Newsletters  | Mobile

Social Media in Travel + Tourism Awards

Meet the Judges

Jason Calacanis

Founder of Inside.com, serial entrepreneur, and angel investor.

Brian Cooley

Editor-at-large at CNET and frequent tech contributor to CNN, ABC News, and CNBC.

Kim Mance

Founder of TBEX (Travel Blog Exchange), TV host, and writer.

Lee McCabe

Head of Travel at Facebook and former senior director of market management at Expedia.

Chris Mohney

Former Editor-in-Chief of Tumblr

Mari Smith

Social media strategist, speaker, and author of Facebook Marketing: An Hour a Day.

Jake Stangel

Travel + Leisure photographer, selected by the British Journal of Photography as “One to Watch” in 2013

Ivanka Trump

Executive vice president of development and acquisitions at the Trump Organization

Best Overall Use of Social Media

Airline, U.S.


Delta Air Lines

Multiple Twitter handles help Delta assist passengers easily, whether for reservations (@DeltaAssist) or breaking news (@DeltaNewsroom). Meanwhile, calls for travel photos and campaigns (“Show us your #BiscoffBowTie”) keep the airline’s 460,000 followers inspired and engaged. Oh yes, and Delta is also a runner-up in the SMITTYs contest category.

Airline, Global


Turkish Airlines

Turkish Airlines has turned on the social media spigot in a big way, even winning another SMITTY this year for the best mobile-friendly campaign. And a viral video was its most public effort. You’ve probably seen the TV commercial: Kobe Bryant trying to outdo Barcelona soccer player Lionel Messi in juggling and balloon animal–making to win over a young fan. But it’s an ice cream–bearing flight attendant who succeeds (as does the airline: the video has had more than 100 million YouTube views).

Airport, U.S.


San Francisco International Airport

SFO won a SMITTY award last year, and it’s not surprising to see the airport in the top slot again: social media marketing company Viralheat ranked it the most social media–savvy airport in America for 2012. One of the ways it achieved that ranking: postcards. While a Dickensesque character greeted passengers throughout terminals, staffers snapped photos to create both digital and physical holiday postcards. Followers and fans were prompted to share them using the hashtag #SFOHolidays.

Cruise Line


Aurora Expeditions

Before embarking on their journey, Aurora Expeditions’ passengers could opt to stay in touch using the TrekTraka social media app. Real-time, location-based updates were made to linked Facebook accounts, allowing friends and family to see when the cruise had made it to its destination—even remote spots like Antarctica or Papua New Guinea.



Visit Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach, SC, set out to show that its 60 miles of coastline are just as great during the 60 days of fall as they are in the summer. The tourism board posted unnamed spots (like local attractions and restaurants) on Pinterest and Twitter. Then, on “Trip Tuesday,” followers were asked to guess these secret locations, resulting in a new winner each week.


Visit Denver

Themed road rallies—including beer, history, and adventure—sent travel bloggers on a scavenger hunt across the Mile High City’s landmarks, from the Denver Zoo to the Phoenix Gold Mine. Check-ins on Visit Denver’s app and live tweets using the hashtag #tbexrr revealed QR code tips about their next destination.

CVB, Global


Cape Town Tourism

The next best thing to sending people to Cape Town? Sending their Facebook profiles. More than 150 point-of-view videos were shot (think hang gliding around Table Mountain), along with 400 first-person status updates, and posted onto participants’ timelines. A few lucky users received gifts from trips on their newsfeed (e.g., wine from a vineyard visit), while grand-prize winners were sent on a real holiday to the Mother City.


Tourism Australia

Fans create more than 95 percent of content on this tourism board’s profiles. By taking advantage of digital media’s 24-hour time loop and dedicated interaction with its followers, Tourism Australia has inspired the contribution of more than 1,000 photos every day across its social media networks.

Hotel Chain


Four Seasons Hotels

The luxury group put customer service first by creating custom Twitter accounts for both its guests and hotels. Brides-to-be can follow the @FSBridal handle for wedding inspiration, while other guests can follow any of the 84 specific property handles for location-based tips and deals.

Individual Hotel, U.S.


The Pfister Hotel

The Pfister is so committed to fine art that it keeps an artist in residence. What better way to engage fans than to let them vote for the next one via Facebook and Twitter? The winner was artist Stephanie Barenz, and the hotel now posts her sketches on its social networks—a unique way of keeping tradition alive in a digital world.

Individual Hotel, Global


Four Seasons Toronto

Now this is how you open a hotel over social media. Thirty days of spa giveaways created a buzz around Toronto’s new Four Seasons property, with more than 1,000 people entering the Facebook sweepstakes. A live tweetup during the hotel’s ribbon cutting ceremony added to the excitement, while the hashtag #FSNewEra emphasized its modern design (55 glass stories; Yabu Pushelberg interiors).


Westin Bund Center Shanghai

As a sponsor of the 2012 Shanghai International Film Festival, the Westin Bund Center reached out to movie producers via social networks, posted timely updates about China’s pop culture, and cross-promoted its Weibo account with the organizer’s official website and Weibo account..

Marketing/Trade Association


Ski Vermont

From lift tickets to five-night ski-and-stay getaways, Ski Vermont entered visitors to win with every Facebook or Foursquare check-in. Fans were also encouraged to send pictures of themselves skiing and boarding with the hashtag #vtskibrag. Ski Vermont rewarded persistent braggers with extra sweepstakes entries.

Tour Operator


Big Five Tours & Expeditions

For its 40th anniversary, this tour operator challenged its audience to come up with creative ways to travel sustainably. In YouTube video clips shot around the globe, the president encouraged users to share their ideas via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+ using the hashtag #40ways. Four participants with the best submissions will win Google Nexus Tablets.

Travel Agency/Online Travel Agency



Expedia put an emphasis on individual journeys with its “Find Yours” campaign. Facebook fans and Twitter followers were encouraged to share their tales, as well as create their own itinerary using the company’s many travel services.

Best Use of Social Media by an Independent Travel Journalist/Blogger


Passports with Purpose

During a 15-day period, some 200 travel bloggers combined efforts to digitally solicit $110,000 for Water.org, an organization dedicated to delivering clean, drinkable water to communities worldwide.


Everything Everywhere

For the past six years, Gary Arndt has been blogging his travel stories and sharing photos via social media—quite a job to keep up with, considering he’s been to more than 100 countries and seven continents since 2007. The goal of Everything Everywhere is to create a community where travelers can share tips and experiences, with Gary often crowdsourcing information on where to stay and what to eat around the world.

Individual Categories

Best Twitter Feed


Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation

This tourism board made sure Philadelphia extended its Brotherly Love to Twitter. The @VisitPhilly handle tweets out exclusive cyber deals on hotels and events to keep its visitors in the know. As for the city’s local fan base (like Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly), @VisitPhilly is known to send love letters via TwitPic.

Best Pinterest Photos


VisitSweden in Conjunction with Glitterati Incorporated

VisitSweden wanted followers to view the country through a more artistic lens. Utilizing photographs from the avant-garde Hilton Brothers, the bureau dedicated a Pinterest board to showcase its capital city and inspired nearly 1,000 Stockholm itineraries in the process.

Best Instagram Photos


Tourism Australia

The down under destination turned its Instagram account over to followers. The @SeeAustralia handle encouraged followers to tag their photos using the hashtag #SeeAustralia, then watched more than 240,000 images poured in. Followers continue to send in 1,000-plus photos a day across Tourism Australia’s social networks, making 95 percent of its social content user-generated.

Best Facebook Timeline


Fairmont Hotels

Fairmont Hotels had staffers from each property dish out insider tips on its Facebook timeline. Fun, personality-based quizzes add tailored itinerary suggestions, from chef-selected restaurants to exclusive fitness classes (Hula-Hooping in Hawaii, anyone?).


Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay

Concierge recommendations and a focus on California’s epicurean culture fill the Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay’s Facebook timeline. Behind-the-scenes photos from events such as Yappy Hour (where guests can savor drinks with their canine companions) show off the many offerings of this Bay Area getaway.

Best Blog


Meet Minneapolis

The Meet Minneapolis blog caught our attention with its star-studded contributors. Restaurateur and television personality Guy Fieri listed his top spots to eat in this Twin City, while NFL punter Chris Kluwe—a former Minnesota Viking—shed light on his daily duties as an Oakland Raider.

Best Video



This Canadian airline decided to spread some holiday cheer when it turned an airport gate into the North Pole. Nine hidden cameras caught the surprised faces of 166 Christmas travelers as elves, snowmen, and ballerinas stormed the terminal. The holiday cheer spread onto YouTube; more than 435,000 people tuned in to watch the viral video.

Best Facebook Chat/Twitter Chat/Tweetup/Hangout


Four Seasons Hotels

Four Seasons’ 90 hotels catered to brides-to-be during its #LuxBride Twitter chat. Tweets from the company’s dedicated bridal handle, @FSBridal, inspired wedding themes, while Brides Magazine and celebrity baker Peggy Porschen also chimed in about the big day.


Noble House Hotels

Happy hours are indisputably the best hours of the workweek—that’s why Noble House Hotels, with its corresponding restaurants, decided to host a nighttime Twitter chat around its love for this social scene. Dozens of recipes—from fish tacos to pineapple-infused martinis—were tweeted, along with crave-worthy photos.

Best Contest/Giveaway


W New York Times Square

Playing off W Hotels’ reputation for great design, the W New York Times Square partnered with its Instagram community to create the first-ever Instagram photography exhibit in Manhattan. More than 6,000 entrants fought for 10 spots in the exhibit, with one grand-prize winner chosen for a two-night stay at the hotel.


Delta Air Lines

Delta launched its multiplatform Red Coat Challenge to show its love for the Big Apple. Insider clues about New York City were released to players in a real-world challenge to find the Delta Red Coat who was hidden around the city each week. Forty lucky winners were treated with a flight from New York to Los Angeles and a private acoustic concert with the band Fun at Nobu. With more than 70 million impressions on Twitter, the airline won over quite a few hearts.

Best Location-Based Campaign


Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy

For the Golden Gate’s 75th birthday, the park conservancy wanted to create the “longest bridge in the world.” Using Google Maps, more than 2,000 Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ users stitched together images of their favorite bridges, creating a digital bridge spanning 18 million feet.


National Car Rental

While road trips may be novel for their spontaneity, a tip here and there can be a major relief. Foursquare lists in cities including Denver, Nashville, and San Francisco encourage drivers to stretch their legs (at dance studios, art galleries) along the way, and point them to some of the best food joints (Italian, Thai, Mexican) in town.

Best Mobile-Friendly Campaign


Turkish Airlines

During the 2012 London Olympics, the airline sent spectators on a scavenger hunt. National flags acted as QR codes; when scanned, they allowed users to check in to that country via Facebook. The countries’ Olympic progress was also monitored through the app, so fans wouldn’t miss a play.

Best Viral Campaign



In The Real Frank Reardon, a YouTube video series, the Kayak CEO sought revenge from his high school nemesis by banning him from using Kayak.com. As Frank Reardon pleaded for forgiveness, the series went viral, generating 9 million hits.

Most Creative Hashtag


Qatar Airways

The hashtag #Tweetameet allowed Qatar Airways followers to share cool facts about the airline’s various destinations. Pairs of these wishful travelers faced off in #Tweetameet “races,” tweeting factoids about their destination of choice, with the most knowledgeable twosome winning tickets to that country.


Travaasa Resorts

From last-minute shopping to intrusive in-laws, it seems we’re all stricken by #HolidayProblems. Luckily, Travaasa Resorts offered relief with its campaign, from a Pinterest board filled with healthy winter treats to gift ideas on Facebook. Followers who used the hashtag the most earned a Travaasa Resorts vitality package.

Best Social Media Use for Public Service


Kimpton Hotels

Kimpton’s Facebook contest gave three military families a free stay over Christmas, gifts included. Entrants explained how they kept in touch with their loved ones during the holidays; some of the most heartwarming stories were featured on television.


InterContinental Hotel New York Barclay

During Hurricane Sandy, the InterContinental Barclay served as a source for those affected, tweeting about news and transportation updates, as well as on-site relief efforts. Family-friendly events at the hotel kept children busy, and shared photos from the efforts helped the campaign reach 500,000 impressions.


Visit Bucks County

During Hurricane Sandy, the bureau transformed its Facebook and Twitter platforms into news sources for affected Bucks County, PA, residents and visitors. All alerts included the hashtag #BucksSandy, and local businesses were encouraged to utilize Facebook comments and the #BucksSandy hashtag to spread the word about their status.

Most Innovative Social Media App or Technology



Traveling solo? No sweat—Contiki’s Shout travel app lets group members meet and connect before a trip, so you can get to know each other prior to embarking. The app also allows the sharing of footage from the company’s adventures, making it perfect for easy tweeting.


Sign Up

Connect With Travel + Leisure
  • Travel+Leisure
  • Tablet
  • Available devices

Already a subscriber?
Get FREE ACCESS to the digital edition