Regulating fake news is an almost impossible task but travel companies that effectively respond to negative social media postings can enhance their reputations.
These are some of the conclusions to be drawn from Travel Weekly’s Business Breakfast debate on brand and reputation in a fake news era ahead of the Abta Travel Convention in Ponta Delgada.
Travel companies are “delusional” if they think they are immune from negative comments on social media, according to Shearings Leisure chief executive Richard Calvert.
He told the audience of senior travel executives: “Having negative reviews is part of the learning process. if you get a bad review, you take it on the chin and respond quickly.
“You are delusional if you think you are all perfect.”
However, Calvert cautioned that there is no filter to the general public making use of Twitter and Facebook to attack travel companies and businesses need to be “prepared for the unprepared”.
Despite US president Donald Trump setting his own news agenda by the use of Twitter, Abta chairman Noel Josephides questioned why social media platforms should not be bound by the same regulations as traditional media outlets.
Clare Irvin, head of travel editorial at The Telegraph, agreed that action should be taken, as having power in the hands of the people is a position governments don’t like.
But to introduce rules would need the co-operation of “people who are not co-operative”. Yet this should be more of a priority for governments than it is.
She spoke out against “schlock entertainment” used particularly on social media platforms in the US to shape the news.
“No-one wants to see really extremist views on their social feeds,” Irvin said, pointing to her newspaper’s core values of “integrity, consistency and authenticity”.
She warned of “unfettered opinion that becomes truth” where “far out” opinions can gain credibility through the use of social media.
Royal Caribbean International UK and Ireland managing director Ben Bouldin, who admitted to not using Twitter, agreed, saying: “Everyone with an opinion can publish it in an unregulated fashion”.
Such use of social media results in a “distorted version of reality” being published online.
“It’s no longer about legitimate media titles, everyone can be a journalist in their own right now,” Bouldin said.
Kuoni UK head of communications Rachel O’Reilly described an era of “jigsaw journalism” where TV news presenters are actively looking to avoid interviewees “who we know what you are going to say before you say it”.
And she warned against fake news dressed up to look like real news and urged companies to be cautious about using mediums such as Twitter for making official comments.
Bouldin added: “I don’t think anyone’s life is better by being on Twitter.”
However, O’Reilly said journalists embracing different social media feeds were of value to the travel industry as they enabled destinations to be portrayed visually and instantly in addition to a traditional printed features.
Irvin also used the example of Snapchat being employed by The Telegraph to make serious stories appealing to a younger audience.
Such methods are being embraced as the younger generation bypasses TV to look to social media influencers such as bloggers as the source of information that interests them, according to O’Reilly.
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