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"With their reach, social media offer enormous opportunities"

How can tourism marketing survive in times of corona and benefit from social media? Springer author André Gebel gives an outlook on the industry in an interview with Springer Professional.

Springer Professional: Mr. Gebel, tourism marketing is taking place under special circumstances, especially in these times of the Corona crisis. What effects will the situation have on the players in the industry and how can companies still attract more attention and valuable reactions from their customers through marketing activities on social media?

André Gebel: The corona pandemic has been the greatest challenge for tourism in recent decades. Airlines, tour operators and travel agencies are currently most affected. Those who are not saved by the state will find it difficult to survive with the current lockdown policy. But hotels and destinations also experience an emotional rollercoaster. Not only did we have to invest heavily in protective and hygiene measures, the back and forth between lockdown and travel restrictions also gives little planning security and unsettles potential guests. Nevertheless, some actors have spread a desire for vacation via their social media channels and still conveyed a feeling of security. Exactly the right mix that made the year the best of all time for some hotels. While some did not even open the door, the courage and transparent communication of the others were doubly rewarded.

2020 | book

Social media in tourism marketing

How vacation providers increase visibility and direct bookings on social media

This book explains how hotels, regions, airlines and other tourism providers can use social media to achieve higher visibility, more recommendations, more direct bookings and thus more profit.

In your new book you state that smaller hotels are becoming increasingly dependent on large booking platforms such as Expedia, Tripadvisor or HRS. From your point of view, how can destination or hotel providers, despite this machinery, best independently improve their visibility and thus increase the proportion of direct bookings?

With its reach, interactivity and virality, social media is a marketing tool that offers enormous opportunities. This gives brands and hotels the opportunity to become their own medium and control their content. Influencers recognized this early on and have long been their own broadcaster, reaching thousands or even millions of users. Therefore my credo is to make better use of these possibilities and to invest in the attractiveness of your own content. In addition, you can connect directly with guests via platforms such as Facebook and Instagram in order to prompt booking again and again. Pinterest can even influence the future booking behavior of users, so that, ideally, the dependency on the price war on booking platforms does not even have to take place in the first place.

Individualization of products and services is also a trend in tourism marketing. Millennials are particularly receptive to this. This has also been shown for some years by new business models, which, for example, rely on prepaid sales of personal events. Where is the development going?

The world is fast moving and screams for new experiences every day. In addition, you don't want to experience or post the same thing that half the circle of friends has already published. Users are looking for fresh content, especially when they are on vacation, because you can stay at home without social media posting. That sounds exaggerated, but to prove it, you just have to visit the tourist hotspots and watch the millennials (and also significantly older ones) pose. The spiral has already turned quite far and maybe we will soon see digital detox events. But that would also be an individual experience.

Can you name examples of the market or company that have set benchmarks for this trend in marketing?

Interestingly, the best examples are mostly found in Switzerland and Austria. I would particularly like to highlight the central tourism associations Switzerland Tourism and Austria Advertising. There is hardly a social network that has not been tried and perfected. At Switzerland Tourism it is the Instagram stories that resemble small travel guides, while at Österreich Werbung I am won over by the Pinterest site, which translates the topic of boards into textbooks in terms of graphics and content. I also like the work of Aspen Tourism in the USA, which consistently pursues a premium approach in the selection of their content and only posts images that fit the "bucket list" approach. In contrast, the social media presence of the Mama Thresl hotel in Leogang is casual, funny and almost amicable. Here, in particular, the employees are staged, who stand as a figurehead for a special holiday experience and thus maintain contact with customers via social media and ensure recognition.

You realize that brand ambassadors, so-called influencers, have developed into a veritable business model. What should companies look out for when using social media influencers for tourism marketing?

The number of influencers is growing every day and hotels are literally inundated with inquiries. I can understand some of the frustrations, and a good cooperation is usually followed by two bad ones. That is why research is also the important entry point into a partnership. The brand fit is my number one priority. The brand must match the content of the influencer and its target group. I still see luxury hotels that advertise with young testimonials whose average target group is 13 plus and will certainly not be checking into the hotel in the foreseeable future. In addition, you should carefully inspect the channels and consider whether you need a short-term push, for example to place an offer. Then an Instagram or Facebook influencer is perfect. Or you want to benefit from the cooperation in the long term. Then the partnership with a blogger or Youtuber is certainly more productive, as the content is relevant for search engines. Only then do I look at bare figures such as reach, interaction or followers.