And he's off. YouTube sensation Matt Harding -- known for his "Where the Hell Is Matt?" travel/dance videos -- kicked off his 60-day, global trip with the U.S. Tour Operators Association in Chile last week as part of the organization's latest (and arguably most aggressive) attempt to create greater brand awareness through social media.
But it's also part of a larger strategy of reaching out to travel agents and consumers in new ways. For instance, the USTOA has said that a dedicated travel agent component of the campaign will be announced in April.
Harding is being hosted by several active USTOA members in locationsaround the world, where he is filming dancing scenes like the ones he has become so famous for (can you do the Matt dance?). The scenes will then be edited into one 30-second spot and one 45-second spot.
The USTOA-sponsored video is scheduled to launch in early summer on Harding's website and on his YouTube channel. It will also be available on the USTOA's sites, on members' sites and on their social media channels.
After Chile, Harding is scheduled to visit nine other destinations over the next two months, including France, Tanzania, Ireland, Korea, Malaysia, Australia's Northern Territory and Alaska.
The question is, will travel sellers and consumers be tuning in, and in what numbers?
Harding's channel is one of the most-watched travel channels on YouTube, and the 2008 video has more than 45 million views. So the potential is there for the word to get out about the USTOA and about tour operators and packagers via Harding and his popular traveling/dancing routine.
To tune into his progress, agents and travelers can follow Harding's USTOA adventures on the organization's Twitter feed, @USTOA
. Follow Michelle Baran on Twitter @mbtravelweekly.