Expanding digital footprints in tourism -
How travel agencies cultivate lasting impressions in the Social Media landscape

Expanding digital footprints in tourism -
How travel agencies cultivate lasting impressions in the Social Media landscape

Article

Transformation

Images depicting paradisiac landscapes are everywhere we look. Hashtags make us long for the sea, for adventures, travels and vacation. But is it really that easy to get us emotionally connected? Do tourism companies have an advantage in generating comments, likes and shares because we associate the topic of travelling with a longing for vacation? We wanted to find out which companies actively use Social Media platforms as part of their Marketing strategy and how local travel agencies capitalize on Facebook & Co. to generate competitive advantage for themselves.

The German tourism market: A growing digital landscape

In terms of total revenue growth, the tourism market in Germany is dominated by a few well-known companies: TUI Deutschland, Thomas Cook, DER Touristik, FTI, Alltours, AIDA Cruises and SchauinsLand Reisen. However, when benchmarking this ranking against the number of fans that follow these companies on Social Media networks, a different picture emerges.

Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube are the most extensively used Social Media channels in this industry. The key players mentioned above use Facebook, Google+ and YouTube as key marketing and advertising tools to position their brand and sell their services. Instagram channels in particular are invested into by four out of the six leading brands. In Germany, the tourism company TUI is clearly in the lead with more than 3 million fans on Facebook alone. TUI actively uses all of these Social Media channels, and has a total of 3,165,913 followers. The second place goes to AIDA. They maintain updated profiles on all platforms and have a followers community of 1,154,190 fans. 104,648 fans follow Thomas Cook (FB, Twitter, G+, Instagram & YT).

DER Touristik has 55,722 fans on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+. FTI Touristik is fourth on the list with 37,273 fans on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Youtube, tighly followed by Alltours with 33,599 fans (FB, Instagram, Twitter, G+ and YT). SchauinsLand Reisen with only 14,337 fans has the smallest digital footprint.

Creating continuity through topic leadership

Both AIDA and TUI promote their brand on Facebook several times a day to keep their fans connected. At the other end of that spectrum is SchauinsLand Reisen: They only use Facebook every couple of days.

TUI Germany is a smart example of how a brand uses various techniques to encourage readers’ interaction with their content. For example, TUI asks their fans questions on Facebook such as “Where did you see the most beautiful sunset?” to trigger the users’ engagement and content generation. Additionally, the company uses Twitter as a conversion platform by promoting their latest product offers – conveniently summarized in 140 characters – and capitalize on user-generated holiday pictures through active retweeting. Their Google+ channel promotes their company blog and acts as the employees’ story telling forum.

Tui Post

Instagram is used by TUI, AIDA, Thomas Cook and Alltours. TUI Germany’s Instagram account showcases more than 28,500 subscribers. The British provider Thomas Cook shows over 24,600 followers on their English channel which serves various countries. As for Alltours’ fan base, it was confined to 270 followers till September 2016.

Do we ‘like’ colorful holiday pictures more readily?

At first glance, it seems easy to answer this question. Images that trigger emotions and invite us to daydream are more likely to be liked. Nevertheless, posting beautiful photos is not enough – not even in the picture-dominated travel market. Instead, the ambition here is to continuously engage with and retain customers. A number of best-practices can be found on Instagram.

TUI Germany frequently uses custom hashtags for their Instagram contests. Users are prompted, for instance, to tag their best beach photos with a certain hashtag, and to follow TUI’s Instagram account. Both actions are required to participate in the contest. Thus, the company not only generates new followers but continuously incentivizes its fans to interact directly with the page. The brand adds engaging taglines to their visuals such as “Who does the same?” to motivate their readers to comment and ultimately, generate content.

Similarly, Thomas Cook’s Instagram followers are encouraged to use the hashtag #thomascook to tag their vacation pictures from all over the world. The brand regularly prompts their fans to tag images to capitalize on their followers’ creative potential. This constant flow of user-generated content fuels their own company’s Instagram account.

thomascook

But how do the local travel agents compete in this increasingly-digitalized playground?

The travel agency next door: The First Reisebüro Dormagen

A search on Facebook for the keyword “travel agency” shows the First Reisebüro Dormagen high up in the hit list. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to a digitally-savvy eye: Not only has the First Reisebüro Dormagen an impressive number of 1,264 fans on Facebook, they also record a decent number of positive customer reviews.

The company publishes posts on a regular basis and does not shy away from using their own boss in testimonials, as a key influencer. Through various apps implemented on their Facebook page, they allow their users to access the booking function while familiarizing themselves with the First Reisebüro Dormagen’s team. This feature gives their page an unobtrusive but personal touch to the brand which creates a feeling of belonging.

i hart FRB

But how does the First Reisebüro Dormagen evaluate their own use of Social Media? According to owner Axel Güttler, many customer requests come directly through Facebook. Moreover, the First Reisebüro Dormagen actively and proactively engages with their customers on their Facebook page and encourages them to use the “like” button more often. They also amplify some of their posts, i.e. increase their visibility through advertising, reaching thereby a greater range of customers.

The owner qualifies the company’s budget invested in Facebook as reasonable. In the last three years, his team invested less than 100 euros. While managing the Facebook page is a relatively time-consuming activity, it is also free and serves essentially as an additional channel to promote his business and his latest offers.

In brief:

The tourism industry has been riding the Social Media wave for a while now, showing various degrees of channel coverage and activation. Facebook and Google+ continue to be the most extensively-used engagement channels. While AIDA, TUI Germany, Thomas Cook and DER Touristik regularly engage with their fans on various channels through inspiring and meaningful content, FTI, Alltours and SchauinsLand Reisen are less digitally-engaged, which shows on their rather limited Social Media footprint. The mechanics and importance of user-generated content seem to be fully understood and embraced by the industry leaders.

First Reisebüro Dormagen has proven that target Social Media channels activation on a smaller scale can yield positive results for the brand. Topic leadership and constant interaction with the customers, on-line and off-line, proved to be key success drivers for this travel agency next door.
The next holiday is, after all, just a click away.

Convidera guides corporate decision makers through the expansion of their digital presence and supports them with the creation, the publishing and the measurement of their content strategy.

Contact us for more details.