VisitBritainReview VisitBritain Britain's national tourism agency is responsible for marketing Britain worldwide. There has been some interesting debate of late about the value of DMO's (Destination Marketing Organisations) as they are known in the trade. Some of the accusations levelled have been about being 'risk averse' and failing to adapt.

So I guess it's good that VisitBritain is embracing Web 2.0 technologies by partnering with a company called Digital Visitor to launch a reviews platform.

According to the write up on Travel Eye:

Currently on course to create the largest media library for leisure and tourism
in the country, Visit Britain are building a one-stop shop for user
reviews, photos and videos of tourism experiences around Britain
through Digital Visitor’s white-labelled social media platform, Visitor Review.
Furthermore, Visit Britain are looking to partner with businesses who
want to utilise this content to enhance their own marketing – free of charge.

Is it just me or is there something fundamental missing here?

Here's more from the Digital Vistor website announcing the deal:

Justin Reid, Online Marketing Manager for VisitBritain stated, “...we plan to really make the most of the
growing trend for social media and user generated content. Providing
potential visitors with more online information on Britain is one of
our key strategies moving forward and this, we are sure, will encourage
even more people to visit.”

Yes, lots of UGC on the Visit Britain site will certainly encourage people to visit. All the stats show that UGC raises traffic and conversions. And yes, businesses in Britain that depend on tourists will welcome free UGC for their websites for the same reasons.

Just the one question then: Where's the UGC going to come from?

Do VisitBritain or Digital Visitor really get social media? I'm not at all sure... You can't just 'create' a network or a community. It's NOT a case of 'build and they will come'. I took a look at Digital Visitor's 'About' page. The detail is kind of worrying. The company is at heart a video production house that has 'recently moved into social media.'

Our newest product, Visitor Review,
has been adopted by some of the UK’s top tourist boards and regional
tourism agencies, enabling the successful gathering and utilisation of
user-generated content and rich media content.

It sounds like UGC is some kind of fruit or vegetable that can be 'gathered' from somewhere or other.

UGC doesn't just grow on trees guys... Why would anyone bother to post a review on Visit Britain? What's the incentive? Particularly when there's this small website called Trip Advisor out there already that has literally millions and millions of reviews on it? 

Talk to the likes of TUI or Thomas Cook who have also built reviews into their sites and they will tell you it's not easy. They work hard to encourage reviews by emailing customers returning from holidays and asking for feedback, uploading info culled from customer feedback forms, moderating the discussion. And there's a far stronger connection between a customer and a tour operator than a visitor to the UK and VisitBritain. (British Airways even incentivises people to add reviews to its Metrotwin social media site with free BA miles.)

I wish VisitBritain the best of luck. I hope they prove me wrong. They will get some reviews on there, but this idea of creating a vast library of UGC that other companies can tap into seems rather hopeful. And I wonder about the reviews they'll get - will they be any good? Will they be trustworthy and dependable? Many of the reviews on there so far are people bitching about awful hotels they've stayed in, warning others not to go there. Hardly the best of advertisments for visiting Britain.

If I was a business looking for UGC reviews to go on my website I'd go to the market leader - Trip Advisor - just as another DMO Visit London has done.

7 thoughts on “Visit Britain’s on a UGC harvest

  1. Broadly speaking, I think they're doing the right thing. I assume they're after longer-term value (decades etc) and aggregating that info themselves is laudable in my opinion. Perhaps not owning the technology platform is more of a mistake as it'll be harder to iterate when technology moves on but I'm sure there are reasons.

    Where I agree with you is the nature of the UGC content. The UK is packed with local experts (B&B owners, tour guides, local writers, amateur enthusiasts) and for me aggregating that local expert knowledge is a better long term approach. Profesionals can structure narratives, tell a story etc better than a local expert but they'll never win on local knowledge and passion. There's a (correct) selfish incentive to provide material and from our experience, people are eager to help if they get something back.

  2. hi James
    I agree that there are lots of local experts whose knowledge and insight could be so useful to travellers.
    I don't really understand your what you mean about people (ie amateur reviewers?) being eager to help 'if they get something back' - what do they get back? The kudos of being published I guess??

    For me the problem is that along with the good keen amateurs there are lots of others who post any old junk in review boxes... particularly if they feel they've had a bad experience somewhere. So it's a case of finding the nuggets of gold amongst the dross.
    I really believe that the ultimate UGC/review site needs to:
    1) Be properly moderated - by a professional
    2) Be complimented with pro-written content - highlighting the good stuff and repackaging it
    3) Be energised by a professional - pitching questions at readers and at reviewers, encouraging greater engagement, framing debate.
    BUT - that all costs. And right now pretty much every UGC site out there is trying to get away with just letting people pump whatever they want to onto their site. Any content is better than none. And no one wants to fork out extra cash for content.
    Moderation/curation will be a skillset that will be much in demand going forward in this environment. Something for travel writers like me to get their heads round.
    PS: Love your site... those pics are gorgeous

  3. Hi Jeremy,

    Yes, I agree entirely. Newspapers are going this way, publishing houses will follow. A rump of professionals sat at the centre helping to curate/direct content is unquestionably the future IMO.

    From my perspective, most UGC appears to be used for natural search traffic/SEO anyway. Fair enough, but can't see long-term value there.

    On the 'getting something back', I'm specifically referring to local experts who run businesses in the travel/tourism sector. They are eager to provide information to help promote their own business interests. Business generated content I guess is a better description. The response we get is phenomenal and these people know their 'local stuff'.

    And thank you. It's a baby site but is being grown pretty much using the theory you outline in your response above.


  4. Hi Jeremy,

    Thanks for blogging about our UGC platform - and I do actually agree with most of your comments, they are ones we raised when we started dabbling in the waters of our own UGC platform.

    Of course we're not seeking to compare ourselves with Trip Advisor, what we are "hoping" (and I stress hope - we don't think we have all the answers)is to fill a gap in the market of UGC. TA covers the accomodation side with no comparison, but most of the destination reviews are from the eyes / viewpoint of the seasoned traveller. What we hope to offer is the unique perspective of the local speaking about his own area / community - telling an international audience what they love about their local area. Constant research has shown us that international visitors often want to "live like a local" - go off the beaten path, go beyond the major guide book landmarks and seek out what those that live in the area think is great. We're hoping that by combining with as many local DMO's as possible we can gather up all these local needles of information and scatter them as far and wide as possible in the hope of inspiring international visitors to start coming in droves to Britain again.

    Debate is good, so all comments gratefully received - especially from seasoned experts such as yourselves.

    Justin Reid
    Head of Online and CRM

  5. Hi Justin
    Many thanks for your comments. James Penman's comments on this post suggest that your hunch could be right about 'local experts who want to give something back'.
    I guess it's about credibility and engagement.
    Clearly Visit Britain has credibility in this arena... so no problem there.
    I think the trick will be finding the necessary resource your end to get that engagement. To publicise the idea to potential contributors and to work with them so they feel valued and want to contribute. Just as an example, BA's excellent Metrotwin incentivises people to contribute their favourite places in NY and London by giving them airmiles. You might not need to actually reward people in this way, but they absolutely have to feel recognised and they have to feel part of a community. (In my opinion anyway!)Make them the local VisitBritain handy advice coordinator or something and give them something in return for their contributions
    Best of luck and feel very free to let me know how it's going... would be delighted to follow up post on this.

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