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Online travel agencies, booking sites, airlines, and hotels have begun to realize that social and sharing features are key to spreading the word about their services and building a brand identity.

Only a select few U.S. city and state tourism boards have embraced the opportunities to engage with travelers, while others who have been slow on the uptake are attempting to catch up.

Early adopters

The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC) launched their blog, Uwishunu, in 2007 as one of the first tourism boards to adopt social media.The blog continues to innovate and participate on social media platforms, most recently joining Instagram and becoming a local content partner for Google Field Trips.

The tourism board’s website Visit Philly is one of the top 10 destination-marketing organizations on Pinterest in terms of followers and adds curated guides of places to visit on Foursquare lists.

So how’s all this effort working out for Philadephia?

“In a recent survey of 1,000 fans and followers, 73% of respondents said they attended an event or visited an attraction they learned about through one of our social media properties,” reports GPTMC CEO Meryl Levitz.

“A recent report by the U.S. Travel Association shows that overnight visitation to Greater Philadelphia has grown six times faster than the national average since 1997,” adds a GPTMC spokesperson.

Despite it’s impressive track record, VisitPhilly nor its blog have reached 1 million Likes on Facebook like the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board.

Los Angeles

Social integration helped the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board become the first U.S. city to reach 1 million fans on Facebook.

The site launched in early November with features like The Experience Builder and MyLA that allow tourists and locals to build lists of activities and places to visit and share them on Facebook or Twitter. Celebrities can create their own “My LA to Z” lists to share their favorite spots in the city. Not to mention, hotel bookings and OpenTable reservations are possible directly through the site.

VP of Media & Entertainment Michael K. Brown at the digital agency Digitaria, which designed the site, explained the bottom-up approach it used to provide tourists with local insight and the ability to enjoy the city like a resident, “Even though is a travel website targeted at people outside of the city, we decided to flip it and approach it by building a site that would be a resource for people living in L.A., and by nature would become valuable to tourists as well.”

Digitaria also built the official website for Brand USA, The site hosts Travel Journals where foreign tourists blog about their experiences in a certain region and travel guides on Facebook.

Outside of the U.S.

Tourism boards outside the U.S. are also doing a great job of engaging travelers and residents on social media platform, blogs, and Twitter. Travelers can share their Instagram photos on The Montreal Buzz, a blog for Tourisme Montreal, or download a free travel app from Tourism Australia.

Have you seen any impressive social efforts from tourism boards at the destinations you’ve visisted? Let us know in the comments.

Photo Credit: introduces each neighborhood with a map and activity suggestions. /