I Left My WiFi Card In San Francisco, a review of the E-Tourism Summit

Reporting live (sort of) from San Francisco.

Reporting live (sort of) from San Francisco.

As most of you know, I had the pleasure of speaking at and attending the e-Tourism Summit last week in San Francisco.  So, for the readers of Travel 2.0 who could not be there or did not follow us on Twitter, we felt a quick review was in order.

Thoughts// Let’s review, shall we.

Day 1
Unfortunately, I missed the pre-conference workshops, US Air did not have an earlier flight, so not much to review there.  Overall, I heard positive comments about the sessions…probably a good template for the summit next year.

Erin from Destination Analysts presented the State of The American Traveler Study, which we reviewed on the blog earlier this year.  Great data, especially in terms of CVB / DMO website usage and social adoption.

Next, John from .ComMarketing presented an interesting case study on international SEO techniques with the city of Philly.  Previously, the city was receiving about 300 visits per day (correct me if I am wrong on the numbers John) from Germany.  After optimizing there keyword targets and landing pages, they increased that number to 1800.  Not bad and considering the (for now) relative weakness in the dollar vs. the euro, a good market to look at.  Plus, I had a chance to speak with John after the presentation and was impressed with his knowledge on the subject.  He gets it.

The Microsoft session was okay, more a standard ‘look at what we do’ presentation.  Of course, showing off Surface will fix any boring lecture.

Then we heard from Zicasso (we already reviewed them)…still a great idea.

Andrew from Ciceron talked about some interesting ways to monetize your website beyond the traditional display ad format.  Higher ROI, more rich media…’mini-site’ with in a site applications…

Up next was Martin (@coldinpdx) who talked about his new favorite toy, Twitter.  Good explanation, good examples.  I think this was the most interesting presentation of the day.  The audience really perked up when the Twitter logo hit the screen.  It seemed like most of the people in the room knew about the product and were interested to learn about it.  Sure, some comments like ‘who has the time’ or ‘why,’ but for the most part a sense of excitement and a bit of confusion on how they would use Twitter.  Particularly how they would attach an ROI to it.

I think Twitter is a case of the marketing world being spoiled by online.  Banner ads, links, etc, all have an (somewhat) exact number or ROI attached to them.  CTR, impressions, engagement, time spent, etc.  However, Twitter, like a lot of these social media tools, does not have a clear number you can attribute success to.  Maybe the followers number, but even then it does not seem like enough.  Of course, all of this gets down to a basic question…are we influencing others on Twitter (or any social network) or are we just wasting resources?

Finally, it was time for Google and YouTube to step up the microphone.  Guess what, people search when they travel!  Actually, as sarcastic as the sounds, this presentation did produce my favorite stat of the day…travelers typically take 6-7 weeks to plan for a trip / vacation (using Google).  I think most of us have a similar stat based upon our own research, but just take a moment to think about that.  Travelers are in the planning stage and influenced by your message or lack of message for 6-7 weeks before they book and confirm.

Day 2
More good presentations on social and email marketing.  Sorry, I was preparing for my own presentation, so I missed the email marketing one.

Jim Brody from TripAdvisor introduced the UGC 360 topic.  Specially, how to protect your brand online.  A great presentation and one that a lot of the audience seemed interested in.  For those of you that know Jim, I am sure he would be happy to share.

Next was Katy from Visionary Consulting discussing white-label booking engines for DMO / CVB sites.  Another subject that generated a lot of attention and one that all of us examine at one point or another.  Interesting stat from the state-level DMO side, only 8 (at the time of the presentation) states have a booking engine.  The short, short version of the presentation:  there is not a compelling argument to add a booking engine to your site, but at the same time, there is not a compelling argument not to have a booking engine.  So, depending on your own situation, board, state, city, etc, a booking engine might or might not be an option.  Readers choice!

Finally, we get to the main event, blogging.  Let me say that I was honored to be presenting on a panel with Chris Baggot from Compendium Blogware (who also started Exact Target) and David Sifry from Technorati.com.  Two gentlemen who certainly know a lot about interactive marketing and blogging.  And of course, they let me go first.

[slideshare id=657727&doc=etourismsummittroythompson-1224004855023379-9&w=425 align=”aligncenter”]

The presentation went well, see the SlideShare file above to take a look.  The time for the presentation was a bit tight, so I had to rush through a good amount of it.  Hopefully everyone took away at least a thought or two from it.

From there it was Chris, then Dave…who spoke more about Offbeat Guides, another post to follow on that subject…a quick chat with Dave after the presentation and then on the BART to SFO.  Who else loves public transport?

Overall, it seemed like a good crowd.  A lot of people using the free WiFi to check email during the presentations, which seemed like a waste.  Personally, I wish there would have been more questions from the crowd.  A couple here and there, but the audience seemed timid.  Like it was high school and no wanted to ask the wrong question.  Or perhaps everyone already knows all about blogging.  In which case, it was odd that only 1/10 of the audience was actually blogging on behalf of their destination.

Just a quick note on the presentation, which ties into the audience participation.  Personally, I much prefer an open discussion format, rather than a ‘listen to me talk into this mic for 15 minutes format.’  Perhaps splitting up the audience into smaller, interested groups would have helped.  More of a conversation, less of a presentation.  But, I always like instant feedback.  It is difficult for a presenter to cover everyone’s questions in a PowerPoint when I have never met half of the people in the room.

One a scale of 1 to 10, the E-Tourism Summit was an 8.  A great session, great speakers and a very nice venue.  If you are looking for an interactive / online tourism conference for next year, put this one on your short list.  Who knows, maybe I will see you there.

Comment? @travel2dot0 or email.