One of the oddities of the travel-content world is that there’s a ton of information out there—almost too much, really. Go online, or onto your mobile device, or even to the shelves of your local bookstore, and you’ll swim in vast seas of generalized, one-size-fits-all advice for popular destinations like Mexico or France.
But what do people actually want? We here at British Airways we wondered that, too. We conducted some research in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and China. Not surprisingly, we found that travelers in fact most crave advice and recommendations that give them an insider advantage—the kind of information that makes them savvier in the air and on the ground, more like locals than tourists.
In other words: People want customized, timely advice, on demand. And by definition, that information isn’t available to every other traveler with access to Google. Through our network and that of our partners, BA flies to more than 600 destinations around the world, and the pilots and crews that have great insight into those destinations. Furthermore, we have a celebrated and respected travel magazine, High Life, with a wealth of content showing the savvy traveler both new destinations and new things to do in familiar ones. But with this new research in hand, we knew one thing for certain: If we wanted to be a valued travel partner, we couldn’t just put random content out there and hope the people who need it are able to find it.
We have for some time offered packaged vacations (a flight and hotel combination), but customer awareness of that option was low. What makes this service relatively unique is that we employ "destination managers" who have the enviable task of traveling the world to carefully select hotels to be added into BA Holidays’ curated collection.
As we looked over the travel-advice landscape, we realized that these destination managers’ expert knowledge of particular regions wasn’t being exploited to its full potential. We decided to get them out front, where they belong—connected directly to our customers. Each Friday during the month of May, we put our destination managers on British Airways’ Facebook timeline from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to answer questions about specific travel plans for locales around the globe.
The results showed we’re onto something. Two days after launch we reached over 200,000 views and received nearly 3,000 likes, 190 comments, and 150 shares. More importantly, our destination managers responded to over 40 requests for hints, tips and information about participants’ destination of choice.
One fan needed a base for a holiday in Mexico. Our destination manager for the Caribbean pinpointed the Occidental Grand Xcaret in Cancun.
That gained 1,267 likes. When another fan asked for a honeymoon spot in Barcelona that would help unwrap an authentic experience in the iconic Spanish city, BA’s European destination managed identified El Palauet—and offered a BA Holidays package. That earned 855 likes.
We asked ourselves: "Are we giving our fans something they want to engage with, talk about and share or something we want them to engage with, talk about and share?"
From now on, we’re going for the former.
Richard Bowden is Global Innovation Manager, British Airways.
[Flickr image by charliedees]