Social Media and Tourism
The first Symposium on the Use of Social Media in the Tourism Industry will be conducted in Loudoun County November 17th-19th.
I was able to interview David Serino (@GammetGuy) regarding the development of and vision for this event. David is the founder of the Symposium (#SoMeT), while Gammet Interactive is the presenting organization.
David has 20+ years experience in the travel/tourism industry, working with hotels and tourism bureaus. He was with the tourism bureau of Ann Arbor in the mid-’90s, when the confluence of tourism and web technology really began. David promoted the Ann Arbor arts fairs through web marketing; they were conducting interviews and putting photos and press releases online. Serino and Ann Arbor received national and local exposure for their efforts, so much so that the IT Department said they needed more bandwidth. David’s response at the time, “I don’t know what it is, but we’ll take more!” Since 2000, David has had his own business which advises tourism organizations; it started with a primary focus on web sites but has since evolved to include blogs and social media.
In 2008 and 2009, David worked with Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI) to host and conduct seminars on social media for those in the tourism industry. While DMAI decided not to conduct one in 2010, David realized that there was still a need in the tourism industry for just such an event and the idea for the Symposium on the Use of Social Media in the Tourism Industry was born. When David sent out the RFP for the host location for SoMeT, they received 26 qualified responses. He then conducted a voting process on their Facebook page with thousands of votes being cast by tourism industry professionals to determine the destination for this international event. The top 3 finalists based on the voting were Loudoun County; Nashville, Tennessee; and Portland, Oregon. David really credited Jennifer Ritter, Director of Sales, of VisitLoudoun with securing this event for Loudoun. I spoke with Jennifer, and she was somewhat surprised and excited that Loudoun beat out the likes of Orlando, Long Beach, Chicago, and Sonoma for this inaugural event. Jennifer is also pleased that area tourism professionals will be able to take advantage of the symposium without having to incur the costs of travel.
A couple of principles have guided Serino for the creation of this event. One is the belief that education is important: tourism professionals armed with good information and tools can make good decisions. The second is that David wanted good content and to have people involved in the entire process. One can see that clearly in the decision to put the voting on Facebook and to get input on the sessions from those who would attend.
The enthusiasm David Serino has for this event is clearly contagious, and he couldn’t help but speak of sessions like the one from Tom Martin (@TomMartin) of New Orleans on how they use social media to promote Mardi Gras, the talk by Joe Sorge of AJ Bombers on how they utilize Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare to promote this famous Milwaukee hamburger joint, or the colleague forums on Thursday afternoon where individuals from similar organizations will be able to sit around a table and exchange ideas.
As I write this, over 100 individuals from 3 countries, 23 states/provinces & 63 cities have registered for the Symposium. Something makes me think that they won’t be disappointed.