It can be difficult to keep up with current trends in tourism, hospitality, travel and technology….unless, of course, sleep is optional for you.

For the rest of us mere mortals, fast-paced Twitter chats are invaluable.  They are some of THE most useful hours I spend online researching industry happenings and discussions.  You’ll get help from peers and network with fellow professionals around the world (here are 9 tips for following hashtags.)

I offer my own list of resources below that I use for speaking and Tourism Currents social media training.

I’d love to hear more ideas from you down in the comments.

If you follow no other chat….

New chats pop up all the time – some Scotland-based tourism businesses just launched the #ScotlandHour travel chat, for example – but for tried and true value, don’t miss #tourismchat.

It’s usually biweekly, at 2 pm CST on Thursdays. Check the #tourismchat Facebook Page for dates and topics.

Chat co-founder Anne Hornyak summarizes a #tourismchat session here, if you want a sense of how it works.

Other good tourism chats

Keep an eye out for the hashtags for conferences like ESTO, #SoMeT (this hashtag is active year-round,) PRSA Travel, eTourismSummit and the annual state/province Governor’s conferences.

The conference calendar on DMOProz can help you keep up with these.

Get some hybrid vigor

Following non-tourism hashtags ensures that I don’t get stuck in a stale echo chamber listening to the same people over and over. Mixing it up fosters what my Tourism Currents business partner Becky McCray calls “the hybrid vigor of ideas.”

Some of these chats include:

**  Crazy-fast #blogchat on Sunday nights, 8 pm CST.

**  Tech conference hashtags like #BWEchat (year-round for BlogWorld and New Media Expo East and West)  #SXSWi (mostly active January through March for South by Southwest Interactive) and #SOBCon (year-round for the SOBCon business blogging conferences.)

**  Since search engines are so integral to online activities, I keep an eye on hashtags for Search Marketing Expo / #SMX events worldwide, especially #SMXEast and #SMXWest.

**  I’m not a gadget person, but the annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona / #MWC12 for 2012 and the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) / #CES in Las Vegas are worth a look, if only to find links to good event round-up blog posts towards the end.

How to keep track of all this chatter

You can follow and participate in chats with regular web-based Twitter, but I prefer a dashboard to keep things sorted. I use columns in TweetDeck for each hashtag, adding and removing as events come and go.

Others are fans of HootSuite;  since it’s cloud-based you can get around any IT download restrictions in your office, and multi-person team accounts seem to like it.

When the chat is actually in progress, I log into TweetChat to keep up with the conversation flow and add the hashtag to my tweets automatically. (Update: TweetChat appears to be defunct as of July 2019.)

Which chats or tools am I forgetting? Let us know in the comments….

Still a bit unsure of the value?  Here’s 60 seconds with Beth Conway from the St. Joseph, Missouri CVB on how she uses Twitter (direct link to the video on YouTube if you can’t see the embed box below.)

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