Weber Shandwick's VP for travel and leisure, Erin Burden, said that all third-party endorsements were important and that coverage from travel journalists in print went hand in hand with user generated content on the web.
However, she added that destinations "need to let go of the need to filter. Social media can't look choreographed. And you can't dip in when it suits. It has to be embraced fully"
Burden was presenting the 2008 Country Brand Index, produced by Weber Shandwick and sister company FutureBrand every year. One of the key demands travellers have of a destination is authenticity. Social media offered potential visitors accounts of these "genuine experiences",
National tourism offices are starting to acknowledge social media's importance as part of a shift towards seeing its web site in the same terms as its bricks and mortar presence.
And what's driving the development of better tourism web sites is the success of others, she said, suggesting that New Zealand's site was an example of how a destination had made its web site central to its brand, in this case its "100% Pure" campaign.
The counter side of this is that if a website "isn't top notch in terms of its technology and fresh engaging imagery then it can be quite damaging to a brand".
Related link at Travolution