Grant Bradley

Aviation, tourism and energy writer for the Business Herald

Facebook says apps key to travel

Social network says users talk about voyage plans and post reports of experiences, encouraging others.

Photo / AP
Photo / AP

Facebook has advice for New Zealand travel firms: get a good app.

Facebook's global head of travel, Lee McCabe, said mobile revenue in particular was growing strongly.

Facebook last week put out figures that showed its overall earnings nearly tripled and revenue grew sharply in the first quarter to US$642 million ($752 million) in the January-March quarter, up from US$219 million in the same period a year ago.

McCabe told the Herald that of the 1.25 billion Facebook users, about 42 per cent posted at least one travel story on the social network a year.

They turned to Facebook to share dreams about travel, their planning, booking, experience and then reflection on their trip.

It is estimated a third of all photos are now on Facebook.

"It's a huge catalyst for their friends thinking about travel," said McCabe.

The company had swung its attention to mobile devices three years ago and this was the priority now.

"Mobile is the prime objective for Facebook. We think about mobile first and that's particularly important for travel," he said.

Within the next year it was expected that 12 per cent of all travel bookings would be on mobile devices and this was where apps were crucial.

McCabe said travel firms needed to have have a mobile strategy and specifically have to have a good app strategy.

The average person has 26 apps on their mobile device and in the travel area most had an app for a travel deal aggregator, a hotel, an airline and a car rental that they were loyal to. "Now's a tremendous opportunity to develop an app and get that landed on as much mobile real estate quickly to get first-mover advantage."

While Facebook would not break out travel revenue figures, it says it is one of its fastest growing sectors with 140 per cent growth in Australia and New Zealand.

Facebook cites a recent Tourism New Zealand campaign as an example of how organisations can drive interest.

Working with agency Razorfish last November, Tourism New Zealand launched a one-day logout experience ad, targeting 34 million people aged 21 and over. The ad drove users both to the Tourism New Zealand site and Facebook page.

It featured stories and three images of New Zealand destinations on rotation. As a follow-up, Tourism New Zealand used Facebook ads that linked to newzealand.com. These ads targeted groups such as adventure travellers and honeymooners.

The strategy became the number one traffic driver to Tourism NZ's website and it doubled monthly unique traffic.

Richard Bryant, Tourism NZ's marketing manager for the Americas, said: "The challenge we consistently face is reaching those actively considering a vacation to New Zealand and moving them down the brand funnel to conversion. Our objective was to be both efficient and effective with our media placement, through a low cost-per-arrival, ultimately driving qualified traffic to newzealand.com."

Not all in the travel industry are impressed with Facebook.

The head of United States discount booking site Priceline.com, Darren Huston, this month said ads on Facebook and Twitter have failed to deliver results and the company spent more on Google.

"For Facebook and Twitter, we have endless amounts of money," Huston told Bloomberg. "But we haven't found anything there."

Priceline's online marketing costs surged 41 per cent last year to US$1.8 billion, outpacing sales growth of 29 per cent.

- NZ Herald

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