For those of you that follow me on Twitter it will come as no surprise that I have recently returned from a two week trip to the US, prompted by an opportunity to attend and speak at the 12th Annual eTourism Summit, held in San Francisco in late September.
Before going any further, I must first say what a truly great event this was. It was brilliantly organised by Jake Steinman, Sofia Williamson and team at NAJ, offering a well balanced mix of inspiring key notes addresses, workshops in three tracks and the much needed opportunity to get one-on-one and round table time with speakers.
Perhaps most impressive was the number of high calibre speakers, from a range of companies including TripAdvisor, Facebook, Google, Expedia, Travel Zoo, Linkedin along with some of the major US based destination marketing agencies.
The stand out difference between this and other conferences I’ve attended, being that, speakers were not there to tout for business, nor to sell their product – instead to provide expert support and guidance as industry leaders.
If you get the opportunity to attend next year or in the future, I would most certainly recommend it.
The first day of the conference was a trip to Mountain View and the global Headquarters of Google and home of the Google Travel team.
The opportunity for a tour of the Googleplex was exciting enough, giving an insight into what it’s like to work for this corporate giant. With staff benefits including, but not limited to free meals, free home internet, shared company cars, swimming pools, flexible working hours, transport to and from San Francisco, onsite doctors and hairdressers, to name but a few, the conversation in the group certainly turned to where to email your application! Saying that, when you consider that on those buses to and from work, free wireless internet is provided for your company laptop and Android, it does make you wonder what kind of work-life balance Google employees really enjoy.
Within the tour we were also treated to a look at a super-size Android cell-phone and an awesome 360 Google Earth experience, just a few of the toys on display! Truly – another world.
After enjoying a Google-style lunch, with a choice of 6 restaurants (who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch), we settled for a much anticipated presentation by the Google Travel team. Here are the main points that I took away;
Don’t underestimate the power of search
It’s important to remember that search is still the number one travel planning resource for leisure travellers. One stand out piece of advice was to target travellers with tailored messaging as they research sending them to specific pages within your site rather than a blanket approach with everyone landing on your homepage.
Travellers aren’t just visiting your website
When considering that travel bookers are visiting an average of 17.4 travel-related sites across the internet within an average of 8.1 research sessions as they plan a trip, it is important that you think beyond your own website. It is vital to build an expansive online brand for your businesses, utilising third party and social media sites. Throughout the summit, many people questioned the long-term effectiveness of individual operator websites beyond being a reference point.
The idea of being able to re-target travel bookers who have already visited your website was something I hadn’t heard of before, but really excited me. Just consider that someone had visited your website in the early stages of their travel, but hadn’t booked – wouldn’t it be great if you could target them again, particularly as they’ve already shown an interest in your product. With Google Display advertising you can! We were told by putting certain coding in your website, Google can use their display network to ensure that your message is re-delivered in both text and banner format.
Google have the world of search a little sown-up by all accounts. Owning both the world’s largest search engine (Google) and second largest. (YouTube) A massive 89% of personal travellers watch online video content when researching their upcoming trip. If you aren’t present, you need to be. A good start is to create a social hub with a free enhanced YouTube brand channel. Until this visit I had never considered YouTube advertising, but by all accounts it can be good value, often coming in a lot cheaper than other major social media sites and search engines. Take a look at the YouTube Insights functionality and advertising opportunities. It looks like few destinations in New Zealand have paid results…perhaps a lost opportunity?!?