Can Social Media Act as a Double-edged Sword?

September 20, 2010

How the positives of social media can generate negativity for the Australian Travel & Tourism Industry.

If the Australian travel and tourism industry wants to leave a global mark, it must embrace the use of social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook to adopt and harness a strong digital strategy says Tourism Australia’s executive chairman, Rick Allert.

“As more of the world continues to embrace the Internet in new and diverse ways, this is an obvious medium we need to fully utilise to convey the depth and breadth of Australia’s travel and tourism experience,” Mr Allert claims.

While recognising the Australian travel and tourism industries need to jump on the social media bandwagon, Mr Allert advised that a reliance on social networking sites could prove consequential for travel and tourism operators, with negative word-of-mouth posing a threat for a country’s image.

Poor Mr Allert failed epically at practicing what he preached. In March of 2010, Tourism Australia launched a $150 million advertising campaign to replace their previous ill-fated ‘Where the bloody hell are you?’ campaign. Using the new slogan, ‘There’s nothing like Australia’, they invited Australians to submit their favourite photos and taglines of the country to capture that authentic, every-day Australian touch.

Within hours of launching the new site, the online campaign was hijacked by satire blog nothinglikeaustralia.net.

Tourism Australia made the terrible mistake of forgetting to register variations of their websites URL. While having claimed the .com address, this left a window of opportunity for virtually anybody to register nothinglikeaustralia.net. Mr Allert must still be kicking himself.

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On November 23rd 2007, low-cost carrier, Tiger Airways Australia commenced domestic flight services throughout Australia. On June 7th, 2008 Tiger took a walk on the wild side by embracing the use of social-networking giant, Twitter @tigerairways. While Twitter has proven to be a powerful  communication device for other Australian airline companies like @VirginBlue and @JetstarAirways, Tiger Airways lacked what these two companies were able to grasp hold of.

The second half of 2008 saw Tiger embrace Twitter a total of five times. 2009 brought on a slight  improvement with a whooping 29 tweets <insert sarcasm here>; one of them even promising follower’s innovation and excitement; kind of ironic, don’t you think? Perhaps this earth-shattering promise of excitement was the increase of their tweets, six-fold, on previous years results?

Sadly, in 2010, Tiger Airways’ Twitter account died a slow and painful death (of only five tweets) with a direct flight out to Twitter heaven.

A big mistake made by companies is the abandoning of accounts. Tiger Airways has ignored the benefits that Twitter can encompass for them and rather than shutting off its Twitter account completely, it has decided to portray a negative company image for its 2,954 followers via account abandonment.

Dear neglected @tigerairways Twitter followers, here’s an idea.

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Virgin Blue and V Australia have done an outstanding job appealing to customers via their Facebook pages with 20,000+ and 15,000+ ‘likes’ respectively. They’ve also gone that extra mile in mastering communicative channels via Twitter and corporate blogging. Despite these social networking measures, any given corporate message may be easily counteracted by dissatisfied customer blogs and blog posts, especially those that rank highly on Google.

A simple Google search of ‘Virgin Blue Blog’ reveals the top ranking result to be a blog post from a disgruntled Virgin Blue customer; it even ranks above the V Australia Blog itself. Although having been posted way back in March of 2006, this particular blog post still generates interest amongst other dissatisfied Virgin Blue customers, with comments still being posted to it as recent as September of 2010.

This example is not specific to Virgin Blue and V Australia but is just one of the many cases used to illustrate the permanency of the Internet and the power of social media.



Adding Value & Brand Loyalty by Embracing Social Media

September 19, 2010

Why the Australian travel & hospitality industry should become tech-savvy.

Having taken an immediate interest in social media from the very beginning, while Interning abroad in the USA last year, I was extremely surprised to observe just how much the Australian travel and hospitality industry were lacking when compared to the US in terms of social media. While witnessing first hand how US companies such as Southwest Airlines had embraced social media to generate interest within their company, I was silently hoping that Australia would echo such sentiments; sooner rather than later.

Fifteen months later and I’m back on Aussie soil and glad to see that the Australian travel and hospitality industry (well, part of it, at least) has finally come to its senses and is taking a walk on the tech-savvy side.

For those companies still lacking or refusing to get with the times, here is the link between using social media to attract brand loyalty and add corporate value to your company:

1. Discounts and Deal Offers

While the economy is on a mend, it is still not in tip-top shape. The average middle-class individual or family is budget conscious and constantly on the look out for travel discounts and deals; why spend more if you can get the same flight or hotel at a discount rate through a different travel agent, website or airline? While it pays to do your research, Twitter is breaking down the research phase by tweeting an immediate answer directly to your Twitter feed.

Having embraced the power of Twitter, Jetstar @JetstarAirways are a great example of this. Every Friday Jetstar tweets its Friday Fare Frenzy deals with a link back to its website for all of its 10,236 followers to see. Many of these fares are so cheap it is no doubt that many of Jetstar’s followers purchase on impulse either for a spontaneous weekend getaway or a planned vacation. Not only does Jetstar promote its Friday Fare Frenzy but also tweets other fantastic travel deals and arranges phone contact for customers that are experiencing difficulties or are unsatisfied with the service they have received.

Like Jetstar, STA Travel Australia @statravelAU is also a lover of all things Twitter. STA Travel promotes discount airfares and any travel tours they have on sale as well as running Twitter prize give aways for their 6,482 followers.

I can’t understand why travel and hospitality companies, or any company for that matter, wouldn’t want to embrace the communication powers that Twitter embodies; in essence, it is free advertising.

2. Communication of Catastrophic Events

With the ever-lingering concern of terrorism and natural disasters in the back of people’s minds while travelling, the ability of travel companies to deal with catastrophe and unplanned tragedy quickly and efficiently while still showing sympathy and concern to those involved is vital to their success.

On January 16, 2009 at 7:36am US EST, Janis Krums @jkrums tweeted these words accompanied by this photo he snapped on his cell phone:

Twitter user, Janis Krums was on a ferry used to rescue stranded passengers after the miracle landing of  US Airways Flight 1549 into the Hudson River. His tweet was the first to make headlines; before any official media or news outlet was able to pick up on it. In fact, Twitter broke the news of the incident around 15 minutes before the mainstream media alerted viewers and readers to the crash.

As Twitter user @hrhmedia pointed out , the FlightStats information website was showing the downed flight as 26 minutes late, but still “en route” to its destination of Charlotte in North Carolina. And while Twitter’s trends page, which identifies the hot keywords used in tweets, was flagging up terms such as “US Airways”, “Hudson”, “plane” and “crash”, Google’s similar trending service showed no signs of those keywords an hour and more after the incident occurred.

While not being able to find any supporting evidence that US Airways @USAirways had their Twitter account back when this incident occured, it would have, on their part, been in line to tweet about the incident and that no lives were lost to reassure the families and friends of those on board. Another great and recent US Airways Twitter example can be viewed below:

3. Generate Customer Loyalty and Engagement

While the first real challenge for travel and hospitality companies is actually joining social media communities and developing a taste for how they work, the key goal of staking a claim in the social media world is to build a base of dedicated followers who will keep coming back.

Most travel and hospitality organisations are looking for more than just a transaction. They’re after loyalty; a long term engagement between the company, brand and the customer.

The key to achieving this is by the use of deals offered exclusively through social media channels.

Airtran Airways introduced Facebook Friday Fares giving its Facebook fans unique deals as well as the AirTran U Creeper game which gives its Facebook fans the opportunity to win a round-trip flight with the airline.

United Airlines @UnitedAirlines has cleverly combined a tweet and a fare to introduce twares. These are fare specials offered exlusively through Twitter. With a following of 116,638 and growing daily, it’s no wonder so many Twitter users are following United. Exclusive deals like this one keep the customer coming back again and again.

4. Real-time Monitoring

Airlines are able to notify all followers via Twitter of any cancelled or delayed flights as they happen. This may save you a few hours of sitting around at the airport or driving to the airport to pick someone up only to wait around for hours and spend countless dollars on rip off parking fares because of a delayed flight.

Newcomer, The Honey Bar @theHONEYBAR is a purpose built hospitality venue in the South Melbourne precinct. They have taken an immense interest in Twitter to communicate to their rapidly growing list of 506 followers. The Honey Bar has even suggest it will go above and beyond to satisfy its customers…

@deltachris tweeted The Honey Bar informing them that he had past by earlier in the night but didn’t have the time to stop in. The Honey Bar tweet back informing Chris that…

Twitter has made it possible to be in the know as it happens. Imagine how satisfied one would be if they could tweet in their meal in advance to their favourite restaurant and not have to sit around and wait for it to be cooked.

Later this month, The Honey Bar will play host to the @socialmelb Tweetup (Twitter meet up); another intelligent way of generating interest and followers amongst the Melbourne scene.

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So what are you waiting for? Embrace your inner tech-geek and reap the benefits of social media today.


The Australian Race of Amazingness

September 4, 2010

Location: Melbourne, Australia

The other day I felt the need to do something spontaneous; something that would get my adrenaline pumping. I had an appetite for adventure and wanted to experience something thrilling; like nothing I’ve ever done before. So I did. Yep. Call me crazy, but I, along with an ex-coworker, applied for The Amazing Race Australia.

Since this is the first Australian season of the reality TV program, I’m ready to sacrifice my first born child when assuming thousands upon thousand of people have applied. Realistically, I’m not expecting anything to come of this, especially since I can’t even manage to receive a response back from a regular employer while job hunting, let alone a global-phenomenon reality game show. If they ever happened to call back I may just shit my pants. How lovely that would be. I wonder if that’s the sort of warm response they’re after. Fingers crossed.

I’d love to watch me frolicking around the world on TV. I think you would too.


Bahama-Rama II

August 4, 2010

Location: CocoCay, The Bahamas
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~ DAY TWO ~

I was feeling quite energized considering I’d only scored myself five hours of sleep. I can’t figure out if the incredible sleep was due to the fact that we have no windows in our Stateroom and therefore no light came creeping in or because my bed was just so damn comfortable. Waking up hang-over free was just an added bonus; kinda like the cherry on top of a sundae. Either way, I wasn’t going to complain.

We pack a day bag and make out way over to the Windjammer Café for breakfast. As I step foot into the café and take a peak out the window, I notice the ship has docked in the middle of the ocean. In the distance lays a small island which, without my glasses on, doesn’t look like anything too impressive. I wonder if this is Coco Cay, Royal Caribbean’s private island that we are due to visit today. I am hastily side-tracked by the grumbling of my tummy. Well, excuse me! The smell of breakfast aromas fill the air and my taste buds are quickly tickled. I grab a plate and am overcome by the wide offerings. Where do I begin? I head to the hot section and grab me some scrambled eggs, bacon galore, toast, sausage links, cured ham and a selection of fresh fruits and pastries; delicious. I think I have died and gone to food heaven.

After breakfast we decide to make our way down to Deck 1 which is the departure point for Coco Cay. Unfortunately, because the Monarch of the Seas is too big to dock at the island, we must take a ferry from the ship there. We are bummed when we realise the line is backed all the way up to Deck 3 but our disappointment is quickly overturned when one of the crew tell us we’ll be on the next ferry. Turns out they can seat a couple of hundred people at a time and turns out, he’s correct. As we board, I can feel the ferry wobble about while staying afloat in the ocean. I feel a sense of uneasiness and queasiness and my breakfast jiggles around in my belly. We sit there for a good fifteen minutes before the ferry pulls away from the ship and we are off to Coco Cay. We head towards the same island I was eying off over breakfast; I quietly pray it looks prettier up close than it does from afar.

The ferry docks at Coco Cay Island. Within minutes my earlier concerns are put to rest and my heart is at ease. Coco Cay is absolutely stunning. The waters are a gorgeous sparkling teal colour and the sand is so white and pure; the island is like a tiny slice of heaven on earth. The Market Place is an array of bright colours which compliment the dazzling green palm trees, adding to the tropical island feel.

Mike and Jessica head out to do their jet-skiing activity while Lauren and I walk around and explore the market stalls.  The sun is beating down on us; we haven’t even been on the island for twenty minutes and already I am dripping with sweat. It has to be 95, maybe 100 degrees Fahrenheit out and it can’t be much after midday. Phew; what a scorcher! After walking around for a while we decide to find two sun chairs, dump our stuff and without any hesitation, I throw myself into the semi-cold ocean.

Pure bliss. Life really doesn’t get any better than this. The water is lukewarm but still a welcoming cool off from the wicked heat. I doggy-paddle around for a while in the shallow waters. There is a fair bit of seaweed floating about. While paddling I can see it getting nearer so I try to blow it away. Stay away, sea weed, or you shall die a terrible, terrible death! I can’t stand the feeling of seaweed clinging to my bare skin while I’m at the beach; it freaks me out! I clear a path in the water for myself and swim down it to reach deeper waters but alas, seaweed touches my mouth. I panic. This is horrible. Terrible. I throw my arms around in a desperate plea for help. Get it away. Gross! I break free from the seaweed (a single strand, no more than 10cm in length) and I swim back to shore and lay face-down on my beach chair and close my eyes. I can feel the heat of the sun evaporate the water droplets on my back as island music is playing in the background. I open my eyes and sit up. The sky is such a crisp shade of blue; the sand so white,  the water, a sparkling light shade of teal and the palm trees gently whistle in the almost non-existent breeze. I am so relaxed. It’s a tough job, but hey, somebody has to do it. May as well be me.

After a short while, we meet back up with Mike and Jessica and grab a bite to eat. There is a massive BBQ buffet lunch on the island and, despite having our bellies showing, we do not hesitate when piling up our plates with food. I’m rather self-conscious, but after seeing a rather voluptuous lady in her late 70’s in a leopard-print string bikini, I feel a little more comfortable with myself. Lunch is great; we have BBQ ribs, chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs, fruit, cakes… I’ve quickly come to realise that cruising really is the way of life.

We spend some more time swimming, sunbathing and shopping at the Market Place before we succumb to the heat and make out way back to the ship, not before a super touristy Coco Cay group photo though.

Tonight is formal dining night aboard Monarch of the Seas; yes, that’s right, it means we must get gussied up and not look like washed up trash. We spend a good few hours in our cabin showering, shaving, straightening hair, curling hair, dressing, doing make up, you know, all the pre-requisites for making ourselves look all pretty and cute. The end result is nothing short of amazing if I may say so myself.

Before dinner we are all invited to the Captain’s Formal Welcoming aboard Monarch of the Seas in The Sound of Music Theater. This takes a while to kick off but we are showered with champagne which is alright by me.  The Captain introduces himself, tells us some interesting facts about the ship and then introduces us to the Managers on board who then each introduce themselves. It turns out to be a rather enjoyable event and we are glad we took the time to attend. After this we head straight to dinner. My choice for tonight’s formal dinner is the beef which is delicious and tender. I’m not a fan of mashed potato so Jonathan, our Assistant Waiter brought me a baked potato which I sliced in half and enjoyed with a dollop of butter. Dinner was followed by an incredible dessert for the sweet tooth. I’m not entirely sure of the name of this one, but it was similar to that of chocolate pudding, only our Waitress, Ning, grabbed my spoon, put a hole in the pudding and then poured a Kahlua-like custard into the middle. Regardless of what it’s name is, it was an absolute treat on the taste buds; yum!

After dinner another visit was paid to Casino Royale and alas, another few dollars were kindly donated to Royal Caribbean. Damn slots, get me every time! It’s a good thing we have plans tonight because I can see all four of us easily losing more money than we have to that place.

Before heading out for the night, we make a quick detour back to our cabin. Much to our delight, our room has been made up and there is a towel creature sitting on my bed wearing Mike’s glasses. It’s so cute. Pretty shoes come off, flip flops go on and off we go to the Sound of Music Theater for a night of entertainment. Tonight’s show is called You Can’t Stop The Beat and is a dance and musical number performed to us by the Royal Caribbean Entertainers. We get there early and secure ourselves front row seats so that I don’t have to wear my glasses. The lights dim, the curtain draws and the show begins. Lauren and I are quick to spot our favourite dancer from 70’s night the night prior. His moves are amazing and his body just seems to stay in sync with the beat; he’s incredible… that is until we are introduced to the three main singers. Their voices are phenomenal and the female singer has a voice that could raise the nine decks above us off the ship. Wow; what a gift to be blessed with.

The show let’s out and Lauren and I make our way to Circuit Nightclub. Upon walking in, we are rather surprised that our favourite bar tender already has our two drinks waiting for us on the bar. After only one night he knows us so well; shucks. Tonight is another night of one too many beers, singing, dancing, a late night pizza rendezvous at Sorreno’s and drunken conversations with the friends we made last night. Who knows what time or how we got back to our beds? Good times.
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~ To be continued ~


Dear Melbourne…

October 7, 2009

I you, really, I do. You are one of the most beautiful cities this world has to offer (Bias? Who, Me? Never!). You will always be home… BUT… and Melbourne, promise you wont hate on me, buttttt…

… I want to move to the U.S.A. on an E3 visa after my J1 visa expires and I’m done with the Disney International College Program.

Anyone know of any U.S. companies that sponsor E3 visas? Better yet… anyone want to employ me when I’m done? *cough* Marketing Travel/Tourism position *cough*

Pretty please?

LOVE this country

HOME: Melbourne, Australia

HOME: Melbourne, Australia