Social Media Travels Well

The Queensland Australia tourism bureau recently ran their “The Best Job in the World” competition to generate travel interest to the islands in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

The job:

  1. 6 months salary of US$110,000
  2. Beach house on a gorgeous island
  3. Keep a weekly blog

Sigh! Sure beats working for a living. Not surprisingly, there were 34,000 applicants.

The winner

The winner, Ben Southall, now blogs each day about his life as “The Island Caretaker” .

The real winners

No doubt Ben had hit the jackpot, but so has the digital strategy team behind this whole campaign – the “Best Job in the World” contest has generated massive media attention and won numerous marketing awards! But not everyone is a winner.

But was it actually successful?

Ironically, despite the huge publicity about the campaign, initial forecasts show that tourism to Queensland will likely drop this year. The number of “visitor nights” spent in Queensland is predicted to fall to 42.2 million this year, compared with 42.5 in 2008, according to  the Tourism Forecasting Committee.

So did the award-winning “Best Job in the World” campaign work after all? Yes, in terms of publicity, but we will need to wait until the end of the year to determine tourism’s impact.

Thailand follows suit

Ultimate Thailand Explorer

Thailand is now following Australia with their “Ultimate Thailand Explorer Contest” offering free trips to five couples who blog and tweet about their experiences, vying for a chance to win a grand prize of $10,000 USD, a Blackberry and a camcorder.

They’re looking for Internet savvy people with a good grasp of social media and various websites (YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, etc). Thailand’s tourism industry has suffered a bit of a drop from political upheaval and the current recession, which is why they’ve decided to run this contest. Lots of videos have already been submitted to their contest website which runs until September 15th.

Publicity on cheap

Both of these marketing campaigns use the Internet and social media to increase tourism for a relatively small amount of money. The Queensland Australia campaign cost about $1.2 million, but it’s attracted about $100 million of media coverage and brought nearly 7 million visitors and 48 million page views to the site.

The amount of attention and buzz attracted by the campaign will likely lead to an increase in tourism to the area, which should easily pay for the marketing costs and contest fees. Likewise, the Thailand contest is probably being run for less than a million dollars and will generate tons of coverage about the contest and from the contest winners as they blog and share their experience.

More to come!

The Thailand Chapter and Tourism Technology Association will also be hosting a ‘Social Media for Travel Marketing Seminar’ on November 11th and has invited a list of so-called “social media experts” to lecture Thai travel marketers on how to build their winning online campaign (and for those interested, the event will be held at The Westin Grand Sukhumvit, Bangkok).

Thailand’s take on the social media is clear, and it is impressive to see how keen the nation is to move forward digitally by leveraging the power of user-generated content and social networks. Having quickly learned from Australia Tourism’s success and launched a similar promotion themselves in such a short time, Thailand is no longer the turtle in the race – and the country’s rapidly changing social media landscape is worth keeping an on.

This is the power of social media and user-generated-content. Often people just want to hear about an ordinary person’s experience, not some celebrity who can afford private jets and five star hotels and villas. It is interesting to read what real people have to say about a destination, a hotel, a restaurant, on their first visit, on the other hand, airline and tourism companies benefits from these affordable social media campaigns by getting free publicity – often times on a global scale!

Travel contests of this kind willing become a key trend in the years to come, which I think is great! It gives Internet savvy people like myself a chance at travelling to places and having an experience we might not be able to afford, and it opens up the tourism to a relatively untapped market. These campaigns make traveling seem more accessible than ever before, and with the increasing adoption of social media, it spreads the messaging to far reaching audiences through more and more channels.

I’d totally be up for traveling on a tourism board’s money in exchange for generating some online buzz, as I’m sure tons of other people would be too. Who wouldn’t want to blog, tweet, YouTube, Flickr and Facebook their travel experience if it means a free trip to Japan or Malaysia or any other country you never visited? Think about it!