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Issues & Trends – February 2012

Social media, the new ‘word of mouth’ in travel marketing

SMALL independent wholesaler Bunnik Tours and giant cruise com-pany Carnival Australia have provided two of the latest examples of the marketing potential of social media.

Bunnik Tours managing director Dennis Bunnik has turned to social media in a bid to turn around public sentiment that is hampering a recovery in Egypt bookings following last year’s overthrow of the Mubarak government.

He headed to Egypt earlier this month and will travel with a number of his company’s tour groups before returning to Australia on March 1.

“I’ll be visiting all the sights includ-ing the pyramids, Luxor, Nile cruise, Aswan and Abu Simbel,” he said.

“I will also be meeting with the chairman of the Egyptian Tourism Authority to discuss ways to get Australians back to Egypt.

“While many European countries are back in Egypt Australian travellers have been slower to return.

“But every Bunnik Tours passenger to travel to Egypt over the past 10 months has been coming back raving about the country and the wonderful hospitality.

“The challenge for us, and the rest of the Australian travel industry is to communicate that Egypt is open for business and that tourists are safe.”

Bunnik intends to use social media to tackle the problem. He has already put a pre-trip story on the company’s blog and says he will be updating it regularly during his stay in Egypt.

He will also be posting pictures on the Bunnik Tours Facebook page and is looking to post videos on YouTube.

“It’s vital that we get a more balanced picture out on Egypt and that the travel industry knows what’s happening,” he said.

Meanwhile, Facebook and Twitter have been big successes for P&O Cruises with director of marketing Simon Cheung calling the social media “marketing gold”.

P&O’s Facebook site has more than 55,000 friends who regularly share their excitement about upcoming cruises, swap stories and make plans to meet up with fellow cruisers, Carnival Australia chief executive

Ann Sherry told agents attending the line’s Partnership Summit aboard Pacific Dawn late last year.

The Facebook page is completely authentic, she said, with Carnival deciding not to moderate comments, while the company attempts to answer any critics quickly.

Cheung said: “People post things (on Facebook) such as ‘109 days to go’ before their next P&O cruise, and ask other cruisers for advice about what goes on.

“The pre-cruise period is very important. It’s the time that first-time cruisers look for information after they have booked. And these findings prompted us to launch pre-cruise an email incentive scheme.”

Carnival Cruise Lines, which is set to launch in Australia in October with the superliner Carnival Spirit has more than 7000 Facebook fan.

The site has asked them to suggest the best beers to be served on board, along with nominating baristas to teach the staff to make good coffee, while it launched a competition for its “friends” to name its waterslide, with the winner choosing “Green Thunder” for the thrill ride that includes a 10 metre near-vertical drop and a section that swings out over the ocean.