The Rise Of Social Tourism

In 2009, the world saw its first major international online “Best Job In The World” tourism campaign. Queensland, Australia set out on a mission to create what they called “The Island Reef Job”, holding an online crowdsourcing initiative, collecting videos from contestants around the world. Several Canadians entered the contest, including Vancouverite, Erik Rolfsen who represented Canada in the top 16! Ben Southall from the UK, won the prestigious competition and has since been described as the“caretaker of the Great Barrier Reef” traveling around Queensland blogging, photographing, videotaping, tweeting, and ‘facebooking’ his journey.

The success of this particular campaign can only be summed up it one way:

“No single tourism campaign (and potentially no single campaign) has ever had such a significant global reach across the spectrum of media and generated such a high volume and highly impassioned response from consumers.” Vikram Kharvi, PR Next

• In 56 days had 6,849,504 unique visits, 47,548,514 page views with an average of 8.62 minutes spent on the site.

• A Google search for “bestjobintheworldisland” achieves about 52,500,000 listings, 231,355 blogs and 43,600 news stories.

Wanting to know what happened to the unsuccessful candidates of the competition? Well some of them were fortunate enough to travel there on their own dime and still passionately blogged, photographed, and shared video of their own adventures. In fact, Anny Chih from Vancouver who made the top 50 decided to undertake a three-month road trip throughout Queensland documenting her travels along the way. Her own adventure resulted in local publicity as well!

The Queensland campaign was the first of its kind spurring on numerous spin-off campaigns by other major brands and cities. This past summer was the Flight Center competition dubbed “Best Travel Job Ever”, in which Vancouver’s own Sam Macmillan was fortunate to win with a free trip to Eastern Europe (semi-finalist prize) and Australia (grand prize). It appears that the Flight Center campaign was quite successful, but nothing has garnered as much attention as the Queensland campaign.

After Sam came back from his trip in Australia this past September, a new campaign started called“Transat Vacationer” that Sam has since submitted another successful entry. Sam is fortunate to be in the Top 10 once again for a year long travel position that allows him to explore his newly found passion of documenting travel adventures and telling stories through video and photography. This past week, I was privileged to sit down with Sam and discuss some of his travel highlights and insights into the rise of social media in tourism.

It’s my opinion that a lot of the case studies have missed out on one important fact surrounding these types of competitions. The PR buzz around the competitions is great for immediate returns, but as Sam points out, the amount of content generated and archived in digital format and stored on the web for years to come is invaluable to any brand or country. Travel blogs that don’t highlight the “marketing speak” of popular attractions, but rather share insights into the unique unknown portions of a city is what can make or break a possible destination for someone.

I encourage you to check out Sam’s final part of the interview to learn about his skills and benefits for becoming the Transat Vacationer!

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