More than one in ten hospitality and leisure operators now generate up to half of all sales through social media according to new research from Barclays, but despite this the industry still questions its business potential.
Over 60 per cent of the sector, which includes hotels, pubs, restaurants, travel and leisure operators, say that they only see “some” or “limited” opportunity in using social media tools to engage consumers.
This comes in spite of the clear benefits emerging from these channels: nearly a third (29 per cent) of respondents directly attribute up to 25 per cent of all their sales to social media, and a further 13 per cent state that these platforms generate up to half of sales.
In addition, more than two thirds (68 per cent) of those currently using social media report that they have had a “positive” or very positive “experience”, attracting new customers, and receiving positive recommendations.
Social media has taken significant strides in recent years, encouraged in no small part by increasingly sophisticated and popular mobile devices.
With estimates suggesting that over half of UK consumers now own a smartphone, and almost one in five have access to a tablet device, consumers have come to rely on networks and sites such as Facebook, Twitter and TripAdvisor to not only provide peer to peer recommendations for everything from hotels to pubs, restaurants and even local attractions, but also as a convenient way to connect with businesses.
Social media is firmly ingrained in how consumers, and the next generation consumer in particular, behave yet the industry is still reluctant to embrace its potential. More than one in ten operators do not currently use social media, nor do they have any plans to do so, and state that this is because they do not see any value or return on investment.
Mike Saul, head of hospitality & leisure at Barclays, commented: “The industry is missing a trick.
“Social media has blurred the line between personal and corporate communities – something that has been encouraged by consumers who now expect to be able to interact in an immediate and very personal way, not just with friends, but with their favourite - and not so favoured - brands.
“This can create a very powerful feedback loop – if operators can successfully tap into these networks, both good and bad reviews can be used to their advantage. If a flight or dinner reservation is delayed for example, it’s easy for consumers to vent their frustration to the online world – the trick is being able to respond helpfully, turning a negative experience into a positive one.
“Getting the strategy right is key.”