Photo: Ron Mader, Benleigh Workshop
If you manage a tourism business, the second most valuable piece of real estate you own is your website. Successful tourism marketing requires an understanding of how to make effective use of one’s website and its connections on the social web.
Planeta.com‘s role as an online facilitator/clearinghouse for travel features that spotlight ecotourism, responsible travel, conscious travel and sustainable tourism is combined with directory listings and online conferences that provide numerous examples of how stakeholders collaborate successfully.
Travelers tell me they want the names of local guides and hotels that strive to be eco-friendly. Travel agencies and journalists ask for reliable contacts. Simply put, those promoting travel and who do NOT use the web are at a serious disadvantage.
Contacting travel agencies, hotels and guides is easier than ever thanks to the Web. No expensive, long distance phone calls. No phone tag. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that many of entrepreneurs have yet to learn how to make effective use of the web.
Potential travelers want to know what kind of tours, accommodations, services are available. The internet provides direct contact to services that are off the beaten track. If it’s easy enough, travelers will use the web to make reservations. They may choose not to commit to a specific tour until they arrive, so they comb the web for updated phone numbers and addresses to be used during their trip. They’re checking Facebook and Twitter on the fly — looking for tips on the fly.
Travel agencies may say they don’t have time to answer individual requests, but if I call them up, I can get specific answers on the phone. Why are Facebook or email queries different? What it comes down to is that if a business cannot provide a timely and informative response, can they be counted on for their service?
During the research of my book, Mexico: Adventures in Nature, I asked a hotel that was touting its environmental programs if they could be more specific. “Look at our website.” I did and after five minutes, I couldn’t find any details about how this hotel is “eco friendly.”
Another time a travel agency in Oaxaca said it offered trips to coffee farms. The site was so graphics-heavy, I got bored after a few minutes. Such poor website design is responsible for the criticism of the web as the “World Wide Wait!”
The adventure should be the journey — not the quest for information used to plan the trip.
WEAVING THE SOCIAL WEB
Via the web we see people making connections, regardless of distance. Likewise, ecotourism’s success lies with its cooperation among chief players — travelers, travel agencies, conservation groups and government offices. In many ways, the web and ecotourism are evolving together — providing information and ways of active participation to people around the globe.
Communication needs to be improved, among conservationists and tourism leaders within regional and international spheres. Ecotourism is not just a niche or a fad, but a model of where all tourism must progress. The chief question — how do we get there?
I can’t say whether it’s because we’re beginning a new century, or because global communication has expanded exponentially in the last generation, or whether environmental awareness has matured, but what is emerging tends toward a union of common interests.
Via the web, we relate to each other by affinity as well as vicinity. And when we do travel — across town or to the ends of the world — we simply need the right information at the right time to make our journeys successful.