Johanna Jainchill
Johanna Jainchill

*logoCLIA might have saved the most important presentation for last at its annual Cruise3Sixty conference two weeks ago: Social networking.

Douglas Quinby, a senior director at PhoCusWright, took the stage on the last day of the show to make the case that agents should be using online social media websites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.

One out of every 11 minutes that people spend online is spent on social media sites, Quinby said. And, he added, travel is fundamentally a social experience.

“People will share their travel experiences,” Quinby said. “Good or bad.”

To leverage the networking ability of online social platforms, agents first need to rid themselves of the idea that they and their clients are too old for Facebook or Twitter.

Over the last two years, Quinby said, the fastest growing demographic group on Facebook has been people 35 years and older, increasing by 1000%.

In February, InsideFacebook.com, which tracks Facebook for developers and marketers, said that “Facebook has been growing particularly rapidly amongst people over 45 in the U.S.” The site said that over the last four months the 45-to-54-year-old demographic had grown more than 165%.

InsideFacebook.com also said that the fastest growing Facebook user group right now is women 55 and older, with nearly 1.5 million of them active on the site every month.

Cruise suppliers have long said that women are the decision makers when it come to vacations, and with the average cruiser 46 years old, Facebook is clearly where potential cruise buyers are -- virtually -- hanging out.

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