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The voice of fellow travel consumers is still the #1 influence when it comes to the most trusted forms of advertising.

According to an important Nielsen report(opens in a new tab), which surveyed more than 30,000 internet respondents in 60 countries, 83 percent of consumers say they trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising. Online consumer reviews (i.e., TripAdvisor, Yelp, Foursquare, Google+, Facebook, etc.) rank as the second most trusted source, with 66 percent of global consumers surveyed online indicating they trust messages on this platform.

Word-of-mouth tourism advertising = ‘Social Proof’

Travel advertising that works!

Word-of-mouth advertising is the ‘social proof’ that consumers will rely on more and more. Social media is no more than hundreds of millions of people sharing their recommendations and opinions. When you consistently deliver exceptional customer service and actively pursue endorsements, reviews and testimonials in your marketing strategy and communications, you are providing ‘social proof’ and getting your best clients selling for you.

I have worked with independent tourism and hospitality professionals throughout the globe, helping market their businesses for over twenty years. And over those years, there have been a multitude of marketing trends proclaiming to increase tour and lodging sales. While the effectiveness of some of these strategies have been debatable, social proof has time and time again radically increased prospects and sales conversions while reducing time and overall marketing costs.

So if you want to survive and thrive in the the 21st century, you must actively integrate all forms of social proof into your tourism marketing. Here’s how:

#1: Craft a strong TripAdvisor plan (and stick to it).

You know all of your competition in the highly sought after ‘Top Ten’ ranks on TripAdvisor? They didn’t rely on pure luck to get their businesses to the top. They ensured that their customer service was top notch, created a plan to get a steady flow of reviews and spread their personal presence (i.e., replies) all over TripAdvisor.

If you want to get more reviews, send out automated thank you emails to past guests using TripAdvisor Review Express(opens in a new tab). The customizable thank you letter will automatically include a fillable TripAdvisor form, therefore streamlining the entire review process for you and your customers. And once you get those reviews coming in, make sure that you respond to every single review: the good, the bad and the ugly.

Pro tip: If you’re not 110% sure your customer service is excellent, initiate an ‘internal survey’ first. This will allow you to understand how your customer feels about you service before you pull the trigger on any automated review request platforms, like Review Express (thus ensuring that you don’t get a flood of negative reviews coming your way).

#2: Show off your TripAdvisor reviews and rankings on your tourism site.

TripAdvisor reviews and rankings can be super valuable, but their value isn’t limited to their own platforms; they can be an extremely powerful force on your own website. In fact, they’ve made life ultra easy by providing free widgets(opens in a new tab). The widgets allow you to show your reviews and rankings on your website in real time.

True Alaskan Tours(opens in a new tab), for example, shows off tour specific TripAdvisor rankings and reviews on each tour page.

#3: Bring your testimonials to life by turning them into videos.

Stock-standard testimonials can looked tired and outdated. You know, the ones that have some kind of generic quote about how amazing your tours are. THOSE kinds of testimonials literally do nothing for your tourism business. They are simply void of credibility.

Instead, include a short video testimonial from someone who had an amazing time on one of your tours. Allowing your potential customers to see and hear a video testimonial from a satisfied customer allows for a connection that just isn’t possible with the standard written testimonial.

Pro tip: Shoot the testimonial directly after someone has completed your tour. It will capture their genuine emotions, and it will result in a more captivating video.

The best part about all of this?

It’s super easy to implement, cost-effective and has been proven to drive sales and lower marketing costs.

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