How the Travel Industry Should Use Twitter

Twitter, how we love thee.

Twitter, how we love thee.

A few weeks ago, my wife Lesley and I were waiting in line for a ride at Disneyland  discussing the pros and cons of organizations, particularly tourism agencies, utilizing Twitter.

After telling the tale of how we were setting up our Twitter strategy at VISIT DENVER, we both agreed that Twitter was not simply a pipeline for distributing non-stop marketing messages, but an opportunity to take advantage of Twitter’s infrastructure to communicate with your audience.

Personally, we, like most consumers, follow the interesting conversations and ignore the marketing fluff.

To that end, Lesley suggested a new use of Twitter for Disneyland.

‘If Disneyland would pay me, I would walk the park and tweet the ride wait times…now I would follow that…that would be a useful service.’

My response was that Disneyland already has a cast member working the ride time wait board.  They answer questions, help guests and literally erase and update wait times on a (granted, really nice) chalkboard.

‘Why are they not taking advantage of this?’

Which got me thinking…how should the travel industry use Twitter?

Thoughts// Okay, let’s get the background info out of the way.  Oregon, by all accounts…namely this one…started tweeting first, then we wrote some posts about the phenomenon that is Twitter and the tweets began.  Now, most…yeah, we can safely say most…CVBs, airlines, rental car companies, hotels, plus your brother, are now on Twitter.

Some in the travel industry use Twitter as a way to establish a new, never before realized form of communication with their consumers.

Others do not.

Theme Parks

Let’s kick off the online fountain of knowledge that is this post with theme parks…namely Disneyland.

As we talked about above, there are ways a theme park such as Disneyland can look beyond simply sending out marketing messages on Twitter.  How can they use the service to provide value to consumers?

The wait time idea is relevant, provides a service that anyone with a 10-year old can appreciate and will prevent you from walking across 6 themed lands of non-stop fun only to find that Pirates of the Caribbean is closed because of those robots (Disney fans, audio-animatronics) got loose.

Additionally, think of Twitter as an opt-in list.  In this case, the family has been to Disneyland, signed up for the updates and completed their vacation.  Now, how to you transfer them to another Twitter account to continually remind them of the vacation and encourage a repeat visit.

For some people, just receiving updates on what is going on at Disneyland is reason enough to subscribe…regardless if they are there or not.

Now, if Disneyland only monitored the trends and claimed their Twitter name years ago, this might be an easy addition.

Even still, a good use of Twitter beyond simply sending out messages reminding people that the Rainforest Café now serves breakfast! (FYI, they don’t.)


Ah, our friends at @southwestair and @jetblue, truly, two of the pioneers when it came to the travel industry chirping its way onto Twitter.  They both do a great job of talking with consumers on Twitter.  And, I would venture to guess, provide a good ROI when compared to more traditional loyalty programs.

On the horizon for airlines, pun absolutely intended, is in-flight internet access and the effect that 30,000ft wireless will have on Twitter.  Tweets will no longer be put on hold after you board.  Communication, pick-up arrangements (I will be at baggage claim!), even criticism of the flight will happen in real-time.

Perhaps another look at the opt-in list idea would be helpful to airlines.  Why not ask travelers for their Twitter ID along with their address and email when purchasing airline tickets.  Sure, a bit of explanation would be needed to quell any Twitter spam concerns, but this information could be useful as the tools built around Twitter continue to advance.

Could an in-terminal tweet-up be possible to pass the time between flights?  A Dopplr / Twitter / Airline mash-up seems inevitable.  Or perhaps a feature that would show in-flight tweets on your Southwest profile page.  A map that would tally, display and show your on-board, Southwest tweets.  Honestly, just the flight map would be an interesting addition.

Just a few ideas for a vertical that is already ahead of the Twitter curve.

Cruise Ships

Like airlines, the cruise industry is rapidly adopting free ship-wide wifi, which means you are never far away from a 140 word update.

@cruiseguy: On deck, drinking a pink drink with an umbrella in it, watching the sun set.

Beyond simply frustrating your land-bound followers, how could the cruise lines take advantage of the fact that a large percentage of their guests will have cell phones, internet access and possibly a Twitter account.  Again, utilizing the technology infrastructure that is already available.  Simple updates about cruise deals are not valuable to guests already on-board.

What if, for example, each Carnival Cruise (@carnivalcruise) line ship established an individual ship Twitter account.  This account, run by the Cruise Twitter Director (for the record, we coined that), could update on-board guests about special events and that day’s schedule.  Real-time updates would allow more flexibility than a daily printed schedule.  Ship specials, drink specials, show times, dinner times, reminders that you should be on-board because the Splendor is pulling away from the dock…all valuable.

And again, using Twitter as an opt-in list would allow Carnival to continue to market to these passengers after the cruise:

@carnivalsplendor You should really be on board today. Sunny, 85, 2 for 1 drinks all while docked in Cabo.

Ski Resorts

Colorado and skiing just goes together.  So, how could resorts like Vail (@vailmtn), Aspensnowmass (@aspensnowmass) and Copper Mountain (@coppermtn) tweet about more than just deals and lift tickets?

Like the examples above, so much of this depends on the availability of internet access / cell service and the fact that people now ski with their cell phone in a jacket pocket.  And like the Disneyland example above, how could Vail or Beaver Creek use Twitter to provide guests with updates they find value in.

If you have been skiing, what is the first thing you check in the morning? That would be temperature and trail conditions.  Now, why not use the community and crowd sourcing power of Twitter to provide skiers with real-time updates from other skiers on the conditions.  For example, Vail could create a hashtag like #vailruns, promote the fact that anyone skiing could tweet an update with the latest trail conditions.

Using the power of crowds, plus employees of Vail, the hashtag could provide a valuable resource for skiers / snowboarders who previously only learned about the trail conditions during a morning report.

@skidude: Epic conditions on chopstix at the china bowl. Good powder, only a few tracks. #vailruns

Real-time ski condition updates…a way to provide value and create loyal customers.  Loyal customers who have given you their Twitter name and want to hear from you.

Your Thoughts?

The examples above are simply that, examples and ideas on how the travel industry can take advantage of not just Twitter, but the access that Twitter provides.  How can you take your Twitter strategy beyond a one-way dialogue?

If you want to inform your consumers using a one-way dialogue, stick with email.

If you want to create valuable content, talk with travelers, receive feedback and develop loyal consumers start thinking about how you can really use Twitter.

And not just send out marketing fluff.

We have enough tweets about that already.

Comment? @travel2dot0 or email.