Travel Social Media Campaigns: Hall of Fame

  • PR

Following our Social Media Campaigns: Hall of Fame from 2010, Talking Travel Tech site Tnooz asked us to research some of the best travel-specific social media campaigns.

So, with spring in the air and our thoughts turning to summer, we’re taking a look at the sun, sea and Sangria-soaked world of travel to find the world’s best travel social media campaigns.

There is no specific order to the list. We’ve looked at many travel social media campaigns and chosen what we believe to be creative and interesting work; case studies that, for one reason or another, have made us think ‘great travel campaign’.

In deciding what is/is not a relevant case study, our social media litmus test has been to ask if they involve either online social interaction, user participation or user-generated content.

If we’ve omitted your favourite, email it to And share your comments at the foot of the page. And click if you need a travel social media campaign to help your business.

So, grab your towel, sun tan lotion and a cocktail, sit back and enjoy our run-down of the top travel social media campaigns the world has to offer.

Surprise, Surprise KLM

At the end of 2010, KLM decided to give something a little extra special to its passengers waiting to board its flights – some personalised random acts of kindness.

Using information from Foursquare and Twitter, KLM identified passengers currently checked in and waiting to board KLM flights. A quick search of each person’s social media profile garnered info about their personal interests/reasons for flying.

Staff then purchased appropriate gifts which they gave to passengers prior to boarding their flight.

A happy, surprised customer = a tweeting customer. More than 40 people were presented with gifts and the campaign received 1m+ impressions on Twitter alone.

A clever – if time exhaustive – stunt that met its objectives of interacting with existing customers in the online space.

Social Networking Mile High Club – Lufthansa Airlines

Thanks to Lufthansa Airlines’ branded social media app MySkyStatus, air travellers can update their social networks from the sky.

Travel social media campaigns: MySkyStatusThe app allows passengers flying with any airline to automatically post updates about their departure and arrival times, flight locations and even altitudes to their Facebook and Twitter followers while they’re airborne.

Updating your contacts with details about your every move may seem a little bit ‘look at me’, but top marks Lufthansa for keeping people connected in an environment where typically you have to turn off your phone.

Each update also links people back to the Lufthansa MySkyStatus page meaning that customers are effectively promoting the airline to followers for free during their flight.luf_oktoberfest_big

Elsewhere, in 2010 Lufthansa also launched a virtual pilot game which was endorsed on Twitter by Stephen Fry; and it ran an Oktoberfest campaign with Foursquare which saw over 2,350 people unlock specialist Lufthansa badges, right.

Le Bar Guide – Stella Artois

Though clearly not a travel company, Stella Artois has created a clever travel-related augmented reality app which creates meaningful content for users.

Download Stella’s Le Bar Guide and, if you’re holidaying or in an unfamiliar location, hold up your phone in the street, give it a shake and up pops markers showing the bars selling Stella, noting their distance away from you; hold it downwards and arrows pop up on the road pointing you in the direction of the nearest bar.

That’s not all – you can switch between different views, search for bars by country and postcode, rate the bars, add your own comments and even use it to order yourself a taxi home at the end of the night – genius.

A Map App for That – VodafoneUKholsmap

Simple but effective, Vodafone’s #ukhols campaign brought together Twitter and Google maps to plot the UK’s summer holiday destinations.

People were asked to tweet #ukhols followed by their age, sex, postcode and their holiday destination. The data was plotted on a live map showing who the tweet was by, their destination and the distance in miles from their postcode. Adding an extra layer of interactivity, the map also synced with TwitPic meaning, once on holiday, people could post photos to TwitPic which would then appear on the map.

Where the Gnomes Roam – Travelocity

gnome-virgin-atlanticTravelocity’s ‘brand advocate’, the Roaming Gnome, has been successfully dabbling in social media for a few years. With his own blog and presence on MySpace, Twitter and Facebook, most recently he embraced the world of Chatroulette in a bid to drag potential customers away from their webcams and go on holiday.

That’s not all, timed to coincide with the launch of Virgin Atlantic’s first seasonal flight from Chicago to London, the Roaming Gnome used Foursquare to update followers about its location on a recent trip to London.

Fans of the cheeky chappy were able to follow him checking in to various locations as he explored the city. Photos of him on-board the Virgin flight were also uploaded to his Facebook page.

Chocks Away – Gol Airlines

An innovative banner ad from Brazil’s Gol Airlines gave people the chance to ‘fly’ using their mobile phones.

‘Travellers’ were asked to input their mobile number into a banner ad and were then called back with flight instructions as the web page transformed into a flying game.

The plane was controlled using the mobile and could be navigated over the airline’s website, with a few special features thrown in. The purpose of the initiative? To remind customers that flying is easier when you check in using your mobile. Pretty clever.

Klout And About (Part I)
The Las Vegas Palm Hotel has created a ‘Klout Klub’ which will allow high ranking guests access to its amenities in the hope that they share their experiences with their followers. The hotel is already referring to Klout (a social-analytics firm) as part of its reservation process so if you want an upgrade – get social networking.

Klout And About (Part II)

A second Klout example comes from Virgin America which worked with Klout to offer top “Twitter influencers” one free, round-trip flight from Los Angeles or San Francisco to Toronto.

In order to qualify, users had to create a Klout account and link it to their Twitter profile.

Those with the most influential Klout score (which is based on a number of factors including number of Twitter followers, how often their updates were being retweeted, etc) were offered free return flights.

A pretty simple and straightforward campaign which secured plenty of media and online coverage and talkability.

Powder Dash – Japan Tourism

powderdashEncouraging people to consider Japan as a ski/snowboard destination, Japan Tourism launched a Facebook game called Powder Dash.

Allowing players to experience the ‘powder’ that Japan has to offer, the game saw players race down mountains, hit jumps, do tricks, in a bid to score high points and unlock advanced snowboards. Users could also challenge friends.

Buzztastic – STA Travel

STA Travel is a company often cited as an example of good practice in the world of social media within the travel industry.

Its STA Travel Buzz site was created as a central resource for company and customer-generated content. STA Travel’s team regularly identifies and outreaches to travellers through social media to help create meaningful and targeted content for the site.

Known as ‘voices’ or ‘STA Explorers’, they are encouraged to contribute copy, images, and videos about their travel experiences and other relevant travel-themed content.

The result is a meaningful travel site with fresh, interesting content created by genuine brand advocates.

Pig-a-Pult – Manchester Airport

Pig-a-pultSocial media savvy Manchester Airport created this Facebook game to promote the wide range of destinations it serves across the world.

Players catapult Piggles to one of the airport’s destinations in a bid to gain a place on the leader board (you’re scored only if you land near the destination you aimed for).

At the end of the campaign, the player which catapulted Piggles the furthest was rewarded with an iPad; holiday vouchers were given randomly to other players.

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Twitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Twitchhiker


If there’s one travel campaign that demonstrates the power of Twitter, this surely has to be it.

Twitchhiker was started by a guy called Paul Smith who set out on a mission to travel as far from home as possible in 30 days, relying only on the good will of fellow tweeters.

The rules were simple:
* he could only accept offers of travel and accommodation directly from people following @twitchhiker
* he couldn’t make plans any further than three days in advance
* he could only spend money on food and drink and anything that would fit into his suitcase
* if he had two accommodation options on the table, the choice of which to take was his; if he only had one option then he had to accept it and move on within 48 hours regardless
* no options on the table within 48 hours meant he had to go home – challenge over

Paul’s adventures are profiled on his blog and there’s now a book of his story: Twitchhiker – How One Man Travelled the World By Twitter.

Ding Dong Merrily in the Sky – Spanair

Christmas is most definitely the season of goodwill with this second example of an airline bringing some festive cheer with random acts of kindness. On Christmas Eve the Spanish airline Spanair decided to surprise all of the passengers on its Barcelona to Las Palmas flight with a Christmas present. Gifts were wrapped and labelled with each passenger’s name. They were then put on to the luggage conveyor belt for passengers to collect with their reactions filmed and uploaded to YouTube. To date the Spanish version of the clip has received over 320,000 views and the English version a further 285,000.

Drive Time – Avis

Avis was the first major car rental company to introduce a blog; it has since won several customer service accolades.

In 2007, was launched as a place for customers and staff to talk about positive and negative experiences of car rental – since then, the Avis Net Approval rating has increased by 200%.

It has also now launched a customer loyalty scheme using Foursquare and Facebook Places. Working with a company called Topguest, the scheme rewards customers when they check in to partner organisations, as well as receiving money-off codes when they check into Avis locations.

Jump To The Beat –

Bed jumpAn online campaign launched by became an internet craze, picked up by the mainstream media.

If you’re not already doing it, bed jumping is apparently the must-do in-room hotel activity.

The premise is simple – go to a hotel; have someone take your picture as you jump mid-air onto the bed; post it to the website.

Some hotels even took it a step further, holding events and special offers to promote the craze. InterContinental Hotels attempted to break the world record for bed jumping.

Meanwhile, an aerobics team who travelled to the national Australian Championships claimed: “We used bed jumping as part of our pre-competition preparation – and also as part of the celebrations after we won!”


If you’re wondering why

– Tourism Queensland’s Best Job in the World campaign

– Virgin Blue’s World’s Biggest Game of Pass the Parcel and

–’s travel app

…are not on this list, it’s because they’re over on the original Social Media Campaigns: Hall of Fame

***So that’s some of the best. What about some that do not make the Travel Social Media Campaigns: Hall of Fame?***

There’s Nothing Like Australia – Tourism AustraliaAustralia

When Tourism Australia launched its new $150m ‘There’s nothing like Australia’ ad campaign (URL: it made the mistake of only registering the .com URL.

Within a matter of hours the (now defunct) launched – a website spoofing the ad campaign (unfounded rumours were that someone at New Zealand’s tourist board was behind it).

The World’s Best Customer Complaint Letter – Virgin

virginfood2In 2009 Virgin found itself at the mercy of a customer complaint letter that was printed in the Daily Telegraph – it spread virally around the globe (it was bookmarked on Digg over 6,400 times).

Dubbed ‘the world’s best customer complaint letter’, directed at Sir Richard Branson himself, the complainant writes pages and pages about the ‘culinary hell’ that he was subjected to whilst on a flight from Mumbai. With prose like:

(discussing his in-flight meal) “I’ll try and explain how this felt. Imagine being a twelve year old boy Richard. Now imagine it’s Christmas morning and you’re sat there with your final present to open. It’s a big one, and you know what it is. It’s that Goodmans stereo you picked out the catalogue and wrote to Santa about.

“Only you open the present and it’s not in there. It’s your hamster Richard. It’s your hamster in the box and it’s not breathing. That’s how I felt when I peeled back the foil and saw this …”

It is easy to see why the letter went viral in the way it did. Luckily for Virgin we were laughing more at the content than being put off its terrible in-flight meals.

United Breaks Guitars – United Airlines

Travel companies beware – disgruntled customers can cause havoc online. And news, particularly when it’s of the negative type, goes viral very quickly.

A great example is the case of musician David Carroll who used Twitter and YouTube to broadcast United Airline’s mishandling of his guitar and its refusal to compensate him for damage.

David created a song called ‘United Breaks Guitars’ that clocked up 3m views in the first week. The mainstream media picked up the story from social media channels, making CNN, The Wall Street Journal and the BBC.

The result – to date the video has received over 9.8 million hits, a further two parts to the song were released, David’s career has benefited greatly and United Airlines issued a full apology and addressed the customer service issues in the song.

And finally, Kevin Smith vs. Southwest Airlines

Similar to the United incident, disgruntled Southwest Airlines passenger and film-maker Kevin Smith caused a stir on Twitter in mid-February 2010 after he was told he could not fly on one of Southwest’s planes because of his size.Southwest

Kevin promptly issued a barrage of tweets which resulted in complaints from some of his 1.6 million followers.

Southwest quickly issued numerous responses via Twitter and its blog to apologise and offered Kevin a call with the airline’s Vice President of Customer Service.

In fact, Southwest’s response was so fast and transparent that it is now often cited as an example of good practice.

Click if you need a travel social media campaign to help your business.