Social Travel Market

Source: wtmlondon.com

Last week, I attended the World Travel Market for the first time.  It’s an annual travel trade fair, or, according to the PR blurb, it’s “the leading global event for the travel industry.”  In a former life, I was a climate change negotiator in the UN, so I thought I had seen my fair share of large numbers of people in one big conference centre.  But nothing prepared me for the size of WTM at the ExCel Centre in London.  Just short of 50,000 travel trade professionals attended over 4 days and there were 5,000 exhibitors.  It’s huge!

 

I attended on Day 3, to participate in the “Social Travel Market” events.  For the first time, WTM recognised the power and potential of social media in the travel and tourism sector. According to the World Travel Market 2011 Industry Report, which was launched at WTM 2011, social media will evolve into the key revenue generating channel for the global travel industry over the next five years at the expense of pay-per-click advertising.

The most interesting session I attended was about the return on investment of paid travel blogging.  Andy Jarosz gave an inspiring and frank presentation of how he has made it from professional optometrist to paid travel blogger in the space of a year.  His blog is at: http://www.501places.com.  Also on the panel were a couple of Andy’s clients; travel companies who pay him to write short posts about their destinations. It was interesting to note, in a room of around 180 people, only a handful were being paid to blog and a another handful were travel company staff actively employing bloggers.  I can only assume the other 150+ folks were those not yet getting paid to write or not yet writing online and interested observers.

Without a doubt, social media – not just sites like Twitter and Facebook, but also the process of creating something that people genuinely want to share – something that could go viral in hours – have a lot to offer the travel industry and customers alike.  Many of us already sites such as Trip Advisor to inform our travel decisions; a Facebook page to change a flight booking, or a smartphone app or a blog post as a substitute for an old-fashioned guidebook or a tourist information centre.  The question on my mind, however, is how to ensure that an increasingly digital experience remains genuinely social.  It is now entirely feasible to plan and book a trip without any human contact.  I have even stayed in a hotel without a receptionist!  And then we can share our photos online without actually explaining the images to anyone.  Are we heading for an era where social media actually makes travel less sociable?  For me, the joy of travel is the opportunity to discover places, meet people and then share those experiences – fact-to-face as well as via social media. One of my motivations for this blog is to generate discussion and hopefully a sense of community which can lead to increased human contact; not less of it.

source: wtmlondon.com

Unfortunately, WTM weren’t listening to their own research with regards to the interest in social media.  The Social Media Programme sessions were in a room with a capacity of 90.  Fortunately the organisers reacted quickly to the demand for a larger room and doubled the capacity, but it still wasn’t enough.  The sessions were all recorded, so I am hoping that the ones I was unable to physically get into will all be posted online.

What do you think?  Are social media making travel less sociable?

© Lynn Sheppard

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5 Responses to Social Travel Market

  1. Om in Mom says:

    Very interesting info there, mikanqueen. Thanks. I have passed your link to a friend who is interested in travel blogging. (As an aside, a bit of constructive feedback -there must be a way to open a link in a new window -when I clicked on the 501 places link it took me out of your page when I wasn’t done reading yet, which was kind of annoying. I’m sure you’ll work it out -you are way more advanced than me in the techy details of blogging!! I have yet to post a photo on my blog. Hehe.)
    xxx

    • mikanqueen says:

      Thanks for passing the post on, Om! As for the technical issue, until I figure out the fix, you can always right click the link and select ‘open in new tab’ or ‘open in new page’ so you don’t navigate away from my blog. Thanks for pointing that out!

  2. Blair says:

    It’s an interesting discussion Lynn- people don’t interact in the same ways as they used to. So much of experiences has become documenting those experiences rather than living them…efficiency increases but sociability decreases, I think you’re right…At the same time, all of this can improve accountability substantially, and transform possibilities, but I do get the sense there is a missing link- thousands or millions of people with cell phones and twitter accounts doesn’t in itself add up to anything. We are always going to need social mediators, as it were…

    • mikanqueen says:

      Thanks, Blair. The point about accountability is an interesting one. For example, Trip Advisor-type sites can mean that businesses have to sharpen up their act but they are also open to abuse. And of course, the option to tweet and share special experiences – while increasing income potential for businesses also presents the potential for secrets to get out *too* quickly, which can lead to over-exploitation, destruction of natural habitats and the undermining of traditional ways of life….

  3. Pingback: 10 lessons from Social Travel Market

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