A novel GPS-based tracking system, initially conceived as a safety product for individual adventure travellers, has been transformed into the world’s first social media marketing tool for the $89 billion adventure travel and cruise markets, and taken up with stunning results.
‘TrekTraka’ allows tour operators to reach out to the extensive social media networks of their travelling customers, allowing friends and family to share in the traveller’s experiences via the clever combination of GPS tracking technology with Social Media. In an industry almost 100% reliant on peer-to-peer referrals, TrekTraka pulls these very rich leads straight back to the operator’s website, via real-time updates on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn of locations reached and fun activities undertaken.
For David Clarke, founder of ‘TrekTraka’, the project was always more about working in a fun environment than taking on a global industry.
“After a successful exit from my previous software business I had a desire to use my skills and develop a new product, but definitely outside of the white-collar corporate world”, says Dave who runs his business ‘TrekTraka’ between Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, Brisbane and the USA.
A 2009 trip along New Guinea’s Kokoda Track was the inspiration for TrekTraka. The trip sparked Dave’s interest in adventure travel destinations and experiences and helped him recognise the growing need of adventure travel operators to leverage online marketing technologies.
“In the era of social media marketing it is clear that a pretty website is no longer sufficient technology to underpin a successful travel operation. It is however very clear that social media is where really productive marketing was going to come from,” said Dave.
After a solid research and development period, and then extensive trials with a test group of local operators, Dave took TrekTraka to the international market with instant results. TrekTraka was launched to the global adventure travel industry in April 2012 via the Adventure Tourism Trade Association through a series of regional summits in the USA. TrekTraka is now being used by adventure travel and cruise operators worldwide and the numbers are growing daily.
“Adventure travel operators recognise the need to leverage social media marketing as a major element of their ongoing marketing activities. Word-of-mouth referrals by customers are still the holy grail of marketing and social media is nothing short of ‘word-of-mouth on steroids’,” says Dave.
“There is no doubt that TrekTraka drives internet traffic back to an operator’s website, in some cases we have seen as much as 70% of all referral traffic being driven by TrekTraka both during and in the lead-up to a trip,” says Dave. “Some operators are getting their highest volume of traffic ever, trumping all marketing results from previous campaigns,” Dave adds.
Its early days but TrekTraka looks set to dominate social media marketing for the hard core adventure tourism market – think Mount Everest Base Camp, the Kokoda Track and small ship cruising around the Antarctic Peninsula. In fact, if one looks at the top ten global destinations for adrenaline-charged travellers, TrekTraka is currently being used in all ten, including those above plus The Inca Trail and Machu Picchu, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, The Trans-Siberian Railway through Asia and Eastern Europe and orang-utan tours in Indonesia.
“TrekTraka has the potential to introduce our treks to a network of friends and associates who may never have been exposed to the product we are selling. In a fashion it is a ‘disguised’ personal reference” says Jim Drapes – a 40 year veteran of the adventure travel industry who with his team at Back Track Adventures has been working with the TrekTraka team since the very early days.
With land-based adventure travel covered, TrekTraka targeted cruise and small ship expedition operators, including Aurora Expeditions, who took TrekTraka on-board with instant results.
“We have seen an increase in traffic to our website due to TrekTraka with many users following their friends’ expeditions and then taking some time to find out more about Aurora Expeditions and our voyages whilst online,” says Lisa Bolton, CEO, Aurora Expeditions. This instant increase in website traffic is impressive, especially when you consider other social media marketing initiatives can take an average of seven months to show website traffic increases.
“Our passengers simply love the TrekTraka service, allowing them to keep friends and family back home updated without having to interrupt their trip of a lifetime”, Lisa adds.
One of the advantages of TrekTraka is the level playing field it offers all players in the adventure travel and cruise industry space.
“The problem for many operators is that the two most important ingredients of effective social media marketing – being able to grow a social media following and being able to generate and deliver engaging social media content on an ongoing basis, requires a lot of time and effort by operators – whatever their size,” says Dave Clarke. “TrekTraka solves both of these problems by automating the process of generating engaging content and also by instantly reaching out to the existing networks of their customers, which can number in the hundreds of thousands in the instance of a large cruise ship.
“The operators that run these incredible life-changing treks, tours and cruises have the most amazing deep knowledge of their destinations and ability to create lifelong memories for the participants on an expedition or cruise”, adds Dave. “A product like TrekTraka instantly allows them to grow the awareness of their particular travel products amongst the potentially massive market of like-minded friends of their existing customers.”