the world's smartest travel social network
From November 9 to 11, 2012, a trio of leading family travel "influencers" ushered in their annual Family Travel Conference, http://www.familytravelconference.com/ a gathering of passionate, talented and savvy family travel bloggers and journalists from around the country. The venue was the huge, but responsive Omni Hotel in Dallas, Texas.
This is a group with clout...and Klout. Together, the hundred or so attendees have become family travel's "thought leaders and influencers." The FTC attendees boast an aggregate 1.6 million unique visitors to their sites, 326,000 Twitter followers and 250,000 Facebook friends.
During the conference, they flexed their social media muscle tweeting and posting on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. They then capped it with a Monday night #TMOM Twitter party that resulted in 432,000 thousand people seeing tweets about the conference, for a total reach of 7.5 million--in one hour--on Twitter.
Of course heavy-hitting sponsors took notice. Visit Orlando, Disney Parks, Southwest Airlines, the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Omni Hotels lined up to sponsor FTC, as did Norwegian Cruise lines and Allianz Global Insurance last year in New York.
And why wouldn't they?
The US Travel Association (http://www.ustravel.org/news/press-kit/travel-facts-and-statistics) says a huge 30% of all adult leisure travelers are those traveling with children and grandchildren...and those traveling with grandchildren represent 7% of all leisure travelers. More importantly, perhaps, Family Travelers take about 4.5 trips a year, significantly more than Business Travelers (3.9%); Gen Y Travelers (3.9) and Gen X Travelers, 3.5 trips a year.
Just as obviously, based on my observations at the three day conference, the Family Travel Conference, now a loose federation of family travel content experts, is the "go-to" group for DMO's, CVB's and on/off-line travel agents interested in tapping the lucrative family travel market.
FTC has the talent, the tips, the information and the contacts to help generate revenue for the industry, and, importantly, help those interested in establishing their bona fides, their credibility as a family travel operator.
Phillip Jones, president CEO of the Dallas CVB said that although Dallas is a terrific destination for family travel because of its rich and diverse attractions, for him, sponsoring FTC was a "unique opportunity."
By bringing Dallas and these "influential family travel Bloggers together," presumably, Jones will see more revenue from the family travel market. After all, Dallas has spent 15 billion dollars in the last years sprucing up the city's attractions. Much of that money oriented toward improving the city's family travel friendliness.
Joanne Vero, CEO of J Vero Associates produced the event, and the annual Travel Media Showcase. "With over 18 years of production experience, we've developed solid relationships with many sponsors," she explained, "and we design sponsorships that secure a return on investment."
The leading lights behind FTC are Kyle McCarthy CEO of Family Travel Forum Forum, a long time Family Travel Expert; Eileen Ogintz, a nationally-distributed family travel columnist and head of Taking The Kids and the ever-entrepreneurial Kim Orlando, CEO of Traveling Mom.
"Having successfully helped travel partners engage families in a powerful and efficient way, across many platforms," says Kyle McCarthy, "we felt it was time to bring everyone together in a learning environment to share best practices."
What these women did, besides birthing FTC and attracting sponsors, was get top travel talent including Conde Nast's travel guru, Wendy Perrin; ABC News' Genevieve Shaw Brown and Valarie D'Elia of New York's NY1, "Travels With Val," to lead panels, and share their collective wisdom about family travel content creation and marketing.
The workshops and discussions they led stressed Story Telling and Marketing; Monetizing Content and Creating MultiMedia Content, with a special emphasis on Family Travel Video segments for distribution, and for enhancing family travel web sites and portals.
Krista Parry, social media director at Park City Mountain Resort and chief Snowmama summed up her social media strategy like a mom talking to her children: "Do good," she reminded the crowd.
The Table Top Shuffle brought Bloggers and travel business executives together in a relaxed, energized series of roundtable discussions, forging relationship between the family travel experts and those who want to access the market.
Jack Riley, Online Marketing Team Leader of FC USA Inc, said, that as a sponsor of the conference, he gained tremendous insight into family travel, and came away with new friends and contacts, " as well as several exciting marketing ideas."
Even Family Travel experts like Visit Orlando seemed newly energized.
Heide Colon, their Global Publicity Representative, felt strongly that the diverse group of professional Bloggers and journalists provided Visit Orlando with "knowledge and expertise" in this growing market of domestic leisure travelers.
Eileen Ogintz agreed, adding, "Our sponsors were also able to hear from the travel media what 21st century families want and need and how they can improve and better market their destinations, hotels and products. It was a unique opportunity for them."
It's too early to tell if the Family Travel Conference will have a lasting impact on the travel industry's constant search for product and revenue.
But if I were a betting man, I'd say, this cohort needs to be taken seriously as an association, and that there are many rich opportunities here for learning and marketing partnerships for the travel industry.
Or, as Larry Magor, managing director of Omni Hotel, Dallas puts it, “As an industry, we count on the support of our travel partners to share experiences. And the Family Travel Conference, enhances our ability to communicate to a much wider audience.”
And that's the deal in travel.