Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Being heard above the din of social media

Being heard above the din of social media

By Tom Stieghorst
*InsightRecently while researching an upcoming cruise in Alaska, I came across a blog about a similar cruise that captured my attention. It was written by a Vancouver teenager on a May cruise with her family.
The blog was well written, with lots of personality, and was accompanied by excellent photos, especially of the food served in the main dining room. There were also port profiles and examples of good and bad service.
The blog appeared in the community pages of the website Cruise Critic, and it drew many encouraging responses from guests on upcoming Alaska voyages or those thinking about taking one.
It was an example, as if we needed another one, of how social media has made information about cruising so much more available to customers.
A search for any cruise ship name on YouTube produces a host of user-generated video for potential cruisers to consider. Those actually on a cruise often are posting to their Facebook pages even before they leave the ship.
*TomStieghorstBlogs about cruises are another source of information that sometimes make the first page of a Google search because they have struck a chord and received links and visits.
All of these new sources of information are a double-edged sword for the travel community, including cruise lines, travel agents and the travel media.
On the one hand, they usurp the control that lines, agents and the media used to exert over the depiction of the cruise experience. Now there are sources that passengers can use to bypass those channels of information, diluting the value that the more traditional sources bring to the table.
Agents who once were able to trade on their authority as cruise experts have some competition from the neighbor, the old college friend and especially the anonymous blogger or YouTube poster.
On the other hand, all of these new information channels increase the chatter about cruising and raise the level of interest and excitement that surrounds a cruise vacation.
And blogs and videos can’t take bookings. Only cruise lines or registered travel sellers can do that. So if the extra information leads to extra bookings, travel agents come out ahead because of social media.
The challenge for the travel community is to understand the various new streams of communication available about the cruise experience and to bring professional expertise to areas that amateurs, with all of their enthusiasm and immediacy, still fall short.