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Social Travel Britain – it’s a winner

Book for Social Travel Britain 2016, to be held in Bristol on April 21-22. Earlybird tickets available until January 15


By Steve Keenan

THE first Social Travel Britain conference has ended after a glorious sun-drenched two days of debates and seminars in Salisbury, culminating in a memorable dawn walk inside the stones at Stonehenge.

Some 65 practitioners of social and digital media in domestic travel and tourism gathered at Sarum College, opposite Salisbury Cathedral, drawn from all sectors: DMOs (tourist boards), bloggers, media, digital agencies, lecturers, students, attractions, PRs and more.

The DMO delegates came from as far afield as Liverpool and Newcastle/Gateshead, to Bournemouth and Hampshire – with DMO representatives from Italy, Denmark and Visit England also there to share and learn best practise. We also invited travel and tourism students from Wiltshire College to attend – some of their reports are below.

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With 21 speakers, there was plenty to discuss. “So many great ideas today – head is buzzing,” tweeted Emma Kirkup, digital and online executive at Visit Wiltshire at the end of the first day. VW CEO David Andrews later tweeted: “Every destination aiming to grow tourism via social media really should’ve been at #STBSalisbury. Fantastic event.”

The conference hashtag #STBSalisbury was trending on Twitter in the UK by 10am on the first day, and reached No2 by midday. It stayed in the Top 10 through Friday and Saturday, with some 800 tweets reaching 800,000 people. And we stayed in the Top 10 into Sunday, when delegates adopted #timeforwiltshire for the social trips.

The CEO was the first keynote speaker, outlining his commitment to digital but also pointing out there is still a need for print promotion. David Coulthard from Salisbury Cathedral told delegates how he persuaded his 600 volunteers and 60 staff to embrace social media – their comments made for a big report in The Salisbury Journal.

ant603Social campaign tactics revealed by Anthony Rawlins (right), head of Digital Visitor, included the need to incentivize digital content. “Questions work well and can bring people back,” he said. One campaign to promote Dorset on the back of Broadchurch resulted in 7,000 opt-ins from people wanting more information about the location. Influencer marketing needs time, he said, and collating email data “is key.”

Wiltshire College travel & tourism student Jessica Whiteley writes: “The key points were that when you want to start a campaign, your company should think of the tactics needed. Set out clear objectives. A checklist ensures creativity, objectives are set and used throughout. Make sure the campaign is not too complicated. Approach potential partners with appropriate themes, negotiate coverage and give time: if the partner agrees, it is win for you, the partner and customers. And when you finish the campaign, ask yourself questions such as “What was the point of your campaign?” and “Has it increased social engagement?”

Other talks included making sustainable transport sexy by Richard Hammond, CEO of Greentraveller. “We hope everything we do isn’t just labeled green – it should just be normal. Show a video of a sleeper train and a good night’s sleep, then people get it. Show a fish being caught and served locally, people get it.”

Using video to promote sustainable transport and tourism from Greentraveller on Vimeo.

Visit Wales’ work with bloggers was then presented by Jeremy Head of iCrossing.

Wiltshire College student Sophie Baker: “The key point of the Visit Wales talk was to make sure that you have an audience. VW set itself three objectives:
• Get more visitors to the Visit Wales website
• Get emails of website visitors so that you can send them special offers and information
• Get followers on social media to make more people aware of the things VW does
Get to know your audience, know the things that they’d like to do and see and give advice. Video is one of the best ways: the viewer is able to see what they can do and get an insight of the experience: if they like it, they can show or share it to friends and family.”

There was another excellent talk on how the Chinese outbound market use online to research travel from Gary Grieve of Capela Training. But things can be lost in translation. The Chinese interpret place names, such as Sherwood Forest – Forest of Chivalrous Thieves. In an entertaining video, below, Visit Britain asked the Chinese to vote for their favourites: 13m have watched the video so far.

Wiltshire College student Shiho Takada: “I was interested in Chinese travel. I really understood and agreed with the ideas. Japanese people also take a lot of pictures of food, landscapes, funny or different things. Then we post on channels and share to friends and family. We really trust posts from someone else because we know exactly where they are. Also if someone posts pictures on Twitter, many people RT: we believe them and try to go there. We live with Google. When I want information, I type several words and search.”

Both days were held in The Cavell Room at Sarum College, a beautifully light room with views out to the Cathedral. Lunches and breakfast were there (including one all-Wiltshire produce lunch), with dinner on the first night in the magnificent Refectory at Salisbury Cathedral – where we had a private viewing of the resident Magna Carta copy in The Chapter House and a drinks reception in The Cloisters.

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At dinner, we also announced the winners of the first Social Travel Britain Awards – click through to find out the winners.

Day Two focussed on blogger projects. Nicholas Montemaggi of the Emilia Romagna Tourist Board spoke about Blogville, his successful project to invite bloggers to Italy.

Then Kirstie Pelling – the #PoetinMotion entertained with her project in Cumbria to align social with video and poetry – with live readings.

Wiltshire College student Sophie Baker: “The aim is to get people to visit the Lake District without using cars or, if possible, to use an electric car. Kirstie is known for her poetry, and has been to many public places to read, such as buses and ferries. She has also posted on Instagram to encourage families to visit, and those watching her videos will be able to hear some of the poetry. There are some lessons to learn:
• Take a creative risk.
• DMOs: don’t look at the blog, look at the blogger.
• Work together in teams which will bring in more ideas.”

There was a revealing session on the ever-changing media landscape from veteran travel blogger 501 Places‘ Andy Jarosz, who shared with the conference his observations and views on how bloggers and destinations now work together.

The group then split and chose workshops on on smartphone photography from Nigel Camp (you can view his presentation here) and traditional photos from Abigail King.

And there were two workshops on family travel blogging with Gretta and Jen of Family Travel Perspective, while upstairs Heather and Zoe from Travelator spoke about targeting the 40+ quality traveller.

Wiltshire College student Jessica Whiteley: “The key points from Gretta were to make the holiday more of an experience with the family, rather than just going to mainstream places such a theme park. Take part in art classes which involve the whole family who can bond and have fun. A family blogger should consider whether they are getting a value exchange. If a destination wants to promote families with a blogger, they should think whether it is appropriate: an event or attraction may not suit all age ranges.”

Wiltshire College student Sophie Baker: “People aged 50+ are in the highest group for spending and going on long haul holidays. The 40+ have a lot of authentic holiday trips linked to art and culture, one of the most popular things to do in 2014. Their aim is to experience the country and what they do is more memorable. It’s not about how many places you’ve been too, it’s all about the experience you have.

Dr Philip Alford, a senior lecture from Bournemouth University, gave a fascinating demonstration on Twitter analytics (Read the PDF here) and was followed by Visit Wiltshire, with marketing manager Fiona Errington and digital executive Emma Kirkup explaining the thinking behind VW’s decision to promote ‘Timeless’ as the key word for Wiltshire.

Wiltshire College student Jessica Whiteley: “They needed to make a proposition so that visitors don’t just drive through. They employed a brand agency with LEP funding and used research and workshops. Surveys were included to help find a solution – ‘timeless’. The key point is that everything is timeless: cycling, rolling landscapes and places such as Stourhead. They made videos and came up with the hashtag #timeforwiltshire on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, blogs and YouTube. There are also regular e-newsletters, the website, blog and Flickr library.”

The talks were sandwiched by a refreshing Instagram case study from rising 22-year-old star Kim Leuenberger, who has several props she uses in her photos: miniature cars.

before we staged innovating Dating Debates, where delegates debated the hot topics of the day in digital/social tourism.

Kash Bhattachrya rounded off with insights of his superb Must Love Festivals, the perfect example of long-term DMO/blogger projects, before we wandered over the water meadows to a casual dinner at The Old Mill Inn and an early Sunday morning exclusive trip inside the stones at Stonehenge with guide Pat Shelley – live streamed by Kash on Periscope.

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It was an extraordinarily good debut conference, with feed back very positive (including a report on Traveldudes.com). Again, we will send out email questionnaires to attendees to assess seminar feedback and other information.

We are very grateful to the support of delegates who put their trust in us from the off, and to those who helped us promote the conference, including the main sponsor, Feefo, with support from green traveller.co.uk and conference assistance from Visit Wiltshire and Digital Visitor.