Online Travel

It is January. You are online checking to see where you will go during the Summer and you are reading the live tweets of a honey badger. Welcome to the 21st century. This is how the internet has changed travel and tourism.

Live Tweeting in the Zoo

Everyday I’m badgering

The impact of technology on society
Like the internet, tourism is a particularly 20th century phenomenon. Until the 1950s, jetting about was the perogative of the wealthy. As airplane technology changed, travel became more accessible. Airline Reservation Systems were created to manage information that was previously processed by humans. Like the defense industry, the use of computers allowed a network system to develop into what were known as Computer Reservation Systems. These developed into Global Distribution Systems such as Amadeus and Galileo in the 80s, allowing local travel agents to check real-time flight schedules, availability and prices. They could make bookings and issue tickets. I remember making the journey from North London to Ilford to a particular travel agent who could guarantee me a flight home at Christmas. It was a time consuming and complicated process but it was the only way of getting a flight without going directly to the airport.

Remington Rand Computer  : Consolidated/Convair Aircraft Factory San Diego Equipment

Image Credit – SDASM Archives
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Early Travel Agent

The travel industry was perfectly placed to take advantage of the internet in the 90s. It was already set up to solve logistical problems and it involved information management, PR, customer service and sales. Airlines began to reduce the need for travel agents, although there will always be a need for gatekeepers. Online Travel Agents took advantage of better information flows to present different travel options. Websites provided 24/7 access, multichannel contact, online support and a constantly improving user experience. In return they got consumer information. Online Tourism was central to this change through the use of professional reviews and User Generated Content.

The impact of society on technology
Like other areas effected by the internet, it was online behaviour that changed things. Tourists search for information for different reasons and at different times. Most of us use the internet to research an upcoming trip. We look for inspiration. We read reviews and blogs or read the tweets of honey badgers to get a feel for a place. We check the weather channel for real time reviews of our destinations. Geomapping services like Google Maps and Google Street View allow us to get more enhanced information and actually view places before visiting. Moving from research to purchase involves the building of trust. No-one likes to hand over credit card details for that hotel which looks beautiful in the brochure but which could be next to a building site. This is where clever companies set themselves apart from others by creating content that is authoritative, useful and engaging.

Once we get there, we check in on location based services such as Yelp and Foursquare to find where to eat. We use specific apps such as Tripit Travel Organiser to make travelling easier. We have cabs pick us up using Hailo. Pinpin ATM Finder directs us to the nearest cashpoint. Tube Exits tell us which carriage to get on so we can off as close to our exit as possible. Cultural tourism providers are aware of the power of sharing and places like the Rijkse Museum attract travellers by sharing their content online. Even in Ireland, we have our own live tweeting giraffe called Spotticus in the Natural History Museum. What do we do when we return home? We upload our pics to Facebook. We become broadcasters ourselves. While there are many reasons why people choose to communicate the benefits of locations to other travellers, the result is more information which feeds back into someone elses holiday research.

Herbert George Ponting and telephoto apparatus, Antarctica, January 1912

Image Credit – NZ National Library
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Early instagram

Where to next?
So where do you see the travel industry changing as a result of technology in the future? Do you go offline on holidays or do you use location based technology to discover more relevant experiences? My feeling is that there will be an increase in holidays finding me rather than the other way around. Social and User Generated Content is definitely here to stay, but the big growth right now is in M-Commerce. This is not surprising. Travel is all about mobility. The ease of paying online through smart phones is what consumers are looking for. As internet penetration grows and demographics change, mobile usage will follow. Trust in M-commerce will develop just as it did in early online travel.


Digital Recipe

In this post I am going to share with you my tried and trusted recipe for creating a blogging editorial calendar for the year ahead. Whether you are a multinational giant or a multitasking mommy blogger, this involves a creative process. You will be creating content out of thin air, mixing mediums and producing digital sizzle. It will not take long. Any longer than two hours and it will be overcooked.
Let’s go!

Church & Co.

Image Credit – Miami Digital Collections
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1. Who are you cooking for?
This is the hardest part of the process and the one that most people want to skip because they think that their content will suit anyone who arrives at the table. Even if you blog for yourself (which a lot of people do), creating the same content over and over usually gets bland. If you have a blog already, you know who usually turns up. I suggest you create personas for them. Give them names. Research them as much as you can. Stick pictures of them on the wall, with quotes. Be a regular stalker host.

Verklede gasten aan de feestdis in een van de Parijse ateliers / Costumed guests at the banquet in one of the Parisian studios

Image Credit – Nationaal Archief
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2. Gather your main ingredients
Create a list of at least 5 topics that your readers are interested in. For example, for a tourism blog, they might be landscape, activities, off the beaten track, culture, food, etc. Throw them all into the pot. These are the basic flavours that you will be working with.

Fruit Venders, Indianapolis Market, aug., 1908. Wit., E. N. Clopper.  Location: Indianapolis, Indiana. (LOC)

Image Credit – Library of Congress
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3. Apply heat or pressure
Use questions to stir the topics. Each topic should be broken down into at least 5 smaller pieces. For example, what is it about each topic that your readers are interested in? What problems or concerns do they have about them? What are the trends relating to these topics. Why do some people like these topics and others make that face like they just bit a lemon?

4. Add your sizzle
Now put your own ideas in. What is coming up in the next year that you are interested in? Any conferences, any marketing pushes, new products coming out? What do you want to blog about? This part is about your interests. Yes, we want to hear about you. Not on and on, but if you have something of value to bring to the table, now is the time to add it. This will keep your marketing team/accountant/ego happy and create a few more posts.

5. Think about service
You added the sizzle so do not forget about the style. Or the sizzle will sozzle. This is what separates the cooks from the chefs. Would you serve a soup with chopsticks? Would you put the heirloom cutlery out for burgers? In the heat of the creative moment we can rush to get the food on the table.
A blogpost can be served in a particular way. They can be textual, audio-visual, mixes, lists, guest posts, recaps, reviews, how-tos, best ofs and opinions. There are probably more ways too. What is the best way to frame your content? Thinking about this often creates fantastic new content. It can transform a dry bloated information piece into something that jumps off the screen and flies.

Met de slee van de springschans / Sleigh leaving ski-jump

Image Credit – Nationaal Archief
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6. Timing
Just like any kitchen exercise, timing is everything. So too with blogging. Get your calendar out and assign each post to where it will be most effective.

Voila, you have an annual blogging calendar that is tied into your marketing objectives/personal creative desires. You have just gone from the dread of creating content to having the bones of at least 25 crafted specialities for the year ahead. You have a work schedule. You have ideas. You have sizzle, and you still have time to add in your on-the-fly pieces.

All that is left is the writing, and that is the fun part.


Image Credit – US National Archives
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