Influencer Marketing and Travel Agents. How Social Media has changed the Travel Industry.

The value of social media influencers will continue to grow and evolve, so too are the number and ways in which travel brands partner with influencers to plug their product”. (Michelle Baran) editor Travel Weekly

With the rise of influencers and ever-changing travel requirements, I believe partnerships between influencers and travel professionals will increase as the travel industry strengthens in a post-pandemic era. As a former travel agent of 10 years, I value the specialized skill set of a certified travel agent and an established travel agency.

An experienced travel agent is your trusted professional who has current knowledge to work with travel partners such as airlines, cruise lines, hotels, and 3rd party concessions. They are responsible for knowing the rules & regulations required for travel documents such as visas and health requirements and responsible for keeping you informed of restrictions and fine print of funds paid. The partnership of a social media influencer and an experienced travel agent offers more confidence in booking a vacation than booking without a travel professional. Although the influencer might have influenced a desire to visit a destination, the combination of the two could be the perfect way to get the most out of a vacation.

Social media has also changed the expectations of many travellers and how they spend their time on vacation. I would like to share an example of what I believe would have not gained popularity before sharing photos online in various networks and the influence of social media. As I was scrolling Facebook, a fellow colleague from cruise ships posted a fantastic picture of herself, similar to the one seen below, wearing a stunning dress in the port of Santorini, Greece, a popular cruise port for any European itinerary. I wondered how she could have done that in a cruise ship visit with limited time ashore. So I researched and found an interesting article by CNN (Lilit Marcus, 9 September 2021). I discovered that a local of Santorini specializing in weddings tapped into the power of social media influence and created a new trend in travel and tourism. Just google flying dress images, and you will see this trend has extended far and wide.

Adobe Stock, Beautiful Woman Run In Red Fluttering Dress in Santorini
By socolovph

Agents working with millennial travellers should take into account the generation’s preference for “experiences over materials.” Instead of trying to upsell them on flight upgrades and lodging, consider presenting unique experiences guaranteed to create a lasting memory (and to inspire a great Instagram post.) 

Juliet Carnoy, March 3, 2017
5 Ways Social Media Has Transformed Tourism Marketing

“I only see the influencer marketing getting bigger,” said Jade Broadus, creative director of Travel Mindset, a company launched in 2012 that connects travel companies with influencers. It has helped create campaigns for Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Celebrity Cruises and numerous destination marketing organizations (DMOs).

Michelle Baran
Travel Weekly

Let me know how you feel, is a social media photo from your vacation important for you?

# What’s in store for Influencers & Travel Partners?
Why Social Media Influencers & Travel Professionals should work together

Cruising exotic destinations, but if it meant limited social media access, would you?

Photo – Adobe Stock – Panoramic landscape view of Bora Bora. By napa74

People choose a cruise vacation to get away and relax, however, how much are they willing to be disconnected? The majority of guests want to check their social media accounts, apps, and email. Today the demand for a guest to access a reliable wifi connection is something that has challenged the cruise industry exponentially. Meeting this increased demand is reliant on the various internet provider companies. These companies install the required equipment and provide internet-wifi service onboard cruise ships. Depending on the internet provider, the broadband signal is shared between guests and crew. The ratio is determined by several factors and is unique to the individual cruise line, the ship’s satellite, and location. You could say it’s a moving target, literally.

Once a guest embarks the ship, they have the option to purchase internet-wifi packages, sold by the minute or unlimited. Many cruise lines offer free internet-wifi packages in their marketing for future bookings, or to high-status guests. As the demand increases, the need for more bandwidth also increases. Offering a reliable connection to cruise guests is a priority for any cruise line, and as a former crew member, it usually meant limited access for the crew, in my experience.

Photo – Adobe Stock sign of crew only By GoncaloF

Life on board for crew.

For crew who are generally away from their family and friends for months at a time, ranging from 3 to 9 months, access to email and social media plays a vital role in their emotional wellbeing. Balancing work, mental health, and staying connected with family & friends continue to evolve for crew and even more now with pandemic restrictions. I recall Disney Cruise Lines as being one of the first to offer unlimited free access to apps like; WhatsApp, Telegram, and Text, however, YouTube and FaceBook continue to pose a challenge due to the amount of bandwidth required. The standard, pre-pandemic, option for a crew member to purchase crew internet was by offering pre-paid packages sold by the minute or megabyte. Often, I believe the crew spent more on wifi than guests. The change of pre-paid internet from minutes to megabytes was likely due to the popularity of YouTube, and Skype. It’s also worth noting that work computers blocked the use of social media sites. This was more about bandwidth than employee productivity. As a Shore Excursion Manager and Port and Shopping Lecturer, I often needed to research port information for guests and was granted access to the internet from my work computer. However, all social media websites were blocked from the work computer.

Current covid restrictions have changed everything and they vary from port to port, country to country. Some cruise ports only allow guests on shore excursions to go ashore, and no crew is allowed ashore. Although the majority of ports have recently been allowing guests to go ashore and explore independently, still restrict crew from going ashore. The cruise ports are where many crew could locate free wifi and catch up on their social media and connect with friends and family. For these reasons, the cruise lines have allowed crew free access to use the internet-wifi with some restrictions such as; no access to YouTube. Described in an article posted on a crew publication – a blog written by Kgnadim on June 2021.

Cruising around the Globe; could you disconnect and leave social media behind?
#Cruising Vacation, could you disconnect ?
The #BettyWhiteChallenge Social Media Campaign (COM0011)

The #BettyWhiteChallenge Social Media Campaign (COM0011)

Photo courtesy of ShutterStock

The shock of Betty White’s passing on New Years Eve just before her 100th Birthday opened up our hearts and wallets for a cause she was passionately devoted; the advocacy of animals.

Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association president Tom Jacobson reiterated the sentiments. “Her work with [the zoo] spans more than five decades, and we are grateful for her enduring friendship, lifelong advocacy for animals, and tireless dedication to supporting our mission.”

New York Post

The social media event; #BettyWhiteChallenge was a virtual fundraising campaign held on Monday, Jan. 17, which would have been her 100th Birthday. The event asked fans to donate $5 to animal rescues or shelters in her name. The total amount raised will likely reach in the Millions, and has spanned across 48 states, and 11 countries. Every Province in Canada has reported thousands for local humane societies, and animal shelters through-out our communities.

What made this campaign so successful?

  • Was it our love for Betty White as accomplished comedic actress.
  • Local shelters passion to participate, and their capability to receive the donations with systems already in place.
  • The $5 donation request is an affordable amount.
  • Celebrities participation in the Challenge.
  • Betty Whites life long devotion to advocacy to animals.

My thoughts are that it is all the above, and a great demonstration of how celebrities (famous people) and social media can make a difference. Provinces in Canada have raised thousands, and locally in my home Province of Manitoba we raised over $80,000 !

Imagine if even a small percentage of non-profit fund raising efforts had the success of this social media campaign. I have made donations with many organizations and usually it is due to the effort made by the organization to reach out to me. Most of the time the various organizations used traditional fund raising efforts such as lotteries, raffles, mail or phone. This process of fundraising can take weeks, months or even longer to plan and execute. But I have not seen anything as compelling as #BettyWhiteChallange.

I hope we continue to see donations from this social media campaign, as well as, more fundraising campaigns like the #BettyWhiteChallenge.

The origin of the challenge is believed to have started on Twitter by a Betty fan, Lisa Powell, according to an article in Vanity Fair.

The #BettyWhiteChallange that went viral. Spanning across 48 States and 11 Countries
#BettyWhiteChallenge Social Media fund raising efforts expected to exceed a $ Million