We’re often told social media is the future (make that now) and of the opportunities it holds for the travel industry. But rarely do you see destinations embracing it and using it to full effect.
That is until recently, when Land of Valencia – the regional tourist board in eastern Spain, invited a group of bloggers to experience their destination with a series of trips. The first took in the city of Valencia and the European Grand Prix. My reasons for attending #blogtripF1, as it was known on twitter, were two-fold – to write posts for Sarah Lee travels blog and connect with other travel tweeters, bloggers, and destination marketers sharing ideas about social media in travel.
There are more than 36,000 Google results (blog posts, tweets, photo albums, podcasts, videos and more) for #blogtripf1
In organising this type of trip Land of Valencia was as brave and daring as it was cutting edge. Those that dare to go first with new initiatives invite those who don’t or do not want to understand to take shots at them. They may also place their careers in jeopardy if others fail to appreciate their vision. This is particularly true for social media where the regular measures of PR/marketing success and return on investment (often judged by advertising equivalent rates) are more difficult to assess. So I salute all those with not only the vision but the courage to drive this forward such as Juan Llantada, Arantxa Ros, Jimmy Pons and Lasse Rouhiainen (a crack Spanish social media team brought together by Land of Valencia’s Juan).
If these visionaries are correct, and I think they are, then the future for marketing, particularly in destination travel was cast around us in the five night trip.
Content, publicity and trends
An eclectic group of photographers, bloggers, traditional journalists, and video makers assembled in Valencia, and each brought their individual skills and viewpoints to their content output. The content and publicity generated by this disparate group of 20 or so bloggers was considerable and unlike pieces in print publications which are read and quickly abandoned to the “great chip shop in the sky” these pieces have been tweeted and retweeted, shared on Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, and more and will be viewed by people interested in the Formula 1 and Valencia for months, even years, to come.
Furthermore the #blogtripf1 hashtag was Spain’s number one trending topic on twitter during the trip and for some time after – getting information on the destination out to millions of people. Added to that there are now more than 36,000 Google results (blog posts, tweets, photo albums, podcasts, videos and more) for #blogtripf1 – a figure sure to impress any destination marketer.
#blogtripF1 was a pioneering and refreshing approach to destination marketing and aside from the obvious figures it produced the following results:
- Unlike traditional journalism, the bloggers’ stories didn’t die on publication. With social media the information is available forever online. A month after #blogtripF1 new content is still being generated and further publicity gained.
- Bloggers’ trips are not restricted to print or broadcast journalism. #blogtripF1 showed that a multi-faceted media approach can work with writers, podcasters and videographers producing complementary, and yet different reports of their experiences.
- What Land of Valencia did wasn’t new – this was a tourist board influencing the influencers. However in the past this was traditional media, via advertising and PR-driven editorial. But as the communications landscape is transformed people are increasingly turning to bloggers and online media channels as trusted sources on travel destinations and providers. As word-of-mouth recommendations become more and more important bloggers should not be underestimated as a crucial part of the destination marketing mix.