Tourism is an important sector for every country, no matter how big or small. When people are deciding which place to visit next, they search the Internet, ask their friends, and more and more are taking to social media to get the answers directly from the source. So, is the tourism sector delivering the answers they’re looking for? Unfortunately, in many cases, the answer is no.
People expect a reply on social media quickly – anything more than 30 minutes is considered too long (according to a recent poll conducted by Samantha Kelly AKA Tweetinggoddess). Most tourism pages are run by a department of the government, so there is only someone available to answer questions within office hours, when everyone else is also working and not really thinking about their next holiday (or at least not in a position to get much information). So, should the tourism sector be privatised?
If it’s not the country specifically that people are looking for, then it’s places to stay, things to do etc. Again, many hotels and restaurants aren’t as active on social media as they probably should be. I’m still waiting for an answer from a few of them about menus – and I asked in November last year! I know that not every hotel or restaurant can afford to hire someone to run their social media, but if they have a page, then they need to be present and able to answer any questions within 24 hours, at least. Attractions should also have a digital presence, and do the same.
How can the tourism sector keep up with the rest of the world when it comes to social media? They could outsource to a reputable VA who specialises in Social Media Management, or hire a digital agency. Another option is to pay their existing staff overtime to be online in the evenings and weekends (even taking turns so it’s not always the same person who is handling all the queries). Ryanair figured out pretty quickly that they would need to be online more than just 9-5, so, when will the others realise they also need to be there?
Thankfully there are some private sector companies taking the initiative and creating places for local businesses that depend on tourists. These include sites such as www.livinginnewry.com, www.livinginards.com etc., where local businesses can register and show they exist – free of charge. They are then able to contact the same company and get a 360º tour of their business, new or improved website, social media help, among other things from people they can trust, all while the directory helps visitors coming to the area to see what there is to do, see, experience etc.
Tourism is important for our local economy, and social media is an integral part of our daily lives. It’s time for the two to come together and for those involved in tourism, or who depend on tourists for their business, to embrace social media and its role in promoting them.