Top Travel Brands Making Positive Use of Social Media

Elliott Ng will represent UpTake during the PhocusWright 2009 Conference, Blogger Summit Town Hall on Wednesday, November 18th at 9:00 a.m. Ten topics were suggested by the panelists for discussion during a planning meeting a few weeks ago. We decided to collect the best posts and examples about each subject and showcase them. We hope this series lends itself to more insightful discussion during the Town Hall presentation.–Patricia Jenkins, Editor

We are now at a stage where the market is social media. It is simply not enough for companies to jump in occasionally, talk to journalists and industry insiders, and hope to create some buzz with a press release.  Travel companies are increasingly targeting consumers directly on Twitter and Facebook.

Here’s a list of the top travel brands making positive use of social media to target consumers directly.

JetBlue (www.jetblue.com/) – Offers time-limited deals announced on twitter for last minute flights every Tuesday. More information here and follow on twitter @JetBlueCheeps.

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United (www.united.com/) - United has a similar offer for twitter users called Twares – special fares available only via Twitter. More information here and follow on twitter @UnitedAirlines.

Hyatt (www.hyatt.com/) – Hyatt was the first major hotel group to offer a global 24/7’Twitter Concierge.’ Almost every major travel brand offers customer service via social media, but Hyatt was the first to specifically name it and create a separate account (@HyattConcierge). They’re now asking guests to use it to book spa appointments, dinner reservations, etc and make special requests.

Starwood (www.starwoodhotels.com/) - Starwood has taken the unique step of creating a clearing house for all the social media chatter about Starwood – on blogs, apps, facebook updates and on twitter. This allows them to make use of user-generated content on social media as a means of providing real-time information and updates to their SPG members.

Joie de Vivre (http://www.jdvhotels.com/) – JDV offers special deals via Twitter Tuesdays and Facebook Fridays. The offers go out at a different time every week and are only good for one hour, so unless you’re following JDV on both twitter and facebook, you’ll miss these deals.

Fairmont (http://www.fairmont.com/) – Their main account (@FairmontHotels), in addition to the usual interaction, deals and ’suite tweets,’ also regularly puts out twitter-only deals and runs innovative contests with free prizes – usually a free stay at a Fairmont.

Marriott (http://www.marriott.com/) – Marriott’s social media efforts encompass all the usual avenues – deals, twitter-only deals, contests and special offers. Their most recent ’Tweet Yourself to Hawaii’ contest is a pretty big success, and is earning them a ton of followers and fans on both twitter and facebook, and generating a lot of press.

Note:- As far as Fairmont, Starwood and Marriott are concerned, their brands, executives and even hotels have an active presence on twitter and facebook.

For example, Starwood’s Aloft brand has one main account, and then each of their hotels has a separate account – and the entire effort looks like its been well planned to manage future growth.

Fairmont’s individual hotels also have their own twitter accounts, and are quite aggressive in marketing themselves. The Fairmont Chicago went so far as to hire a marketing company to manage and promote a twitter contest.

Marriot’s Ritz-Carlton brand similarly has an official a/c, the individual hotels have their own accounts and their key executives also maintain active profiles. Their co-ordination was plainly evident when their Jakarta hotels were attacked with bombs earlier this year in July, and all their accounts were tweeting information at various levels.

Marriott (@MarriottIntl) provided the official responses, Ritz-Carlton CEO Simon Cooper (@SimonFCooper) provided the sympathy and a human face, while Alison Sitch, corp. director for PR (@RitzCarltonPR), provided active assistance.

The three travel brands listed below also need to be commended for their innovative use of social media to connect with consumers and improve brand visibility and image.

V Australia (www.vaustralia.com.au/) – V Australia has taken twitter by storm with their 4320LA and 4320SYD twitter contests. It helped promote their twitter presence, their brand and the destinations – Los Angeles and Sydney.

Travelocity (www.travelocity.com/) – Travelocity’s Roaming Gnome doesn’t just travel on site and in real life. He also has a sizeable presence on Myspace, Facebook and Twitter. Putting the Roaming Gnome as their public face on social media platforms helps Travelocity connect with consumers.

Carnival (www.carnival.com/) – The Carnival Cruise Line has a unique strategy - They get tons of free publicity on Twitter by aggregating tweets and blog posts from people on-board their ships. Here’s a recent sample. To further this angle, Senior Cruise Director John Heald blogs about his life as a cruise director, offering behind-the-scenes insight. Carnival has also set up an in-house social network – CarnivalConnections - for building and maintaining an active community.