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Facebook: the new face of Australian tourism?

by Tom 25/07/2008 15:03:00

I noticed an article posted on our website about how the Australian Tourism Board is taking a whole new direction into cyberspace so it can make some friends on Facebook.

For a bit of background info, Facebook is a social networking website which facilitates social communication around the world.  Mostly young people sign up to the site to chat with friends, share videos, store photos, send emails, and maintain contact with people they haven’t seen for years.  Users can only get Facebook friends by searching for people, and only if both parties accept the "friend request".  Only friends are then able to access their personal profiles. 

So it struck me as a curious direction for Tourism Australia to head in, considering not many people (or so I thought) would waste their time becoming "friends" with what is essentially an aging board of directors employed to market Australia to the world.

But when I logged onto Facebook, sure enough, Tourism Australia had nabbed itself over 10,000 friends.  A few weeks later, that number had more than doubled, reaching a whopping 24,175 "fans".  Most people don’t even make it past a couple of hundred! (I certainly haven't at any rate.)

Looking at the site I can understand why. Tourists are provided with everything and anything there is to know about travelling Australia, and are given the opportunity to put their own personal experiences up for the world to see.  There’s space for fan videos, photos, and reviews.  People can post comments on the wall, ask questions, or check out upcoming events around Australia. 

The Discussion Board (which is maintained by Tourism Australia) gives travellers helpful hints, for example about the transport system, or sample itineraries, like a trip out to Broken Hill in New South Wales.

It’s brilliant, but it doesn't stop there.  MySpace, a similar social networking site, is being used by the board to promote the Australia working holiday concept to young people around the world.  This site focuses more on visuals though, by using videos of testimonials from young travellers living and working in the UK to entice more people to take the plunge for some real Australian adventure.

It's a wonderful thing to see that travelling the world is becoming a lot easier and a lot more exciting for young people these days, especially now that it can be shared with anyone around the world.  The Australia Facebook page was initially designed to be an information source for the tens of thousands of international visitors in Sydney during the World Youth Day this month.  But, now that event has passed, the site is still clocking up the friend-count and sporting new posts, reviews, photos and videos from people all around the world, which suggests to me that Tourism Australia and tourists around the world are going to be life-long friends.

- Tom Blackett is the Online Editor for the Australian Visa Bureau.

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