Americans have always loved their road trips, and during a down economy, tourism to destinations in the U.S. is more popular than ever: according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, spending on domestic tourism increased from $610 billion in 2009 to $654 billion in 2011, and is projected to reach $675 billion in 2012. Meanwhile more and more U.S. cities are using social media to attract some of those itinerant dollars.
Earlier this month the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention board launched discoverLosAngeles.com, a new Web site with social integration at a number of levels. The site uses a map-based neighborhood approach to introduce each area, and overlays suggestions from celebrities detailing their favorite activities. Facebook and Twitter are incorporated in to the site to allow real-time sharing and feedback, along with online services such as hotel booking capabilities and Open Table for restaurant reservations.
Don Skeoch, LA Tourism’s chief marketing officer, summed up the social approach: “We combined the best aspects of a travel guide with the best aspects of talking to a local.” The site also offers virtual tours, an event calendar, and an “experience builder” where users can compile a list of activities they want to do.
Meanwhile the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, which operates under the “Visit Philly” slogan, is also rolling out new social media initiatives, including a partnership with Google Field Trip, a Visit Gay Philly Facebook promotion for LGBT travelers, and new Pinterest boards and Foursquare itineraries.
In the first initiative, Uwishunu.com will provide Google Field Trip (which is currently available for Android, and coming soon for iPhone) with information about Philly museums, attractions, parks, theaters, restaurants, and hotels, among other things. The Facebook promotion, Visit Gay Philly, helps LGBT visitors figure out which Philly neighborhood best suits them (the city has five main gay neighborhoods) and also offers prizes like tickets to a Lady Gaga concert and gift cards to Philly restaurants. Finally, GPTMC also unveiled Pinterest boards devoted to Philadelphia weddings and day trips, and Foursquare activities lists covering the gamut from high culture to an “It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Itinerary,” which takes users to places characters from the show hang out (presumably, not all of these destinations are dive bars).
Meryl Levitz, president and CEO of GPTMC, noted that “in a recent survey of 1,000 fans and followers, 73% of respondents said they attended an event or visited an attraction they learned about through one of our social media properties.”