutes. Unlike other websites, londonhotels4u.com, lists down hotels in London only.

Quite a user-friendly site with a search box where you can just type in the name of the hotel, nearest attractions or tube station and there will be a list of hotels to choose from. There is also a little section called “secret hotel” which allows you to book a hotel blindly and save up to 50%.

The description and facilities of every hotel are given but you cannot enlarge the map. As far as its social channels are concerned, you’ll find plenty of things to do in London, travel ideas, London event updates, hotel choices, and what not. You can even post your queries or travel plans and the team gets in touch with you soon.

Hoteltravel.com

Keeping in view the changing browsing habits of customers, hoteltravel.com has also launched its mobile website. You can easily find a suitable hotel in the search box. Reviews and map of the hotels are also given and can be enlarged too. You can change the currency as per your wish.But since they have huge listings, the search may take a while, so you have to be patient.

Although not daily, hoteltravel.com updates its Facebook and Twitter pages frequently. From destination photos to interesting quizzes, and world event updates, it’s worth putting a like. But again, it doesn’t focus on London exclusively.

Booking.com

The mobile website is wonderful as you can book rooms at hotels across 15000 destinations all over the globe. You can read hotels reviews too. The website has been tailored to load quickly and smoothly on mobile devices.But as with every hotel finding website, some usability issues occur, as the phone numbers are not clickable when booking a hotel.

However, if you’re looking to reach fellow travelers, Booking.com’s Facebook page is the right platform with over 21,297 people talking about it. Updated twice in a day, every query here is responded within minutes.

Mobile websites have revolutionized the very way we book hotels for our travels. It’s handy and a flexible option for busy travelers.

This post was contributed by Emily Hadden. Emily is a travel writer from London who loves to share her ideas and experiences with travel maniacs. Her personal travel experiences inspire her to write useful travel tips and suggestions.

 

The Influence of Baby Boomers on Travel and Hospitality

As the baby boomer generation begins to retire and pursue travel or other luxuries, their impact on the travel industry should provide a steady stream of income for the next few decades.

As millions of Americans born between 1945 and 1960 retire — more than one in every four Americans — they will become the largest purchasing demographic for hotels, lodging, restaurants, transportation, and entertainment.

For the 2012 year, four out of every five leisure travelers were those between the ages of 50 and 70.  How are they affecting the hospitality industry?

Cruise Ship Destinations

Two decades ago, you could only go on a cruise ship to the Caribbean or to the Mediterranean.  Today, the options for a cruise ship are immense — any continent in the world offers some type of cruise for its customers, as a forty-billion dollar industry looks to capitalize on the boomer generation.

Retirees have proven more interested in going on cruises than any other age demographic because the pace is slow, there are no set events, and it allows a person to see new sights without having to plan for hotels and transportation.

Today, you can go on cruises to everything from Alaska to Antarctica, on one of three hundred different cruise ships, including ships that hold over six thousand people. Although social media has allowed cruise lines to appeal to the younger market, the appeal of baby boomers is still prominent.

Budget Airlines

Air travel is as popular as it has ever been in the United States, but the trend in the recent past has been to trend down in size and scale instead of up.  This change matches what many boomers claim is an exercise in affordability: more claim that they would rather save money on travel in order to have more to spend at their destination.

Airlines like Southwest and Spirit have accommodated these desires by offering zero-frills air travel.  Southwest has no designated seating, instead giving passengers a free-for-all check-in process, while Spirit has rock-bottom prices and charges for carry-on bags.

Southwest in particular has succeeded with the simplistic formula, having launched flights around the country by running flights through Chicago’s Midway airport, which had previously been little-used by other airlines.

As-Seen-In Travel

For many Americans, the only vision of other parts of the world come in television or film.  As more and more retirees begin to travel abroad without knowing more than they have seen in the media, travel companies have begun to capitalize upon the Hollywoodization of their destination.

Visitors to Paris, for instance, can take the “Da Vinci Code Tour” based on the events of the book and film; those who land in Moscow can take tours based on spy movies.

By appealing to what these visitors do know, even if it is far from accurate, foreign travel companies gather a large audience eager to learn more about representations of another country.

Risk And Reward

Few companies know their customers better than travel agencies.  Those that have polled baby boomers report that only about half report any interest in taking risks during their travel.

This division of customer interest poses a question for a travel business: how do you market a vacation as high-risk and low-risk simultaneously to get the most customers?  The answer, it seems, is in providing a guide who can mitigate the risk or letting an individual try it out themselves.

Travel agencies market specialist travel, where a group or a couple can visit a foreign country on a special program entirely under the guide of a native, or, by contrast, on their own.  The presence of a native guide makes risk-averse boomers more amenable to travel; the option to take it away appeals to those who would rather forge their own path.

This post was contributed by Andrew Deen. Andrew is a writer who creates informative articles related to business. Here, he described the effects of aging on the hospitality industry to encourage continued study in gerontology at the University of Southern California.

How One Destination is Rockin’ Social Media

At the beginning of June, I attended TBEX in Toronto and had the opportunity to chat with many destination marketing organizations to learn more about how they’re integrating social media into their overall marketing. One of the standouts was the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB).

The Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana CVB recently  accepted the award for Outstanding CVB of the Year at the Lt. Governor’s Tourism Summit, as well as an award for having the best Tourism Campaign/Promotion of the Year.

Every single person who works at the CVB has a passion for what they do. They absolutely pour everything into making each project as successful as it can be, and it is a tremendous honor to receive statewide recognition for the work accomplished at the CVB on behalf of our destination,” said Shelley Johnson, executive director.

Johnson also stated that over the past year, many of the major projects would not have been possible without the strong partners in tourism and volunteers throughout the community.  The bureau also won an award for its National Tourism Week promotions for the Tourism Campaign/Promotion of the Year category.

I also had the opportunity to interview their Online Content Manager, Amos Orr, to learn more about how they grew their online presence. Amos offers some great advice and first-hand examples of what worked for them!

Q: Growing your Facebook presence by 34,000 fans in a year is totally impressive! How did you do this? (ads? contests? etc)

A: In short we did a little bit of everything, and changed our perspective of how we viewed people that liked our page. Instead of fans people became friends that we wanted to share with and friends we actually wanted to hear from. To grow a number to your page is great but it should not be the end goal; the goal should be to have engaged friends. Here are some steps we took to grow and maintain a respectable level of engagement.

  • Find out who you are, and find out who your friends are.
    What makes your destination or business unique? What do people go crazy over that you have to offer? What is your attitude/personality? We discovered answers to these questions by testing content. We tracked the time of day we posted, the type of content we posted (text, image, video, event), the content of the post (food, attraction, quote, history, event), attitude of post (factual, humorous, somber, aggressive). We looked at all of these things and were able to learn a lot about who we were and what worked best for our friends. Not every Facebook page and audience are equal, but it may help to research other successful Facebook Pages in your category to see what they are doing. You don’t have to copy them exactly, but you can apply general principles.
  • We posted shareable images to get them engaged!
    While money spent wisely can get you friends, it is more important to keep them engaged and interested, because what good are all of the friends in the world if they don’t actually care about you. Images end up being the most interacted with content on Facebook, because they are more visible than a simple text post. Just think how you scroll through hundreds of posts in a minute, which ones jump out at you? We were already posting some images, but they were sporadic with no call to action or direct connection to people. We took a look at who we were as a destination and then focused on what made us unique, as well as what we knew our friends wanted. We quickly found that our food resonated with our friends the best. Then we started asking for their opinion on what they liked, where they got it, and what they liked best. Here is one of my favorite posts the pits two highly craved food items against eat other.

    ‘Like’ for Shrimp and Crab Gumbo or ‘Share’ for Chicken and Sausage Gumbo? Let the battle begin!shrimp and gumbo

    We got quite a few comments on this post and it really helped the page get exposure to our friend’s friends.

    In addition to fun pictures, we keyed into trending posts types such as e-cards and “Keep Calms”. The key to having a successful e-card was to include a witty phrase that someone else might actually say. When it says something they might actually want to tell their friends, they will want to share it. It may not directly lead someone to action but you have to be mindful of Facebook Edgerank (how often Facebook will show your posts to people).crawfish boil

  • Partnered Contests leveraged with Promoted Posts.
    This may be our largest contributor to getting new friends, but all of the other principles keep your friends engaged and coming back. Armed with the fact that we knew people loved our food, we decided to capitalize on it by hosting a contest to win some of it. It was Christmas time, so we decided to run a contest called “Cajun Christmas in a Box.” We knew we wanted to expand our audience outside of our local community, so we reached out to a local business that produces and ships boudin (picture rice/pork casserole in a sausage casing, people go crazy over it) across the country. They offered us their product for free in exchange for mentioning them in the promotion (You don’t need an expensive prize to attract people, just something they are passionate about.) Using the Woobox app (woobox.com) for Facebook, we were able to generate and host the contest in-house. Woobox allowed us to fangate the contest, meaning that people had to ‘Like’ our page in order to enter. Since it is a third party app, this is allowed by Facebook terms and conditions. We then used Promoted Posts to target our driving markets to get them thinking about Southwest Louisiana and our unique cuisine. That contest resulted in over 2,000,000 impressions, 23,000 actions, 2,100 e-news opt-ins and 5,700 new friends. The cost of the promotion was nominal compared to the outcome. cajun christmas in a box
  • Learn that sometimes less is more.
    Posting 10 times a day may begin to annoy people unless it is all good quality content. And if people are not interacting with you posts, Facebook Edgerank will detect that and not feature you in people’s newsfeeds as often. I have found that it is usually better to post one quality post a day. This is not a set-in-stone rule, you can deviate just make sure what you are putting out there is what people want to see.
  • Whenever you post, use a Call to Action.

Whether you want to direct them to your website, sign-up for a newsletter or simply want them to ‘Like/Share’ the post, don’t be afraid to ask them to do it!

  • Have fun, it doesn’t always have to be about business.
    People are on social networks usually to have fun and socialize. THEY DO NOT WANT TO BE SOLD TO! (or at least they don’t want to know they are being sold to) Treat them as you would treat a friend, give them advice or better yet, get them to give you advice. It’s a two-way conversation.
  • Share cross-platform.
    Direct your fans from twitter to facebook, facebook to twitter, pinterest to facebook, etc.
  • You don’t always have to Create, you can also Curate content.
    Interact with you friends. If you see them share a great photo, let them know and them ask them for permission to share it. The is a couple reasons for asking permission:

    1. It’s polite!
    2. You can avoid content stealing issues
    3. It makes them aware that you are there and interested in them

I have yet to be turned down when asking to share content. The most anyone has asked me to do is to give them credit in the post. Instagram also provides a great platform to curate photos, just remember to ask permission.

Q: I love your YouTube presence with the various “how to” videos! What made you decide to do these? Are they easy to do? Do you manage everything in-house?
A: We are still developing our YouTube presence. We have, as you pointed out, done very well with recent how to videos. Our thought behind creating them is that if done properly, they could become timeless resources that people search for on a regular basis. Our area is known for eating crawfish, since it is such a unique aspect of our culinary culture, we thought it would be perfect for instructing people not from the area. They can be very simple or complex. I shot a “How to Eat a Crab” video on my Samsung Galaxy S4, gave it some quick titles through Power Director (an inexpensive video editing software) and loaded it to Facebook. It did surprisingly well for a virtually $0 budget film, but apparently people are very passionate on the best way to peel a crab and began to critique the star of the video on how he could have done it better! LOL It started a great conversation, but just be aware that you should really know the best “How to” for your “How to …” video. For the crawfish videos, we had those produced by a local videographer. It did take quite a bit of time to get the final product, but they did very well and have received a ton of views.

Q: I noticed you don’t have Instagram listed with the other social icons in your email signature. Are you guys on Instagram? How does your presence (or lack of) play into your overall social strategy?

A: Thanks for pointing that out, I might go in and change that. We actually do have an Instagram account at http://instagram.com/visitlakecharles. We primarily use it for content curation, since I don’t always have a ton of time to get out of the office. This allows me to leverage our friends and followers to do some of the heavy lifting for me by collecting their content. We started out by downloading the InstaRepost App on IOS and Android. Then we searched hashtags that we know people were already using in reference to our area such as #lakecharles, #swla, #lakechuck, etc. When we would come upon images we liked we would send the user a comment such as “Great Photo! I love the shot of that gator! Do you mind if I share it on the Visit Lake Charles social media channels? Just reply to @visitlakecharles and tag any other photos with #visitlakecharles.” We adopted the hashtag #VisitLakeCharles and began promoting the use of it on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Just by reaching out this way, people began to organically share photos and content, even people we didn’t reach out to! You must be consistent and active on it, just like any other social media. It has not been my focus but it does provide great content and multiple truly unique perspectives that can be very eye catching.

Thanks to Amos and Megan at the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana CVB for taking the time to speak with me and offer this valuable insight!

 

Rooms for Cause: A Charitable Way to Book Your Next Stay

The hospitality industry is an extremely exciting space in which to be involved. A few years ago when I worked for a local destination marketing organization, I worked with several hotels in my area and got the opportunity to interact on a regular basis with those in the field. At the Hilton resided a sales and marketing manager that would eventually become a good friend, Christine Weijland.

With over seven years in the hospitality industry, Christine has been involved in many facets of hotel management, including revenue analysis, sales, and social media. After having two children, she decided to stay at home full time to focus on her kids.

Last year, she got an exciting idea that integrates hotels and social good. While at the Hilton, Christine and I, along with a team of fellow social media professionals, conducted two large events at her hotel in 2010. Under the guise “ConnectOC,” the events drew hundreds of people with the goal of connecting and giving back. We were able to get numerous donations from businesses for opportunity drawings and silent auctions, which allowed us to raise thousands of dollars for local charities.

“What if we could do that on a larger scale?” she asked, when introducing the idea to me last fall. She had already come up with a model and a brand to take the hotel-room purchasing process to a different level. People are using the internet to make travel decisions and book vacations like never before, and what if they could do that, but have a portion of they money they’re spending anyway go to something good?

And, people spend money on auctions at events, when the money goes toward worthy causes. What if they could bid on getaways, in similar fashion, and raise money for charities there, too? “I feel it’s important to teach my kids the importance of giving back and helping others,” Christine noted. “This idea is the foundation of the website combining with a passion for travel and all things hospitality.” The idea, which she has been fine-tuning for the last year, was finally coming to light, and when she asked if I’d like to be involved, it was a no brainer.

Rooms for Cause Social Media

Rooms for Cause is a social approach to receiving deeply discounted hotel rooms all while giving back. Our first partner non-profit, Together We Rise, is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization comprised of motivated young adults and former foster youth. Their vision is to improve the lives of foster children in America, who often find themselves forgotten and neglected by the public. They will be on board for the first six months so that we can raise them as much money as possible. After that, our partner charities will change every couple months.

There are two charitable ways travelers can book their next stay:

  • Check out the weekly hotel auctions and bid to win. The highest bidder wins when time runs out, and Rooms for Cause will donate 30% of the final auction price to Together We Rise.
  • You can also book hotel stays directly at a variety of hotels and resorts worldwide (just like you would via Expedia or Travelocity), via the Book Now page.  We guarantee the lowest published rates, PLUS 30% of profit generated will be donated to our partner non-profit organization.

The site just launched last week, and the first auction will debut mid-June with the opportunity for users to bid on two nights at the Queen Mary hotel in Long Beach, along with two tickets to the Orange County hotel’s accommodating Princess Diana exhibit.

In the meantime, travel lovers are encouraged to “like” the Rooms for Cause Facebook page for a chance to win a customizable Las Vegas getaway. The prize includes a $500 Southwest gift card as well as $750 in “las vegas at its BEST” gift cards, which are valid at any of the MGM Resorts in Vegas. The goal is to build the fanbase so that when the auctions begin next month, we already have a decent audience on board.

We’ll also be using social media as the primary form of marketing. In addition to the Facebook and Twitter pages that have already begun, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest pages will be emerging in the near future. As we’ve been intimately involved in this industry and know how valuable a role social media plays in it, we are confident that focusing our marketing efforts in this arena will be fruitful for our partner charities.

In what other ways have you seen travel brands utilize social media for social good?

Top 5 Richest Hotel Moguls and How They Got There

In the bustling global economy, there are many different paths to the top. If your goal is to make more money annually than some entire countries, an MBA is certainly not the only way to do it. In fact, a hospitality management degree may be just the thing. The hotel and lodging industry is lucrative enough to have created some of the heaviest financial hitters the world has ever seen.

Here are five of the richest hotel owners:

1. Sheldon Adelson

With a net worth of $21.8 billion, Sheldon Adelson is the 12th wealthiest American and the 24th richest man on Earth. Adelson’s wealth originally came from his development of COMDEX, a computer exposition held from 1979 to 2003. COMDEX was the premier computer trade show in the ’80s and ’90s and one of the largest trade shows in the world. Adelson used his earnings to buy Las Vegas’ Sands Hotel and Casino in 1988. He and his partners purchased the former Rat Pack haunt to stimulate the exhibition industry in the city, and they built the Sands Expo and Convention Center in 1989. An expansion project for the center was announced in 2008, and it includes a second expo building with two million square feet of space.

Adelson’s honeymoon to Venice in 1991 inspired him to raze the Sands Hotel and replace it with the Venetian, a mega-resort with more than 4,000 suites, 18 restaurants, and canals complete with gondolas. The Sands Corporation now operates Vegas-style resorts and casinos in Asian countries like China and Singapore and is currently planning a EuroVegas project in Spain.

2. Donald Trump

Donald Trump got his start in the real estate industry by working for his father at Elizabeth Trump and Son, a middle-class rental company in New York City. While still in his 20s, Trump used a $500,000 investment to add over a million dollars in value to a foreclosed apartment complex in Cincinnati, Ohio. He quickly moved on to larger building projects and was applauded for his use of attractively designed architecture. The Trumpster later set his sights on the hotel industry, and he reopened New York’s Commodore Hotel as the Grand Hyatt New York in 1980. He continued to build hotels in America and internationally, and some of his most successful projects bear his name. Trump World Tower, a 72-story residential skyscraper located across from the United Nations Headquarters, was completed in 2001. Trump is currently worth more than $3 billion and is developing multiple hotel projects worldwide.

3. William Barron Hilton

He may be cursed with an embarrassing granddaughter, but William Barron Hilton also has $2.5 billion to his name. Hilton was born in Dallas, Texas, to Conrad Nicholson Hilton, the owner of the international hotel chain Hilton Hotels. He began his career as a humble elevator operator at the El Paso Hilton and became the president of the company less than 15 years later. Not content to rest on the work of his forebears, Hilton made his family’s company the third largest lodging business in the world by the late 1990s. Much of this success was due to Barron Hilton’s addition of gambling to the chain with the Las Vegas Hilton. He also helped organize a $26 billion merger with a financial services company called the Blackstone Group in 2007. Hilton Hotels & Resorts is currently worth a staggering $8.7 billion.

4. Phillip Ruffin

A Kansas native and college dropout, Phillip Ruffin started his career in the convenience store industry. His pioneering implementation of self-serve gasoline in the state allowed him to open a chain of 60 stores. In 1987, Ruffin used the earnings from these convenience stores to purchase a Marriott hotel in Wichita. In the mid-1990s, he leased his convenience stores and bought more hotels as well as the Crystal Palace casino resort in the Bahamas. Ruffin’s hotel division now operates 13 hotels, and his net worth has grown to $2.5 billion. Being one of the wealthiest hotel moguls in the world certainly has its perks, and Ruffin married a 26-year-old Miss Ukraine winner in 2008.

5. Ty Warner

Ty Warner may be best known for generating the countless Beanie Babies currently piled up in basements and attics across the world, but much of his current wealth comes from the real estate industry. When the Beanie Baby craze reached full force in the 1990s, Ty Inc. was making $700 million a year in profits. Warner used his substantial earnings to invest in hotels, purchasing the Four Seasons Hotel in New York for $275 million. The hotel’s Ty Warner Penthouse Suite costs an incredible $41,836 each night, making it one of the most expensive hotel rooms in the world. He now owns hotels and resorts in California, Hawaii, Mexico, and Florida. His wealth is estimated at a cool $2.4 million.

This post was contributed by Scott Kaufman. Scott works in education where we writes frequently about hospitality. His work has been featured on Concordia University Online and several other major universities.

How To Run a Successful Pinterest Contest

With the success of Pinterest as a multi-functional tool, it’s becoming increasingly integral for brands to have a presence here in addition to other social media mainstays like Twitter and Facebook. Subsequently, Pinterest contests are on the rise.

Since the platform is still very new, there’s still a level of ambiguity about how to conduct promotions, as far as barrier to entry, monitoring, etc. For example, if you simply ask people to create a board, how do you go about tracking everyone that has done so? Do you measure success by likes? Comments?

Nevertheless, when done efficiently, it can be a great way to draw in your audience for a visually-oriented initiative.

Visit Santa Barbara just completed a “Pin It to Win It” contest over the holidays. For an organization such as this, that relies on so many other hospitality components, this was a great way to tie various entities together and promote both them individually as well as the destination as a whole.

Santa Barbara Pinterest

Santa Barbara’s destination marketing organization is no stranger to social and technological innovation. Their mobile app released earlier this year set a high bar in making vacation planning to the central coast city incredibly easy to do.

“Pin It to Win It” asked entrants to follow the brand’s Pinterest page; create a board entitled “My Santa Barbara Holiday Getaway”; re-pin the contest announcement; add a pin for a variety of categories including lodging, dining, shopping, wine, culture, outdoors and holiday; use the #SantaBarbaraHoliday hashtag; then submit their boards to a website. The winner received a two-night stay at Bacara Resort & Spa; a $100 gift card to the Paseo Nuevo shopping center; plus $100 to Olio e Limone Ristorante.

This package is definitely a legitimate enough incentive to get someone pumped to participate to win. It covers several bases – hotel, dining, shopping – that make a vacation exciting and memorable.

They also addressed several of the hurdles in running a Pinterest contest. First, by asking people to re-pin the contest announcement, they can track the notifications they received on the re-pinners. Asking them to submit it at the end allows them to track who actually completed the assignment (versus just re-pinning the original announcement).

Second, the hashtag inclusion allows them to easily assess the quantity and value of entries on an ongoing basis. By searching the hashtag, they  are able to get an idea of how things were going with the contest as it progresses, as well as how people perceive the Santa Barbara destination and what they most look forward to when traveling there. This is excellent research as well to tie in perhaps to larger marketing initiatives in the future.

Since hashtags are also widely used on Twitter, it allows the hashtag to trend there also, and effortlessly helps spread the word, and creates a lot of buzz around Santa Barbara being an ideal destination for the holiday season.

Next, asking people to pin from various categories is a brilliant idea that serves many purposes. It gets people visiting Santa Barbara’s Pinterest page and sharing their content. Even if others haven’t entered the contest, those images being shared at a higher rate create the exponentially higher chance of them being individually spread further. The SEO value here is innumerable. Not to mention, most of the images are probably linked to their website, thereby bringing more traffic there, too.

The numerous categories also probably drives people to visit the website in additional to Pinterest. This is obviously an ideal thing as it brings people to the website, and forces them to surf it. Creating an intimate association between a brand and consumer can be difficult, but this is an easy way to strike down that barrier and make potential visitors passionate about the brand and the proposition of visiting it.

They also used their other social networks like Twitter and Facebook to regularly post reminders and keep the contest on top of people’s minds. This pro-active approach was clearly successful, as if you do a search on Pinterest for #SantaBarbaraHoliday, it’s simple to note the abundant about of participants.

Santa Barbara did a fantastic job executing this promotion. What other brands have you seen run a successful Pinterest promotion?

Three Key Trends for Social Media in the Hospitality Industry in 2013

Maintaining a successful business in the social space in 2013 and beyond will involve staying ahead of the curve and making sure to adapt to the evolving nature of the medium.

The Growing Influence of Mobile

Tablets and mobile devices are becoming mainstream ways of accessing information, so having and implementing a mobile strategy and websites will be imperative. For travel in particular, the number of people making hotel and restaurant decisions through mobile devices is constantly rising, and it’s imperative for brands to have a mobile website to make this process seamless for potential guests.

The Visual Approach to Social Media Marketing

On the social network front, the popularity of newbies Pinterest and Instagram continues to rise. The reliance on images for both of these channels bodes well for travel, since there are so many visual (independent and collaborative) components people consider when planning a vacation.

Owning Your Media

Building owned media outside of Twitter and Facebook will also become imperative for the industry – a blog is a great option that serves many purposes, and it’s becoming increasingly vital for search engine optimization (ideally, increasing brand awareness and bookings). Blogs also allow for instant personal feedback, which is at the very heart of hospitality. With a blog, any of your past, current or potential customers will be able to read and respond immediately, providing direct insight to the mind of your consumer.

Read the full article on Windmill Networking