Travel Marketers Hitch a Ride with Web 2.0

The web 2.0 shift has had a huge impact across a variety of markets. The peer to peer influence on today’s online buyers has prompted many industries to get involved in these new trends to stay on top. Online marketers across the board have responded by incorporating podcasts, blogs, social networking, photo/video-sharing, etc. into their marketing mix.

One particular market that has fully embraced these new technologies is travel and tourism.

Many state, regional and local tourism offices have invested heavily in online marketing initiatives, and during these trying economic times social aspects have been a huge factor for tourism industry websites. Social media, such as blogs and podcasts, can really help to highlight a region’s natural assets from the view of someone who lives there, or who has visited the area themselves, and these can all add to the sense of value for the vacation planner.

One city that is incorporating the latest and greatest in social and new media technologies is Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Virtual Philadelphia site, which is still in the works, will soon boast amazing interactive 3D technologies that allow users to truly see Philadelphia from a walking, driving, or aerial perspective. Interactive options and information will be available by simply clicking on different locations within the 3D space as you make your way through this historic city.

Regional tourism associations are also accelerating their online offerings. For example, the West Michigan Tourist Association (WMTA) has created its own online portal for fall color tours in the Great Lakes state. All Things Autumn provides updates on fall color conditions throughout Michigan and users can print detailed directions for 26 fall color driving tours. The WMTA also has a presence on Myspace, a West Michigan Weekly blog that allows users to stay in the loop with updates on autumn conditions, and a Twitter account.

In an effort to keep up with those on the go, or already on vacation, many tourism websites are making information more readily available to mobile users. Sonoma County in California has recently launched a mobile version of its main tourism bureau website, allowing users to quickly access a calendar of events, make restaurant/tee time reservations, locate a winery, etc.

Yelp Mobile is another good source for online reviews while you’re on-the-go. Users simply enter the address/intersection, city, state, or zip code, and are served up reviews of local restaurants, retail stores, tourist attractions, and lodging. Enter in your local zip code, and see what people are saying about your favorite establishments.

With the help of applications such as Google Maps, travelers can easily print out detailed directions and estimate the mileage of their trip, which is a huge factor with today’s gas prices. A new tourism buzzword that has emerged lately is “Stay-cation“, referring to vacationers who are doing away with airline travel or long automobile trips in favor of travel destinations a little closer to home. The tourism industry has noticed this trend and has been shifting some of its efforts to entice “neighbors” with deals to spend money closer to home.

Today’s internet savvy travelers are looking for quick, accurate information that they can use for comparing available travel options. Just having the prices and description isn’t enough anymore. Thanks to social media applications on many tourism websites, vacation planners can now factor in reviews of what other travelers have experienced on similar trips and converse with those who have “been there, done that”. Members of this tech-savvy target market do their research to ensure that they are getting exactly what they are paying for, and getting the best deal available.

Ask yourself how your industry can learn (and benefit) from the online initiatives currently taking place in the travel market.