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Is Twitter The New Travel Agent?
More and more, travelers are turning to Twitter to make their travel plans. What's great about Twitter is you can interact with people, regardless of whether you follow them or they follow you. Additionally, you can search for information based on a topic with a simple hashtag. For example, if you're going on an around-the-world trip, you can search the hashtag #rtw. You can also post your own questions and hashtag the tweet, to make it easier for knowledgeable travelers to find your questions.
Currently, there are over 140 million active Twitter users, with 400 million Tweets being sent per day. And in terms of getting diverse resources and advice, the social media platform supports over 28 different languages, with 70 percent of user accounts being outside the United States.
One main reason many people turn to Twitter for travel planning is because there is a wealth of information, and an endless supply of resources. While traditional travel agents set clients up with tours and packages offered by only their partners, Twitter aggregates millions of people giving advice, tips, deals, contest offers and packages. Moreover, you'll be able to get lesser-known destination tips from people who've actually taken a similar vacation.
Businesses On Twitter
Businesses are also catching on to Twitter, as they see the potential to get their brand and deals out there. For example, Jetsetter tweets from @Jetsetterdotcom to build a following and converse one-on-one with members and potential members. They answer questions about tours and hotels on their site, and because they have over 30,000 followers, it's easy for them to get helpful travel information out to interested parties.
"We use Twitter to share advice and expertise, but also to inspire, similar to the role agents play," explains Jon Goldman, the website's Social Media Manager. "Twitter enables us to talk one-on-one with our members. But, unlike agents, we can scale the conversation and inspire and assist thousands of people in one day. Our handle, @jetsetterdotcom isn't limited to appointments or office hours. It's a balance of high touch personal service, but at scale."
Warren Chang, Vice President and General Manager of Fly.com, agrees that Twitter is an excellent way for the company to get their brand recognized, while also helping travelers find deals.
"The real benefit of Twitter is that it is lightning fast," says Chang. "It takes less than 5 minutes from seeing a fare you want to take advantage of, to actually booking it. In many cases, the best deals disappear within hours or even minutes. For example, we tweeted three incredible Europe deals, which reached our Twitter followers about an hour before we published them via Travelzoo. These fares were sold out within only a few hours, so our followers had the leg up."
It's also a great way to offer feedback to travel companies for quick, sometimes real time responses. For example, when my luggage was recently lost on a United Airlines flight, I couldn't get in touch with a real person via the phone number they provided. Hoping to speak with a non-robot, I sent a tweet to @UnitedAirlines asking them how to find out about my lost baggage, and was sent a response within the hour from a company representative.
How To Use Twitter For Travel
Another way Twitter seems to be trumping traditional travel agents is the vast amount of different resources available on one website. When you go to a travel agent, there are a set number of trip possibilities and prices, because your agent is only working with select companies. With Twitter, however, there are a lot more possibilities to find unique information, deals and tips in one place, no matter where you're going.
For flight bookings and deals, you can search using @Delta, @AmericanAir or any other airline account name, with the search term "sale." To stay on top of special offers, you can follow the airlines you travel with the most, who often post their sales to Twitter. Moreover, airlines like @VirginAmerica reward their Twitter followers by tweeting out deals, contests and sales – sometimes even before they let anyone else know. This means Twitter users will always be first to grab a seat.
- @SouthwestAir: "Travel should always be #wrinklefree Enter to win a getaway & new travel wardrobe from SWA & @DockersKhakis social:southwest.com/Qoy" (tweet)
- @JetBlueCheeps: "Getaways Cheeps! $215pp/dbl occ limited avail 2nt pkgs to Las Vegas w/air from BOS or JFK. Terms apply. cot/ag/KDuvlb" (tweet)
- @airfarewatchdog: "#Philadelphia to #SanDiego $241 RT incl. all taxes. bit.ly/NROpxz on #Delta. #Travel thru Dec. 25 #PHL #SAN" (tweet)
To help people find trip accommodations, Twitter users can follow their favorite hotel brands, for example @Fairmonthotels or @Marriottintl, to find special promotions. Or, if they're unsure of where to stay, searching via hashtag is effective. For example, searching #vegas #hotel together in the search box brings back a plethora of hotel promotions and deals. Some good Twitter handle and tweet examples include:
- @Travelzoo: "Stay 2 wknd nts @HolidayInn, @CrownePlaza & other @IHG_Deals hotels, get a $75 prepaid MasterCard. ow.ly/bUV50 #travel #deals" (tweet)
- @HyattConcierge: "@ThreeMiz For August 25-28, 2012 we can offer you a breakfast package for USD 627.00 plus 14.4% Tax total for all 3 nights" (tweet)
- @hotelsdotcom: "Tweet a picture of your "perfect place" to @hotelsdotcom, along with #Bedventure, to be entered to #win 10 Welcome Rewards credits! #contest" (tweet)
Once you've secured air and hotel, vacationers can do a search to find tweets in the area. For example, plugging in search terms like "#party #nightlife Vegas" will show you tons of tweets from real people, brands, hotels, celebrities and others that give you an idea of where people seem to be having fun. This is also a great way to find links to articles on the topic from sources that are most relevant to you. Some good Twitter handle and tweet examples include:
- @TheVegasFoodie: "**TONIGHT!** @ChefMichaelMina's @STRIPSTEAKLV Hosts @The_Macallan dinner, @MandalayBay | #vegas #food #events -- pic.twitter.com/g7HhRonA" (tweet)
- @NY_Now: "Latest buzz for shows: sch.mp/aoxPt- RT @BigShotBand We start playing tonight at 8:30pm sharp at Brooklyn Fireproof East" (tweet)
- @hummingbird604: "Love musicals? You should enter my giveaway for Altar Boyz (@TheArtsClub) bit.ly/KOhzyO" (tweet)
Using Twitter to follow local food bloggers and celebrities can help travelers get information they wouldn't get from a travel agent, or probably even a guidebook. Once you figure out your destination, you can search for bloggers who tweet about food and that particular destination. Some good Twitter handle and tweet examples include:
- @ericisaac: "This is Dom. He makes the best pizza ever. Have you ever tried the best pizza ever? fb.me/13QuxHnTK" (tweet)
- @katieparla: "Banana, Pakistani mango and watermelon #gelato at Otaleg #rome #roma #food instagr.am/p/Mbr53Kn-d5/" (tweet)
- @NEWWORLDREVIEW1: "Octopus & fish brochettes @hoteldco #mancora #peru pic.twitter.com/Xert8Khy" (tweet)
Travelers can also take advantage of discounts in the city they are going to visit, by following that area's @Groupon, @LivingSocial or other discount company handles. You can find deals on everything from sushi to seaweed spa wraps.
For those looking to get tips about a destination or just learn about the area's safety, Twitter can provide this, as well. Twitter is best for real-time information. Travel alerts that may not be updated on websites are certainly being tweeted out from accounts like @151TravelTips or the State Department's @TravelGov for up to the minute alerts on your mobile device. Some top travel bloggers and writers to follow include @earthXplorer, @Vagabondish, @nytimestravel, @PeterSGreenberg, @adventuregirl and @GotSaga.
Do you think Twitter is the new travel agent?
[images via stevendamron, Jessie on a Journey, mroach, Kuster & Wildhaber Photography, Son of Groucho, Jessie on a Journey, rob_rob2001, 401K 2012]