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Online Form Maker

The social media site Instagram has grown hugely in its short four year existence. It’s not that long ago that few people had heard of the photo and video-sharing platform, but Instagram has rapidly become a household name, popular with both everyday users and commerce alike. It is this growing user base which has enabled Instagram to recently achieve a milestone for its community.

300 million user community

Instagram has recently announced that it has over 300 million monthly active users. This is obviously a very large figure in itself, roughly equal to the population of the United States, but it is further put into perspective by comparison with other social media sites. The much more established Twitter, which one would assume to be bigger than Instagram, only boasts 284 million monthly active users. Given that Twitter is eight years-old, this is a pretty massive achievement for a social media site only half its age.

Thus, there is evidence to suggest that when we talk about the big two social media sites from now on, instead of mentioning Facebook and Twitter, increasingly we could possibly instead referred to Facebook and Instagram. This is more good news for the former, given that it is the parent company of Instagram. Facebook has moved into profitability recently with an outstanding marketing and monetisation strategy, and now it can boast that Instagram is clearly the fastest growing of the social media sites.

Aside from its obvious popularity, and the exponential growth of its user base, Instagram also makes an ideal site for those involved in tourism, either at the commercial or destination level. The photo and video-based nature of the site makes it ideal for holiday-related companies to share absorbing media, and it is certainly a source of potential customers and revenue that should not be overlooked.

Skift Trends Report

With this in mind it is extremely valuable for tourism-related businesses to understand the latest trends on Instagram. Thus, the Skift Trends Report, which provides the latest intelligence on travel trends, has some interesting insights into the way that Instagram is developing as a social media site which tourism businesses would do well to pay heed to.

One of the most notable aspects of Instagram which has been documented by Skift is the fact that it has an extremely engaged community as well as a fast-growing one. According to the research organisation Forrester, 4.21 percent of brands’ total followers on Instagram have engaged with their content in comparison to 0.03 percent and 0.07 percent of brands’ total followers on Twitter and Facebook, respectively. It hardly need be said then that it is absolutely in the interest of any business to create a strong brand on Instagram.

While this is already an impressive figure that offers companies are huge opportunity, it is expected to grow further still in 2015. This is because Instagram has recently announced that it will eliminate spambots forever during the next calendar year, which will vastly decrease the total follower count on the photo-sharing site. Instagram has shown itself to be keen to create an entirely human network of users which is particularly tuned to brand awareness.

Instagram is now attracting vast figures with regard to daily uploads and downloads and this is something else that shrewd businesses can tap into. According to figures in the Skift report, 70 million photos are uploaded to Instagram every day, and this is only expected to increase as the popularity of Instagram escalates and diversifies in the coming years.

Instagram shifts to the mainstream

When Instagram started out it was very much viewed as a niche channel, and certainly didn't have a particularly corporate-focused flavour. If anything it was associated with fashion and young people sharing photographs of one another, but with its move to the mainstream and shifting emphasis toward being an ad-supporting platform, Instagram has in fact because the ideal site for travel-related marketing. The social sharing site combines the most intense audience for commercial content with a young and fashionable user base, and an image which has not yet become corporatised or dowdy in any way.

One of the useful features provided by Skift with regard to Instagram is its SkiftIQ service. This tracks the social media efforts of over 2,700 travel brands to ascertain which particular topics, companies, brands and destinations are currently trending on the photo-sharing site. Currently, Disney has made great usage of the Instagram platform, achieving thousands of followers per day, while the National Geographic Instagram site is currently the largest among travel-related pages. Additionally, Australia has done a great job of appealing to the Instagram community, and has already racked up over 60 million likes.

Engaging with customers in the contemporary era is increasingly a task best achieved by visual means, and in this respect Instagram provides the ideal communal platform for all travel companies and destinations to explore. As the reputation of the site continues to increase, it would make obvious commercial sense for tourism-related organisations to investigate the potential that it offers them.

The Swiss Alps is one of the most beautiful and unspoiled parts of the world, and a haven for those who relish picturesque scenery in particular. However, among the traditional skiing resorts and popular holiday destinations also reside some of the worlds most remote places.

One such hamlet is a tiny place by the name of Obermutten. This almost completely anonymous Swiss town has not been known by many people throughout most of its history, and with good reason. Obermutten houses less than 80 residents, making it one of the smallest recognisable towns in Europe in population terms.

But the people of Obermutten decided a couple of years ago that they weren't going to let their lack of size and prominence detract from their attempts to attract tourists. They decided that in order to put their diminutive town on the map, some innovative marketing would be required. So the local people got their collective thinking caps on, and came up with a scheme which been hugely successful for Obermutten.

Facebook campaign

Obermutten is based in the Graubünden area of Switzerland, which is no stranger to tourism, but even some of the more hardened destinations in the region have been impressed with what Obermutten has achieved. The locals decided that a good way to market the town was via Facebook, and that this social media site provided an ideal opportunity to engage with travellers and tourists, and gain a new prominence and reputation.

What was particularly novel about the Facebook campaign launched by Obermutten was the personal nature of it. The small Swiss town announced that it would print out the picture of everyone who liked its Facebook page, and pin them on a noticeboard in the centre of the town. Those involved in the Facebook campaign also pledged to answer every single question which was posed by those visiting the Facebook page. They could surely only have imagined how involved this would become!

Early videos related to the campaign depict the Mayor of Obermutten pinning up the first ten likes of the Facebook page to the noticeboard in question. This began as what they believed would be a logistically simple task, but the personalised, innovative and community-focused approach that the Swiss town has taken has led to the Facebook page going viral beyond their wildest dreams.

Because the people involved in the Facebook campaign kept the initial promise by responding to all questions and hanging up the pictures of every single person that likes the page, Facebook users became increasingly engaged with the Obermutten campaign. The commitment of those involved to truly engage with the audience and create a real community feel was spectacularly rewarded.

Obermutten goes viral

Within no time it was necessary for the town to invest in a much larger bulletin board, and soon it was an equal necessity to print smaller pictures. Within a matter of months, even the walls of houses in Obermutten were plastered with Facebook pictures of fans. The Facebook page not only became a success, it in fact became the most liked page in Switzerland; an achievement that was scarcely believable for a town consisting of a few dozen people that virtually no one outside of Switzerland had ever heard of.

barn mc choi

Not only did Obermutten attract a huge amount of tourists to the small, picturesque town as a result of their efforts, but the Facebook campaign was eventually widely picked up by international media. This elevated the profile of the Facebook page and the campaign itself. Overall, putting the magnitude of success that this campaign achieved into words is extremely difficult, but it would be reasonable to describe it as stratospheric.

To put this campaign into perspective and give some solid data on what was involved, Obermutten spent only 10,000 Swiss francs (€8,300, £7,000 or $11,000) on their innovative Facebook campaign. By comparison, their return on investment was pretty staggering. Obermutten earned around 2.4 million Swiss francs (€2 million, £1.6 million or $2.5 million) from a combination of increased tourism and media attention. Some basic mathematics would tell you that this was 240 times what they spent on the campaign!

Obermutten has now attracted over 60 million fans from 32 countries spread across every continent. It has attracted more Facebook fans than such notorious holiday destinations as Saint Moritz, Helsinki and Florence. For a period of time it had the most active Facebook page in Switzerland, and received interactions from such notable sources as Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Coca-Cola.

This was obviously an extremely notable campaign given the vast success that was achieved by such a tiny town with a relatively small budget. It was also unique in that no specialist marketing experts were involved.

Lessons learned

The Obermutten campaign succinctly illustrates some key aspects of digital marketing that the Digital Tourism Think Tank has reiterated several times previously. Personalising a campaign, making it interactive, and engaging directly with your audience to create a genuine communal vibe to a marketing campaign can reap rich rewards. The phenomenal success of Obermutten should make this abundantly clear.

Amazon has come an awful long way since Jeff Bezos launched the company out of his garage mainly as a seller of obscure academic books. The company celebrated its twentieth anniversary this year, and now boasts an operating income of over $74 billion per annum. Needless to say, Amazon has become the world's largest retailer, and is continually branching out into new niches and industries in an attempt to grow its revenue and satisfy investors.

Despite the massive success and diverse product range of Amazon, the company has hitherto shown little interest in participating in the tourism industry. But recent reports indicate that Amazon.com is poised to launch its own travel service, which will centre around the booking of independent hotels and resorts near some of the world’s premier cities.

Amazon Travel to go live

Amazon Travel will go live sooner than many people might have expected, with reports indicating the first bookings will be available from 1st January next year. The service will apparently feature a carefully curated selection of hotels initially, which will be situated within a few hours' drive of the US cities of New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle.

According to interviews conducted with hoteliers that have signed up for the Amazon Travel scheme, the retailer is intending to utilise the merchant model that Expedia and Hotels.com have implemented with great success. This new site will apparently attract commission for Amazon of a standard 15 percent for prepaid bookings; thus Amazon is effectively undercutting Expedia, for example, which currently charges 25 percent commission.

According to interviews with hotels that are initially involved with the project, Amazon has used TripAdvisor ratings as part of the criteria for selecting properties to participate. At this point in time, Amazon is clearly being very selective about the hotels that it allows to participate in this fledgling site, as it will include only a few properties per destination for the time being, all of which must have achieved a star rating of four and above.

In addition to the basic hotel booking facility, Amazon will also be providing editorial content regarding tourist attractions, and activities which tourists can participate in within the supported destinations. It has been emphasised that Amazon will be initially focusing merely on hotels, and not flights or other travel-related products. However, given that its obvious rivals in this field all offer flights and other tourist-related offers, it seems inevitable that if this initial Amazon Travel site is a success that the company will expand into other arenas as its tourism venture develops.

Despite the fact that this is launching in a matter of weeks, Amazon has remained pretty quiet on the matter thus far. When contacted to comment on the creation of Amazon Travel, the corporation has declined to comment. This is very much in line with the low-key launch of Amazon Travel, and it is evident that this is a venture which the retail giant is handling carefully and cautiously.

However, Amazon has been recruiting pretty aggressively with the intention of filling positions related to travel on a permanent basis. Amazon has posted employment ads for travel market managers for Amazon Local in Boston, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Dallas, and it will be interesting to see in what direction this business develops in the future.

Amazon to target independents

Evidently, Amazon is attempting to create a marketplace for retailers in the hotel industry who might otherwise find it difficult to attract customers. A high-profile listing in a massive retailer such as Amazon.com could offer a significant marketplace for independent and boutique hotels, who typically have a struggle to compete with the established chains that now dominate the hotel industry.

While Amazon has not explicitly run a travel business before, it is nonetheless worth pointing out that it has dabbled with collaborations in the industry. Amazon established partnerships with Expedia in 2001 and SideStep in 2006, and these experiences have perhaps emboldened the hierarchy of the company to investigate opportunities in the travel niche.

Future European focus?

It is thought that Amazon’s attempt to target the independent niche could pay particular dividends in Europe, even though the service is launching in the United States. The US hotel market is almost completely dominated by powerful chains, but independent hotels enjoy greater commercial success in the European continent, and this could eventually lead to a widespread launch of the service in Europe.

Competing with dedicated tourism and hotel booking services will not be easy for Amazon. A major company such as hotels.com has achieved its success by focusing on that one singular market. But the ability of Amazon to excel in numerous industries - for example, Amazon Web Service remains by far the dominant player in cloud computing - suggests that its attempts to establish a position in hotel booking shouldn't be underestimated.

One of the most intriguing technological developments of recent years has been the Internet of Things. This concept is very much based in the present, but also one that will become increasingly significant in the future. Yet although many people have heard the hype related to this coming phenomenon, most people are as of yet unfamiliar with what the Internet of Things actually entails.

Defining the Internet of Things

Even supposed layman’s definitions of the Internet of Things can be somewhat confusing for the uninitiated. Wikipedia defines the technology as “the interconnection of uniquely identifiable embedded computing devices within the existing Internet infrastructure.” To elaborate on this rather impenetrable definition, the Internet of Things will most obviously impact the general public via its ability to connect everyday items to the Internet, effectively making them smart devices.

This technology has hitherto been most associated with domestic homes, with the possibility of connecting appliances such as washing machines and fridge freezers to the Internet. While the benefits of this may not be immediately obvious, the theory behind Internet of Things is that people will be able to remain connected to their appliances whether or not they are at home. This is already being implemented with regard to such technology as electricity systems which enable consumers to alter thermostats while outside of their homes.

But it is not merely in the home where the Internet of Things can have a serious impact. Already airports are looking at the possibilities offered by this technology as part of the constant battle to improve the departure and arrival experience for customers. While both airports and airlines have attempted to differentiate themselves from one another in terms of price and value for money, promoting innovation and enhanced customer experience can be another way of attracting consumers.

London City Airport Piloting Internet of Things

And one airport is already dipping its toes into the water of opportunities offered by the Internet of Things. London City Airport faces a huge amount of competition from iconic competitors such as Heathrow and Gatwick, but it does benefit from a unique location adjacent to the financial centre of the city of London. As a consequence of this, London City Airport targets corporate travellers primarily, with this group representing 63 percent of the passengers that go through the airport on a daily basis.

Eighteen months ago, London City Airport became the first in the UK to test drive the Internet of Things, utilising the technology to pilot cross-technology networking around the airport. What it actually enabled was security lines to have the ability to communicate with each other, and then ping the mobile devices of travellers with up-to-date waiting times.

This potentially offers several benefits. For example, drivers will know the moment that customers are making their way through terminals, and food and beverage outlets can take pre-orders for customers and automatically begin preparing food as soon as customers go through security. Auto-bookings can also be easily enabled for travellers who are unable to make flights, as determined through their GPS-enabled devices.

There are many other potential applications and benefits of this technology for businesses related to airports and tourism, and it seems possible that this hi-tech project can be a precursor to widespread adoption by airports across the UK and indeed the world.

The development of the customer experience and the face of airports in the future were examined and discussed in-depth at the recent FTE Global 2014 event in Las Vegas. A raft of industry experts offered their thoughts at the event on what the airport sector should be preparing for over the next 15 to 20 years.

The 'Generation Y Traveller'

In particular, the event looked at the importance of the so-called 'Generation Y Traveller'. This was defined as a traveller of the future; an individual with less patience and greater requirements from airports than travellers of the past. These are people who are very technologically savvy, and also to some degree reliant on tech (and some might suggest even addicted to some degree). It is also suggested that this group expects superb customer service, has little tolerance for delays, and adapts quickly to new innovations that become available.

While one should be wary of generalisations, the picture of the future traveller was pieced together by looking at existing trends. And Dubai airport, which participated in the forum, is already developing the sort of flexible infrastructure required to handle the demands of the future. Mike Hardaker, Head of Business Improvement at Dubai Airport, explains that it is currently examining all of its procedures, in an attempt to improve the customer experience which the Dubai airport believes has stood still for around 30 years.

The Internet of Things can play a significant part in the re-shaping of customer experience related to airports, and both airports themselves and travel-related businesses likely to operate out of airports can benefit from paying heed to this technology as it develops.

With the tourism industry becoming ever more competitive, the onus is on destinations to market themselves more effectively to potential travellers. With this in mind, the French tourism development agency, Atout France, has recently run a Facebook campaign aimed at engaging potential visitors to France with the nation.

Testing the Francophile

The basis of this particular campaign is to test what kind of ‘Francophile’ a visitor to the Facebook page is. To explain this expression briefly, a Francophile is simply someone who has a certain passion for, or predilection toward, the culture of France.

In order to establish the category of Francophile that visitors may fit into, visitors to the Atout France Facebook page are encouraged to answer seven different questions on a variety of France-related topics. The questions touch upon such subjects as users' perception of French people as a nation, the ability of users to speak French, various cultural aspects of France as a country, and opinions on French geography, landscape and motivations for visiting the nation.

The personality test is intended more as an entertaining exercise than an intense examination of people's reasons for visiting France. But it is a way of encouraging people to engage with France as a destination in a fun way. It is also worth noting that at the end of the campaign there is a message encouraging people to share test results on Facebook, and to encourage friends or peers to participate in the test themselves. This has the intention of ensuring that the test goes viral, and additionally helps create a communal aspect to the personality exercise.

Utilising Facebook

The decision of Atout France to work with Facebook applications is an interesting one, as this has not been witnessed in the tourist industry too much of late. One of the last notable Facebook campaigns was the “Send your Facebook profile to Cape Town” app, which achieved massive success for South Africa as a destination.

What should be borne in mind and taken out of the Francophile campaign being run by Atout France is that intense engagement with an app is not necessarily important. Actually, the more complex and convoluted an app is, the less chance there is that the general public will really engage with it. Limited engagement and interactivity is in fact preferable, and it is also advisable to have a call to action at the end of a campaign. Attempting to direct people to either a website, campaign site, or social media platform in order to enable DMOs to continue engaging and interacting with potential visitors to a nation is also to be recommended.

Creating demographics

This may not have been the goal in the case of the Atout France campaign, but it does seem something of a missed opportunity for them not to attempt this. It would surely have been invaluable for this Facebook campaign to direct participants to other websites or social media campaigns. From this point, Atout France would have been able to gather further information from people who have taken the personality test, and perhaps ascertain to what extent the data can be utilised in future campaigns and marketing activities.

All data related to marketing can come in useful, but creating nuanced and intersected data which categorises people based on demographics can be extremely valuable. While it is worthwhile to make marketing campaigns as simple and as fun as possible in order to ensure that a large number of people participate, it is also worth bearing in mind that the data gleaned from such campaigns will be limited by its simplistic nature. Atout France has gained an impression of what attracts people to France from its campaign, but this information could become even more valuable if the organisation was able to acquire follow-up data to strengthen its impression of the people participating in the campaign.

Nonetheless, these light-hearted and community-based feel of the campaign is the sort of vibe and approach that destinations should generally seek to imitate in their marketing.

The significance of tourism as an economic factor is sometimes underestimated. It is in fact one of the most dynamic industries in the world, and responsible for nearly 10 percent of the world’s GDP. Other figures related to tourism are even more significant, with the industry responsible for 30 percent of service exports and one in every 11 jobs worldwide.

Travel abroad expanding rapidly

This is only set to become more prominent in the future as the ability to travel abroad becomes more socio-economically feasible for millions more people every year. Just over half a century ago, in 1950, only 25 million people travelled the globe, and the overwhelming majority of these were drawn from the European and North American continents. Last year, the annual number of international tourist topped 1 billion; a forty fold increase in just 60 years. And these travellers are being drawn from an ever diverse range of emerging economies.

In conjunction with this growth of tourism, the unchecked rise of digital and mobile marketing methods has resulted in t the way consumers book and research travel evolving rapidly. The proliferation of online tourism-related content has ensured that companies in a wide variety of tourism niches have had to alter the way that they market and sell in order to attract customers.

A recent report produced by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) entitled “Online Guest Reviews and Hotel Classification Systems: An Integrated Approach” takes a particularly close look at the hotel industry, and provides a wealth of useful information for organisations in this line of trade. The report was prepared with the collaboration of the Norwegian Accreditation; an agency of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries of Norway.

 

Traditional versus new wave

Those in the hotel industry will be aware that there are two primary ways that hotels can be assessed; hotel classification systems and guest reviews. The former of these is perhaps the more traditional way of grading a hotel's worth, with almost everyone on the planet familiar with the star system. But the latter has become increasingly important in recent years, especially as vast numbers of people are now using the Internet as their primary way of researching, planning and ultimately booking trips and hotels.

The UNWTO report assesses both of these key areas of information and attempts to draw conclusions based on the latest trends in the industry. This is really a critical report for anyone in the hotel industry to peruse in depth, but it is possible to sum up some of the most important assertions and trends recognised in the UNWTO report in this article.

Firstly, it is important that before making an online hotel reservation, the average consumer will visit 14 travel-related sites, roughly using each site about three times. They'll also carry out nine travel-related searches via Google and other search engines. This indicates that research is an important part of the online hotel booking experience.

However, as much as consumers carry out their own research before booking a hotel, reference to traditional ranking systems remains prevalent. Official hotel classifications are frequently used by consumers as a filter mechanism during their booking process, with the guest reviews then utilised in order to make a definitive selection. Thus, aiming for good reviews from customers is incredibly important, but hotels should not underestimate the importance of where they fit into the star rating system.

Star rating demographics

The report also indicates that the potential quality of guest reviews upon hotel classification increases with decreasing star levels. While three and four star hotels are more likely to attract excellent reviews and deliver what is perceived to be outstanding value for customer service, five-star hotels tend to find it more difficult to exceed, or even match, the expectations of consumers.

In order to measure the impact of customer reviews, the UNWTO reports carried out a complex research matrix which assessed the impact of reviews on revenue. Those who compiled the report acquired online reputation data from ReviewPro and hotel performance data from SmithTravel Research in order to draw the most accurate conclusions possible.

They found that a 1 percent improvement in review scores tends to translate directly into a 1 percent gain in revenue per available room. This information is displayed in a table contained within the report, and also broken down into various demographics. Again it should be noted that the more luxurious hotel is in terms of classification, the smaller this effect will be. The UNWTO report found that there was nearly a 1.5 percent gain for mid-scale hotels, while luxury hotels experienced a mere 0.49 percent increase.

Overall, the research collated in this extremely informative report indicates that both the traditional elements of hotel assessment as well as contemporary reviewing systems are important to consumers. But both customers and the hotel industry itself are interested in seeing a closer fit and collaboration between the two elements in the future, as well as the establishment of a common framework for guest reviews.

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Meet the #DTTT Team

Lucie Carpentier

Marketing & Events

Lucie joined the Digital Tourism Think Tank heading up our digital marketing activities and our extensive programme of events. With her previous experience at the Dunkirk Tourist Office promoting the destination in the UK market, Lucie has brought her own French flair to the team.

As a world traveller passionated about tourism, Lucie ensures the #DTTT is known for running some of the most impressive events in the tourism industry.

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Lucie Carpentier

Lucie Carpentier

Marketing & Events

Ramona Wagner

Programmes Director

Ramona has been with the Digital Tourism Think Tank since before the inaugural Digital Tourism Innovation Campus took place in Barcelona in 2012. Her experience of working with countless destinations, industry bodies and businesses throughout Europe’s tourism industry makes her well placed to head up the Digital Tourism Think Tank’s day to day activities and ensure our exciting programmes, from events to research, continue to set the industry benchmark in thought leadership.

Mastering the skill of benchmarking and with a passion for digital, Ramona is as passionate about the #DTTT’s new Transformation work as she is about core research and consulting.

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Ramona Wagner

Ramona Wagner

Programmes Director

Nick Hall

Founder & CEO

Nick is one of the travel industry’s leading experts on destination marketing. As founder and CEO of the Digital Tourism Think Tank, Nick has worked with hundreds of destinations helping to navigate the complexities of an increasingly digital visitor experience.

Passionate about the future of travel, Nick is an experienced consultant, passionate keynote speaker and great storyteller with a sharp understand of how to react to change and disruption.

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Nick Hall

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Rob Palmer

Media Production

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Rob Palmer

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