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I spent several days in Bangkok the other week mainly to attend Digital Innovation Asia’s Blogger Matchup – an initiative to help match travel and tourism organizations with relevant bloggers to help their marketing and outreach.
I was able to attend and stay in the city thanks to the Atrium Hotel where they treated me and my boyfriend like a hot shot business travelers (which is more in line with their usual guest, not a travel blogger and tattoo artist from the hills in northern Thailand…I think we stood out a bit…) complete with an Executive Room – it was lovely. It also let me glimpse another side of the city since I’d only ever come as just a tourist.
Digital Innovation Asia focusing on educating and strengthening digital connection and innovation in Asia Pacific travel and tourism. The relatively new organization has several arms including consulting for businesses, organizing industry conferences and awards and, what I’m obviously most interested in, working on bridging the gap between bloggers and tourism and hospitality companies interested in sharing their stories in new ways.
The day including several speakers discussing the current state of digital outreach for travel and tourism companies in Asia, as well as a match up event for bloggers and companies (P.S. if you’re a travel blogger you can join DIA’s online database to help connect bloggers with relevant travel companies free of charge).
Throughout the day, the concept of the ‘social traveler’ kept coming up. A new breed of traveler who not only does most of their travel research and booking online, but also uses social networks and apps to learn about the best local eats, crowdsourcing tips on where to go and what to do, and then, of course, sharing their experience through their personal social networks as their traveling.
There was this idea that the social traveler is interested in more than just being connected by WiFi, but connecting with the people and places they are visiting on another level, compared to your standard tourist, by frequenting sites and services like Couchsurfing, Air BnB and various meet up apps. The way the social traveler then shares their experiences, opinion, photos and reviews is not only changing their personal interests and experience, but those in their social circles and the companies catering toward them as well.
Naturally, there were several bloggers in attendance who completely fit this ‘social traveler’ idea, and obviously online research and booking has become the norm, but I really wonder about the all the social media sharing, commenting and reviewing. What is it really adding to people’s travel experiences? What is it taking away?
When I backpacked solo around Southeast Asia several years ago I didn’t have a computer or smartphone with me – and I survived. In fact, I loved not having those tools and being connected 24/7. It just didn’t seem right, or important, and I was traveling for me, not for sharing edited moments to my social media networks. How can you soak in where are you really are if you’re always connected to another world? I know these questions seem a bit contradictory and hypocritical coming from a travel blogger who is ‘supposed’ to be doing just that – traveling and sharing – and I’m planning to write more on it soon, but for now I want to hear from you.
Where do you fall on the social traveler spectrum? Are you constantly sharing your trips on social media, or do you use travel time to disconnect? Where do you think the right balance is?
Note: I was a guest of the Atrium Hotel but all opinions are my own.