Breaking Travel News

Merging worlds get personal as hotel chains take to social media

Hotels are driving the travel industry’s use of social media by creating offline events via its online audience, reveals the WTM Global Trends Report 2011 released today at World Travel Market.

Personalised communications via social networks and leveraging the influence of friends and followers are now an established part of big hotel chains’ marketing strategies, reveals the report, produced in association with Euromonitor International.

Eight main roles for social media are identified by WTM Global Trends Report 2011, from crisis management to brand awareness, special deals to loyalty programmes.

Marriott International leveraged its Marriott and Renaissance Caribbean & Mexico Resorts Facebook page to promote a “Paradise by Marriott’ event in New York.  Free pedicures and massages were available at an open-air spa in Madison Square Park to people who could only print an invitation after ‘liking’ the resort’s Facebook page.

Other global hotels chains are using social media in new ways. Sofitel has appointed social media co-ordinators to send out targeted messages based on their guests’ personal profile. InterContinental has a social media customer care team who monitor complaints on social media channels and resolve them in real time.

Furthermore, the report mentions it is difficult to determine the return on investment of social media initiatives. This will become an even bigger issue as loyalty programmes, concierge services and bookings increasingly blur the boundaries.

WTM Global Trends Report 2011 also warned that “hotels must understand the differences in social media usage to integrate local aspects and avoid the incessant launch of new tools and websites to choose the most efficient.”

Reed Travel Exhibitions Chairman World Travel Market Fiona Jeffery said: “Everyone knows that social media is now a significant part of the travel industry’s marketing, PR, customer service and distribution strategies. But as the report shows, strategic thinking is required to make sure that it is used effectively.”

She added that WTM 2011 includes for the first time a Social Travel Market, giving delegates the chance to learn about social media use in travel for the best in the business.

Caroline Bremner, Head of Travel and Tourism Research at Euromonitor International, said: “Social media is one of the big success stories in travel over the last couple of years in terms of marketing, and consumers now expect travel companies to provide a more personalised response. The challenge is how to ensure the best return on investment in the long run”.