KCB206 – Assessment 1
The introduction of social media has fundamentally changed the nature of the travelling industry, as well as how industry professionals engage with clients. Web 2.0 as it is called, has altered the accessibility travellers have to search, find as well as introducing the ability to collaboratively produce information regarding travel destinations and activities. This increased accessibility has created an obstacle for travel industry professionals as they confront the issue of not being relevant for the users who use Web 2.0 to plan their journeys. This study will investigate examples of these issues in the travel industry. These examples include conducting a study into how travel agents are adapting to the challenges that social media has made, how social media has allowed the entry of amateur travel agents, as well as exploring a user participation targeted marketing campaign.
The overarching theme that has caused issues within the travel industry is the increased produsage rate of users. Produsage is a characteristic of social media, and is the combination of users being able to produce and use content. (Bruns 2008, 56) Applications such as TripAdvisor, have threatened the profession of travel agents. TripAdvisor is the world’s largest travel site and allows a combination of professional and amateur users to review accommodation, restaurants and attractions worldwide. (TripAdvisor, 2016) Despite this introduction of technology, the travel agent profession is still alive and well and is adapting to accommodate the integration of social media into their business models. A blog post on Wishpond lists all of the possibilities of how social media can be beneficial to the industry. It emphasises that social media isn’t replacing any part of the job requirement (attending trade shows, updating websites, using email) it is simply an additional tool. Some of the benefits include being able to communicate with clients/potential clients in a different tone compared to original formats. It is also a handy tool to promote events and deals, while engaging with clients. This has allowed individual travel agents to form an alliance with their audience however, due to the domestication of this technology it has formed the issue of blurring their public and private lives.
Gregg (2011, 2) further explains this issue, “Communication platforms and devices allow work to invade spaces and times that were once less susceptible to its presence. This is a process we might describe the presence bleed of contemporary office culture, where firm boundaries between personal and professional identities no longer apply.” As a travel agent, clients rely on your first hand knowledge of destinations in order to make a decision. So it is a requirement for travel agents to have visited popular holiday destinations in order to properly inform their clients. This is where the issue of blurring public and private life comes into play. If a travel agent posts about their experience on social media, are they sharing part of their private holiday experience, or are they advertising their skills as a travel agent to potential clients. Additionally, there is a blurring of distinctions of professional and amateur travel agents among social media. The design of social media encourages people to share their interests and experiences, and has therefore encouraged amateurs within the travel industry (such as travel bloggers) to give their knowledge of destinations. These amateurs in the field require no qualification, just a healthy connection to the internet. While professional travel agents in Australia are required to have either a Certificate 3 in Travel, or a Diploma of Travel and Tourism in order to be employed with an established agency. (Seek Learning, 2017)
Social media has changed the way how businesses interact with their clients, and attract customers. An example of this would be the “#MaxineTakesManhattan” marketing project launched by the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts in 2013. This was a targeted social media campaign, that had the intention to attract the demographic of a modern travelling family to increase the overall weekend bookings at their New York location. The hospitality giant partnered with Shoutlet, an independent social media marketing company. This move was made with the intention to make the movement viral content and maximise spreadability. The interactive 12 week marketing campaign featured “Maxine” a fuzzy plush toy who travelled the city of New York. Fans of the Four Seasons Facebook page were encouraged to guess the location of Maxine and would subsequently enter the draw to win a gift card to the hotel. All of the major social media platforms were employed for this campaign and included; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Vine. Elizabeth Pizzinato, the Global Luxury Consumer and Digital Marketing SVP of the Four Seasons Hotel and Resorts commented on the results at the end of the 12 week campaign, “The campaign had the desired business result: the hotel saw a 5% revenue increase in weekend business, a 10% increase in Facebook fans and a 19% increase in Twitter followers, ensuring that the high level of engagement created by Maxine would carry on well past the campaign’s close.” She also commented on the positive reaction Maxine had on the kids who were able to interact with the Four Seasons mascot through social media. Fuchs (2014, 2) defines participatory culture as, “designating the involvement of users, audiences, consumers and fans in the creation of culture and content.” The Four Seasons utilised this theory in practice, and successfully involved social media users while promoting their brand. The #MaxineTakesManhattan social media marketing project is a perfect example of participatory culture, and the desired effect it can have on a business when it is executed successfully.
Social media has provided the travel industry with many obstacles to overcome, but ultimately it has provided a significantly higher number of opportunities that are beneficial to the industry. With the increased produsage rate, consumers have a greater access to knowledge and information regarding travel destinations and activities. This increased produsage rate also allows for amateurs such as travel bloggers, to threaten the profession of travel agents. Even with the presence of amateur bloggers, the travel agent profession is still healthy. Although travel bloggers may provide inspiration and prior knowledge about a destination, they cannot book the dream holiday that the client wants. Social media has allowed for the introduction of valuable marketing methods that allow businesses to connect with their existing clients as well as attracting potential clients. As demonstrated by the Four Seasons #MaxineTakesManhattan marketing ploy, social media engages clients and allows for a participatory culture. While some may argue that social media is destroying industries, it is clear that the travel industry is taking advantage of this tool and is utilising it to its full potential.
Bruns, Axel (2008) “The Future Is User-Led: The Path towards Widespread Produsage.” Fibreculture Journal, Perth: Fibreculture Publications
eMarketer. 2013. “In Asia-Pacific, Social Media Inspires Travelers.” Accessed 4 April, 2017. https://www.emarketer.com/Article/Asia-Pacific-Social-Media-Inspires-Travelers/1009605
Expedia. 2017. “Win Trip to Hangzhou, China.” Image. Accessed 9 April, 2017. https://twitter.com/ExpediaUK/status/848762005158866947
Fuchs, Christian. 2014. “Social Media as Participatory Culture.” In Social Media: A Critical Introduction. 52-68. London: Sage Publications
Gregg, Melissa. 2011. Work’s Intimacy. 1st ed. Cambridge: Polity
Hey Nadine. 2017. “Hey Nadine Home Page.” Image. Accessed 9 April, 2017. http://www.heynadine.com/
Hey Nadine. 2017. “About Hey Nadine.” Image. Accessed 9 April, 2017. http://www.heynadine.com/about/
Olenski, Steve. 2014. “The Impact Of Social Media In The Travel Marketing Industry.” Forbes, February 7. Accessed 4 April, 2017. https://www.forbes.com/sites/steveolenski/2014/02/07/the-impact-of-social-media-in-the-travel-marketing-industry/2/#1ca7be02550b
Seek Learning. 2017. “How to Become a Travel Agent.” Seek. Accessed 6 April, 2017. https://www.seeklearning.com.au/industries/travel/travel-agent/getting-into-this-career
TripAdvisor. 2016. “About TripAdvisor.” TripAdvisor. Accessed 4 April, 2017. https://tripadvisor.mediaroom.com/au-about-us
Wishpond. 2017. “Social Media Marketing for Travel Agents.” Wishpond. Accessed 5 April, 2017. http://blog.wishpond.com/post/114051494322/social-media-marketing-for-travel-agents