Top social media and tourism news: Planking, #InCostaBrava, Japanese recovery

Good news: The Zombie apocalypse won’t affect the tourism industry.

If you’re reading this, the world hasn’t ended. Followers of American spiritual leader Harold Camping predicted that over 200 million Christians would disappear yesterday (aka “judgement day”), leaving the Earth in a state of chaos.

While few people actually believed the “end times” would arrive on Saturday , the web was buzzing with ironic preparations.

post rapture looting invite on Facebook

Ominous tags like #zombieapocalypse trended on Twitter while over 830,000 Facebook users planned to attend a “Post rapture looting” event. An additional 64,000 invited guests were on the fence, perhaps hoping to be raptured before the festivities. (Thanks to @TravelingAnna for alerting us to this posting).

When it became clear that the prophesy was false, Twitter users expressed their disappointment:

tweet about post rapture looting

>> Learning: Don’t count on the rapture as an excuse not to write your latest travel post. It probably won’t happen!


Last week we highlighted time-lapse videos, and this week we’ve spotted another trend that is heating up Twitter, Facebook and news reports.

“Planking” goes mainstream

Hailing from Australia, a country at the forefront of adventure travel, “planking” is both a photo-op and an extreme sport.

Simply lie face-down on top of an interesting object (stairways, windmills, rooftops and police cars are popular choices), stiffen your body and have a friend snap a photo. Post the pic on Facebook  and wait for family and friends to gush about your creativity.

Video: “Planking Craze” by ten news/YouTube

It’s easy to see why planking has caught on with travelers; it’s a quirky way to show your creativity, sense of adventure and social media savvy. It’s quite similar to other fads, like photographing the same stuffed animal or garden gnome in exotic locales, or leaping into the air in front of famous monuments.

Unfortunately, some thrill-seekers have taken planking to extremes, causing a backlash. The AFP reported this week on a planking-induced coma:

“The Internet and Facebook, they’re just dreadful things … they encourage this sort of behaviour among the young ones,” Terry Hallam told the Brisbane Courier-Mail. His son suffered grave head injuries after laying on a moving car.

>> Learning: Latching on to a social media trend is a great way to showcase your travel blog or product. Just make sure you aren’t encouraging risky behavior, unless you can handle a stream of negative comments and posts.


Japanese city turns to YouTube to boost tourism

As we reported last week, the Jordan Tourism Board has sponsored over a dozen blogger press trips this year, in order to spread the message that Jordan is safe.

In Japan, one mayor decided to cut out the middle man and communicate directly with travelers. Mayor Ichiro Kanke has posted YouTube videos to convince visitors that there is no radiation risk in Wakamatsu City.

While the mayor’s campaign is creative, it may not be reaching his target audience. As of Sunday afternoon, this English-language video had only 314 views. Japan might consider the advice of blogger @TravelingTed, who posted on Twitter:

>> Learning: If no one is reading your posts or watching your videos, your efforts are being wasted. Tourism companies can extend the reach of their campaigns by engaging influential bloggers (and their followers). Try interviewing them for your site, inviting them on press trips or simply acknowledging them with RTs and shouts on Twitter.

Blogger trip shines spotlight on Costa Brava

Costa Brava is the latest destination to embrace blogger press trips. This region in Catalonia, Spain, recently hosted 16 bloggers on a week-long visit that involved a seamless collaboration between the tourism board and local businesses.

The tag #incostabrava was a frequent sight on Twitter this week and it was hard to miss online photos of beautiful Costa Brava beaches. Nellie Huang noted on Wild Junket,

“I’m suffering a serious bout of post-trip depression after spending one of the best weeks of my life in Costa Brava, Spain.”

Andy Hayes, the editor of Sharing Travel Experiences, interviewed one of the trip organizers. She revealed,

“All of us worked to build a ‘wow-effect’ based on the idea of blogger-centric  trip. Nothing has been left behind, activities and sports, traditions, gastronomy from the most simple to the most sophisticated, art, history, culture and festival, modernity and innovation, and quality.”

Spanish news agencies picked up the story, and the blogger trip was featured in a variety of TV and print outlets:

Video: Catalonian TV report on the #incostabrava trip, from Diegoponsvideo/YouTube

>> Learning: Consider your social media objectives when planning a sponsored blogger trip. Make it easy for bloggers to live-tweet by providing free WiFi; invite writers, photographers and vloggers with a range of interests to ensure diverse coverage of local attractions.


Social media is transforming print/TV news

In the past week, panels at Columbia University’s Social Media Weekend (#smwknd) and the BBC’s Social Media Summit (#bbcsms) shed light on social media’s role in journalism.

Panelists at the BBC event stressed the importance of Twitter (and to a lesser extent, Facebook) to journalists:

At Columbia’s Social Media Weekend, a “Social TV” panel revealed how the distinction between editorial, marketing and research functions are fading. NBC News social media director Ryan Osborn referred to Twitter as the “new” market research.

On Twitter, a conference attendee quoted ABC strategist Soraya Darabi as saying:

>> Learning: Twitter can no longer be ignored by traditional journalists, media companies and marketers. It’s a main source of breaking news and a way to get instant feedback from your audience.

Starwood Hotels offers free stays, points for Foursquare check-ins

Starwood Preferred Guest members will get 250 bonus Starpoints each time they check in to a hotel with Foursquare, from now through July 31. Check-ins will also qualify them to win a free resort night.
Source: Tnooz

>> Learning: With the growing popularity of location-based services, consumers are increasingly expecting deals. Rewarding check-ins with points or freebies encourages customer loyalty and raises your visibility on social media platforms.

Japan launches $75 million tourism campaign

Japan is planning a $75 million global travel and tourism campaign aimed at bringing international visitors back. The number of US visitors dropped by 45% in March.
Source: Travel Pulse

>> Learning: If you don’t have a sizable budget like Japan’s, focus on reaching influential travelers who will help spread your message through social media and blogger outreach.

E-books outsell print books on Amazon customers now buy more e-books than print books, the company said Thursday. However, e-books account for just 14% of all general consumer fiction and nonfiction books sold.
Source: NY Times

>> Learning: Capitalize on the growing demand for digital media by contacting writers of e-books, apps and online guides to review your products/services or to feature your destinations.

Mobile users love free content

Campaigns with free mobile content increase brand awareness, brand favorability and purchase intent, while leaving consumers with downloaded content they can enjoy on their phone long after the “campaign” is over.
Source: AdAge

>> Learning: If you are developing a mobile travel app, consider offering it for free. Boost awareness of a paid app by running a limited-time “free” promotion on Twitter and Facebook.


BlogWorld and New Media Expo
May 24-26, 2011
Jacob Javits Convention Center, New York, NY
Cost: $50 for exhibits only through $1,295 for a full-access pass

Internet Week New York
June 6-13, 2011
Headquarters at the Metropolitan Pavilion, New York, NY
Cost: $15- $25 for a three-day “Pavillion” pass; $249 for an “Insider” pass

TBEX ’11
June 11-12, 2011
Vancouver Convention Center, British Columbia, Canada
Cost: $80 for bloggers (waiting list)


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About Leslie Koch

I'm a New Yorker with a passion for travel and art. I founded after returning from a year-long backpacking trip around the world. Find me on Twitter at @leslietravel.