Visit Britain’s on a UGC harvest

VisitBritainReview VisitBritain Britain's national tourism agency is responsible for marketing Britain worldwide. There has been some interesting debate of late about the value of DMO's (Destination Marketing Organisations) as they are known in the trade. Some of the accusations levelled have been about being 'risk averse' and failing to adapt.

So I guess it's good that VisitBritain is embracing Web 2.0 technologies by partnering with a company called Digital Visitor to launch a reviews platform.

According to the write up on Travel Eye:

Currently on course to create the largest media library for leisure and tourism
in the country, Visit Britain are building a one-stop shop for user
reviews, photos and videos of tourism experiences around Britain
through Digital Visitor’s white-labelled social media platform, Visitor Review.
Furthermore, Visit Britain are looking to partner with businesses who
want to utilise this content to enhance their own marketing – free of charge.

Is it just me or is there something fundamental missing here?

Here's more from the Digital Vistor website announcing the deal:

Justin Reid, Online Marketing Manager for VisitBritain stated, “...we plan to really make the most of the
growing trend for social media and user generated content. Providing
potential visitors with more online information on Britain is one of
our key strategies moving forward and this, we are sure, will encourage
even more people to visit.”

Yes, lots of UGC on the Visit Britain site will certainly encourage people to visit. All the stats show that UGC raises traffic and conversions. And yes, businesses in Britain that depend on tourists will welcome free UGC for their websites for the same reasons.

Just the one question then: Where's the UGC going to come from?

Do VisitBritain or Digital Visitor really get social media? I'm not at all sure... You can't just 'create' a network or a community. It's NOT a case of 'build and they will come'. I took a look at Digital Visitor's 'About' page. The detail is kind of worrying. The company is at heart a video production house that has 'recently moved into social media.'

Our newest product, Visitor Review,
has been adopted by some of the UK’s top tourist boards and regional
tourism agencies, enabling the successful gathering and utilisation of
user-generated content and rich media content.

It sounds like UGC is some kind of fruit or vegetable that can be 'gathered' from somewhere or other.

UGC doesn't just grow on trees guys... Why would anyone bother to post a review on Visit Britain? What's the incentive? Particularly when there's this small website called Trip Advisor out there already that has literally millions and millions of reviews on it? 

Talk to the likes of TUI or Thomas Cook who have also built reviews into their sites and they will tell you it's not easy. They work hard to encourage reviews by emailing customers returning from holidays and asking for feedback, uploading info culled from customer feedback forms, moderating the discussion. And there's a far stronger connection between a customer and a tour operator than a visitor to the UK and VisitBritain. (British Airways even incentivises people to add reviews to its Metrotwin social media site with free BA miles.)

I wish VisitBritain the best of luck. I hope they prove me wrong. They will get some reviews on there, but this idea of creating a vast library of UGC that other companies can tap into seems rather hopeful. And I wonder about the reviews they'll get - will they be any good? Will they be trustworthy and dependable? Many of the reviews on there so far are people bitching about awful hotels they've stayed in, warning others not to go there. Hardly the best of advertisments for visiting Britain.

If I was a business looking for UGC reviews to go on my website I'd go to the market leader - Trip Advisor - just as another DMO Visit London has done.

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