Mining Social Media To Discover Your Guest’s Preferences

Your hotel is a bustling hive of activity–business people scurrying off to their next big meeting, lovey-dovey couples cooing and hand-holding, while their horse-drawn carriage awaits, and happy families venturing out for yet another day of adventure in the big city.

So many faces. So many names. Surely, no one expects a lodging as big as yours to know each one of these guests personally. Or do they?


The fact is that each of your customers is a V.I.P. in their own right. They, after all, have chosen your hotel as the setting from which to conduct their important business meetings, romance their significant others, and build treasured family memories.

And, they also have the power to motivate others to either embrace your brand or run the other way, screaming.

So, while you may not roll out the red carpet for every new arrival, you can–and should–make each and every guest feel valued.

What is GuestDriven?

GuestDriven is a Canadian start-up company that provides hotels with a platform that enables them to communicate with guests in real-time throughout their entire stay. Based in Montreal, GuestDriven has already been adopted by 115 hotels in thirty-five cities.

And, thanks to a three million dollar shot in the arm from investors, it is poised to transform the industry–enabling hotels to provide customized client service at a level never before possible.

What does it do?

Imagine being able to anticipate each client’s needs before they even arrive on your premises. Sounds impossible, doesn’t it? Well, thanks to GuestDriven, your staff will be equipped to do exactly that.

The platform is designed to allow you to get to know your client through a variety of features.

• Social Media Profiles. Thanks to your guest’s social media profiles, you will be able to glean not only valuable demographic information, but you will also have access to their interests. Are they an aspiring artist? If so, your hotel can provide them with information on local galleries or great places to set up a canvas. If their Instagram and Facebook accounts boast a sizeable number of photos of their beloved pooch, you can let them know that your property is pet-friendly and offers services tailored to their canine friend’s needs.

• Wish List. Guests are invited to create a Wish List of the attractions and special events that they’d like to check out while they are visiting your town. This insight will enable your concierge and other staff members to assist them with their planning.

• Direct chatting. Yes, you can even dialogue directly with your clientele. They can ask you questions and you can provide them with assistance and offer them customized deals. GuestDriven better equips you to respond to requests quickly and resolve customer service issues one-on-one.

What about marketing?

GuestDriven, as you can clearly see, is a great tool for increasing customer satisfaction, but how can it be used to attract new business?

• Word of mouth. Obviously, these happy customers will want to return to your hotel after enjoying your first class service, but they will also share their experience with others. Yes, your clientele will clamor to sing your praises on social media channels–tapping in to the best free marketing a business can get.

• Customized campaigns. Finally, you will have the inside scoop on which marketing campaigns will appeal to which clients. You can personalize offers based on individual demographics and interests.

• Cohesive image. Your unique GuestDriven mobile interface can be custom-designed to match your hotel’s image and other marketing platforms. Whether you require a clean modern feel, something funky and fun, or a hint of old Victorian charm, GuestDriven will ensure that your interface is congruent with your brand.

• CRM (Customer Relationship Management). The very fact that you can now relate to your customer directly and access their social media date will enable you to better streamline your CRM. With customers booking on platforms like Expedia, it is increasingly difficult for hotels to keep track of their clientele.

By using a platform like GuestDriven, your Customer Relationship Management team will be able to communicate with guests early in the booking process–providing you with an excellent chance to market your services and ensure that the booking sticks. Check out this article on Integrating your CRM team.

No longer will your clientele be a mere blur of unnameable faces. Thanks to GuestDriven, the hurried businessperson, romantic duo, and hyperactive family of five will be more than just a name and a credit card number. They’ll be multi-dimensional and unique individuals–and you’ll know how to make each one’s stay their best yet. These are your hotel’s VIPs–and red carpet service does not require a red carpet.

What excites you the most about the potential of platforms like GuestDriven? What concerns you?

This post was contributed by Kimberley Laws, a freelance writer, avid blogger, and social media addict. You can follow her neurotic and OCD ramblings at The Embiggens Project and Searching for Barry Weiss.

Image courtesy of photos.com.

Marketing To Millenials on Social Media

The baby boomers have ruled the roost for decades. Armed with tidy pensions, financial security, and sheer power in numbers, this generation’s custom has been coveted by businesses in every sector–including the hospitality industry.

Generation X, with its job instability and paltry numbers barely registered on anyone’s radar–and surely posed no threat to the reign of the boomers. But that is all about to change. There is a new generation taking over.

With over 80 million members in the United States alone, the Millennials–a.k.a Generation Y–are the most rapidly growing consumer segment. And marketers are taking notice.


So how does one go about marketing to a millennial?

First you must understand a bit about this generation’s characteristics.

Meet the Millennials
While each individual member of every generation possesses unique qualities, there are a few traits that are said to characterize the Millennials as a whole.

  • Highly social, both online and off.
  • Tech-savvy and require real-time information.
  • Fearful of missing out.
  • Conscious of social and civic responsibility.
  • Attracted to highly interactive sites.

As a marketer, it is important to select the best platform to reach this influential consumer group. Since the Millennial is plugged in more than any other generation, the best way to attract their attention is to meet them where they’re at–social media.

Here are a few examples of clever companies capitalizing on social media to attract this promising group of travelers.

TRYP Hotel
This Times Square Hotel has developed a social network lounge, cleverly named “Lobby Friend” to appeal to the Millennial’s desire for up-to-date information and social interaction.

Guests are afforded the opportunity to join Lobby Friend and access it over the course of their stay. This membership gives the guest online access to the concierge, staff members, and other guests who have also joined.

Members are kept abreast of events and special deals, provided with help finding NYC attractions, and made aware of get-togethers organized by other guests. And, if a member finds themselves lost in the Big Apple, help is just a message away.

If you’re considering creating your own version of “Lobby Friend,” check out Turning Your Website Into a Hospitality Hub.

Aurora Expeditions
Known for adventurous expeditions to far-flung destinations like Antarctica, Papua New Guinea, or the Kimberley Coast, Aurora Expeditions has found the way to let their tech-savvy millennials share their experiences with loved ones back home.

Using TrekTraka, a social network marketing system, clients are able to share their trek with followers via their Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts.

Followers can then monitor their friend’s progress and view other engaging information generated by Aurora about this adventure–information that potential can lead to new bookings later.

Azul Airlines
The Millennial generation prefers to deal with companies that possess a strong sense of social responsibility. Brazil’s Azul Airlines “Pink” campaign earned the company a reputation for exactly that.

Unlike the many other airlines that jumped on the “pink planes for breast cancer” initiative, Azul took it a step further and invited the public to name its pink plane–a move that garnered a massive social media following.
The crew was outfitted in hot pink uniforms and the hashtag #OtubroRosaNaAzul was introduced, which translates to “Pink October with Azul.”

Air Asia
Air Asia, a company renowned for mastering the art of social media marketing, appealed to the millennial’s interactive nature through the “Where’s Johno?” campaign.

Using Google Streetview, visitors were invited to partake in five different online games–each based on an actual attraction found on Australia’s Gold Coast.

To make the games even more appealing, players were asked to locate “Johno” at each location, collect five different stamps from him, and enter for a chance to win a free trip to this Queensland destination.

While each generation has much in common with the preceding one, there are also distinct differences. The Millennials are the first group to grow up with Google at their fingertips, a collection of Facebook friends, and a cell phone glued to their hands. And the best way to win their business is through a clever social media campaign.

How do you market to millennials? What traits have you noticed are unique to this generation?

This post was contributed by Kimberley Laws. She is a freelance writer, Mediashower blogger, and proud member of Generation X. You can follow her neurotic and OCD ramblings at The Embiggens Project and Searching for Barry Weiss.

Image courtesy of photos.com.

Aloft Hotels Expands Locations, Innovation with Keyless Check-in

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. recently announced its leading-edge Aloft brand will debut in New Orleans and expand to Louisville in 2015.

In addition to expanding locations, Aloft’s innovative and exclusive initiatives set it apart. Aloft recently announced that select properties will roll out Keyless Check-In, allowing guests to use their smartphones to check in to the hotel and open their guestroom door.

This follows on the heels of Smart Check-In, the first mobile check-in using RFID technology to truly bypass the front desk available at 14 Aloft properties. In addition, Aloft has an exclusive design partnership with Design Within Reach (DWR), and its W XYZ(SM) bars offer live, free access to local emerging artists as well as some of the hottest bands with Live at Aloft Hotels programming.

Aloft Louisville Downtown will boast an ideal location within the central business district, walking distance to the KFC Yum! Center, the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, Waterfront Park and the shops, dining and entertainment at the Fourth Street Live complex.  Hotel facilities will include the brand’s signature W XYZsm bar, Splash pool, 24-hour fitness center and 2,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, ideal for both business meetings and social gatherings.

“The Aloft brand in a terrific match for the lively city of Louisville and will likely attract savvy travelers and young professionals  with its urban design and live music offerings,” said Brian McGuinness, Senior Vice President, Specialty Select Brands for Starwood. “Propelled by phenomenal  demand, Aloft is rapidly expanding its footprint in markets worldwide.”

Aloft New Orleans Downtown will feature 188 spacious, loft-like rooms, forward-thinking technology and a lively, social atmosphere.

“The energy of Aloft is a perfect match for the vibrant city of New Orleans, offering travelers the opportunity to enjoy modern design and innovative programming right at the heart of the city,” said Brian McGuinness, Senior Vice President, Specialty Select Brands for Starwood. “The brand is enjoying phenomenal growth, fueled by the enthusiasm of savvy travelers in markets across the globe.”

The hotel’s signature W XYZSM bar will offer a perfect place for guests to enjoy a refreshing cocktail and catch up-and-coming music acts that are part of Aloft’s signature Live at Aloft Hotels events that take place around the world. Additional facilities will include an outdoor Splash pool, 24-hour fitness center and 2,500 square feet of flexible meeting space, ideal for both business meetings and social gatherings.

“Aloft New Orleans Downtown will build on the brand’s success with adaptive re-use projects in markets across North America,” said Allison Reid, Senior Vice President of North America Development, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. “Delivering urban design and leading-edge technology all in a social atmosphere, Aloft is resonating with the next generation of travelers across the globe and capturing the interest of owners and developers looking to re-imagine existing buildings.”

What do you think about keyless check in? Would you prefer being able to manage everything from your phone?

Social Media The New PR For Hospitality Industry

As communication and media have increased in type and complexity, traditional disciplines like Public Relations are faced with the reality of a new set of rules. Where once all a business had to worry about was television, radio, and print, now there’s the Internet and social media to contend with in addition.

With the Internet, the old maxim of “Everyone’s a critic!” becomes truer than ever. All you need is a computer, an Internet connection, and the ability to string words together coherently (though there are plenty of examples out there that cast doubt on that third qualification!), and suddenly you can become a reviewer, posting your experiences online for all to read, for better or for worse.

So how does the hospitality industry navigate these new, churning waters?

New technology means new ways of conducting public relations in the hospitality industry

What Is Public Relations?
Let’s start with the fundamentals here. Public relations is the art of maintaining one’s image and reputation, with the intent of swaying people to understand and support you, and thereby influencing their opinions and behavior.

In other words, PR makes you look good, makes people like you, and makes people act towards you in the manner you want them to. For a business, that means having people frequent it, for instance.

Social Media Rewrites The Rules
Once upon a time, public relations manipulated the three traditional media into giving their clients the coverage they wanted, in order to fulfill the above-mentioned PR goals. Nowadays, the Internet has taken media and split it up into countless little islands or fiefdoms (and in some extreme cases, insane delusional dictatorships), each with its own voice and target audience.

And yet, according to a recent Nielsen survey, editorial (e.g. print) coverage is the fourth most trusted ad source. Clearly, old media’s day isn’t over yet, and there needs to be a balance between the traditional and the modern.

Getting A Social Media Presence
Whether it’s a bar, restaurant, club, or hotel, having not only a website but also a presence on social networks such as Facebook is key. This lets people sign up or like a business’ page, and opens them up to receiving updated information of interest.

By having a website and social network pages (which also link to each other!), a hospitality business has the perfect platform to launch all manner of public relations campaigns, be it promotions, giveaways, or contests. It’s also a good way to keep people informed on new changes; perhaps a hotel has opened a new restaurant, or a casino is featuring a special guest for entertainment.

Closer Contact With Customers
Thanks to social media, a disgruntled hotel or restaurant guest can vent their outrage out onto the Internet with reckless abandon. Hospitality industries that assign someone (perhaps from Marketing or PR proper?) to monitor social networks can find these problems and reach out to the offended party in the hopes of not only making things right, but also of changing their opinion of the establishment and consequently giving a more favorable public review.

This may sound like a lot of work, but this is the reality that businesses find themselves in today. A quick look, maybe twice a day, on various social networks to see what’s being said can really head off problems and bring businesses closer to customers, which in turn increases the likelihood of repeat visits.

But this close contact is not only good for dealing with complaints, but also for adding a personal dimension to communications between host and guest. Some hotel chains use Twitter as a virtual concierge, for instance.

Changing With The Times
Social media has opened up all new possibilities. You can become a hospitality industry innovator like Andrew Sasson by embracing the new technology while still maintaining ties with the traditional ways. Hospitality is at its best when there’s more of a human touch. With social media, that degree of warmth can be met with less effort than you think.

This post was contributed by John Terra who has been a freelance writer since 1985. He is a staunch believer in the power of social media to bring people together.

Photo Credit: wbeem

Sifting Through Social Media Signals

Have you ever tried to take part in more than one conversation at the same time? Before long, you confuse who said what, make a few verbal missteps, and wind up with your foot jammed firmly in your mouth.

Imagine how hard it is sifting through social media signals for information that will benefit your business. Thanks to Big Data and the new technologies designed to make sense of it all, the hospitality industry can do exactly that–extract valuable bytes of info, helping them move their business in the right direction.

Here are a few examples of how hospitality leaders have mined valuable nuggets of customer information from social media conversations–enabling them to improve their standing in this competitive marketplace.

1. Wendy’s Restaurants

Fast food chains have come under harsh criticism lately due to fat-laden menus that pack a hefty caloric punch. Wendy’s made an important discovery, simply through social listening. When office workers contemplate going to Wendy’s for lunch, one of their top queries is “How can I go there and not break my diet?”

If this question is left unaddressed, the restaurant runs the risk of losing the client to a perceived healthier venue. Instead, Wendy’s took this nugget of info and created an interactive app that allows users to build their own menus based on nutritional information.

2. Hilton

World renowned Hilton Hotels & Resorts has learned to quarry hot leads on Twitter. By monitoring the social media platform for tweets involving cities that have a Hilton Hotel, they are able to dialogue with potential clientele–fostering a positive brand image. Someone may tweet something like “Anyone know where to get great mojitos in Philly?” This tweet would, then, be funneled to the appropriate Hilton Hotel Employee in Philadelphia who would help the tweeter find a great place to quench that mojito craving.

By providing this type of assistance, the Hilton Hotels chain is able to create a positive reputation as a company who cares–resulting in great word of mouth on social media channels and face-to-face, and the potential for new clientele.

Not sure how to utilize Big Data in your business? Check out How to Unlock Big Data’s Potential.

3. Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts

Large hotel chains that conduct business all around the globe have to navigate a variety of political climates. And, sometimes, they find themselves–and their guests–in dangerous situations. The Shangri-La chain of hotels has found a way to use social media listening to glean valuable information during times of unrest.

After the October 15, 2013 bombing of the chain’s “Traders Hotel” in Yangon, Myanmar, the company was able to monitor social media using Radian6 for chatter about the situation. As a result, they were able to manage the mayhem, ensure the safety of their staff and clientele, and receive information in real-time.

4. KLM

The Dutch Airline, KLM, has employed Radian6 to keep an ear on social media and Chatter to communicate data back to their social media hub, which consists of over 100 staff.

KLM’s sizeable social media hub was born in 2010, when the airline found itself grounded due to the Icelandic ash cloud. This highly successful program now sifts through over 30,000 messages each week, sorts them by language, and assigns them to the appropriate social media agent. This is done around the clock, every day of the week. The company promises to respond within an hour–a vow that has earned them a reputation for stellar customer service.

KLM is not the only airline that is putting social listening to good use. Learn how Qantas is using it to improve the service in their airport lounges.

It is imperative that members of the hospitality industry learn to manage and decipher Big Data. After all, when it comes to customer data, there is no such thing as too much. You can never know your clientele too well. And you can never dig up too much dirt on the competition.

Which social media platform do you think would yield the most useful data? Why?

This post was contributed by Kimberley Laws, a freelance writer, avid blogger, and social media addict. You can follow her neurotic and OCD ramblings at The Embiggens Project and Searching for Barry Weiss.

Image courtesy of: [jscreationzs] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Airlines Have Highest Levels Of Social Engagement

The world becomes a tad bit smaller with every passing year. Yes, thanks to international trade, the internet, and greater human mobility, the miles between Kathmandu and Montevideo have never seemed shorter. Airlines have always been at the forefront of making the globe much easier to circumnavigate physically. And they are now doing their part to bring together people from across the world online as well.

Yes, airlines are engaging more people through social media than any other sector within the travel industry. eDigitalResearch’s “Travel Social Media Benchmark” measures how well brands within the travel industry perform on Facebook, Google+, and other popular social media venues. The results are in and they show that airlines are making better use of these tools than any of the other players in the travel realm, including hotels.

How, exactly, are the world’s largest airlines capitalizing on social media’s popularity? Well, here are a few prime examples of top-notch social media campaigns generated by airline companies.

Name the plane. Paint the plane.

When Air Asia purchased a fleet of A330 planes, they invited the public to join them in the celebration by running two consecutive contests on their blog, Facebook pages, and Twitter feed. The first contest invited fans to name a plane. After the winning moniker was announced, the public was provided with the chance to design a paint job for the newly named craft to sport. The winner was awarded a trip to Toulouse, France to tour the Airbus factory.

Social Media meets GPS.

Australia’s Qantas has recently introduced technology that allows them to track social media conversations that take place within any of their ten Qantas airport lounges. This enables them to identify where feedback originates from, providing them with a better idea of which areas are working well and which are not. For example, a customer who tweeted his disappointment over not being able to order his favorite cereal brand was pleasantly surprised to discover that it had been added to the menu upon his next visit.

It’s gone to the dogs.

Virgin America launched its Operation Chihuahua and the hashtag, #VXBark, with great success. The airline transfers Chihuahuas from places that have too many to other locations to expedite their adoptions every year. Each dog is featured in a Facebook bio and trip updates are shared continuously on social media feeds. Plus, for every flight booked during the Operation Chihuahua, Virgin American pledges a donation.

Not just a “fair weather” friend.

One major criticism that has been aimed at the airlines’ social media presence is that many of them fall silent on the weekend–a time when air travel is bustling. American Airlines, however, have proven to be socially present 24/7. During a recent bout of Arctic-like weather in the United States and Canada, several airlines and their passengers found themselves grounded. And everyone was tweeting about it. On a particularly frosty Sunday, American Airlines generated the most tweets by far and earned themselves the title as the fastest responders with an average response time of twelve minutes.

Get social onboard.

KLM has always led the pack when it comes to social media marketing. Yes, the airline that brought you the world’s “highest in the sky” dance party has recently introduced its latest social media venture–Meet & Seat. Passengers can share details from their LinkedIn or Facebook profiles with one another and choose seats based on shared interests.

These marketing-savvy airlines have managed to market their brand, win new customers, and fill their seats simply by tapping into the potential of social media. If your company has been dodging Facebook, evading Twitter, or pooh-poohing Pinterest, you may want to rethink your strategy. If you want the public to embrace your brand, you need to first embrace the public. And the public’s on social media.

What airline’s social media campaign stands out in your mind the most? Why?

This article was contributed by Kimberley Laws, a freelance writer and avid blogger. She has composed a countless array of articles on social media marketing, blogging, travel destinations, VoIP, and hosted pbx. You can follow her neurotic and OCD ramblings at The Embiggens Project and Searching for Barry Weiss.

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts Shares Growth Plans

With more hotels, resorts and private residences being added to its robust pipeline, Four Seasons continues to expand its influence and global footprint.

The luxury hospitality brand has consistently set a high bar in regard to hotel social media, and they are consistently getting recognized for other reasons as well. Recent accolades include Forbes Travel Guide Five Star Hotel Awards, which included 18 Four Seasons properties, 22 AAA Five Diamond Awards, the Condé Nast Traveler Gold List, which named 40 Four Seasons properties; and the Travel + Leisure T+L 500 list, which included 44.

18 Four Seasons Spas were recognized on the Condé Nast Traveler Top Spas list; 32 were US News & World Report Gold and Silver Badge Winners; and the company was the winner of the Best Hotel Group in the Telegraph’s 2013 Travel Awards. The brand is also one of Robb Report’s Luxury’s 25 Most Innovative Brands.

“The success of Four Seasons has been built on our unwavering dedication to the highest standards of hospitality, and that overarching principle remains at the forefront of our growth plans,” says J. Allen Smith, President and Chief Executive Officer, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.

“The foundation of our development strategy is to identify the right locations, and to work with the right partners.  As a management company, it is critical that we find owners and investors who share our long term vision and values, and who will grow with us,” continues Smith, noting that about one quarter of its investor/developer partners owns more than one Four Seasons.

In the past three years, Four Seasons has unveiled a dozen new hotels and resorts in locations as diverse as Baku, Shenzhen, Baltimore and the Serengeti.   In the coming year, new properties will open in Moscow, Johannesburg, Orlando, and Dubai, among other destinations.

“Our strategy is multifaceted: we are targeting destinations where our guests want to go, as well as those markets where we want to establish a local presence to raise awareness and introduce travelers to Four Seasons,” explains Scott Woroch, Executive Vice President Worldwide Development.  “At the same time, we continually explore options to enhance our position in destinations where we currently operate.”

New openings in the near future include a luxury resort inside Walt Disney World® Resort in Florida; a strategic foothold in the African subcontinent; a second location in Russia following the brand’s highly anticipated opening in St. Petersburg last year; increased presence in the Middle East with new locations in Bahrain and United Arab Emirates; new locations in India and the first in Korea; plus continued expansion into China’s major business and leisure destinations.

A key source of growth opportunities is to reflag hotels that are currently established under another brand.  In 2012, Four Seasons converted the historic Rancho Encantado in Santa Fe, and this year the company will raise its flag above The Westcliff in Johannesburg.

Another dimension to the company’s plans is the continued focus on residential opportunities.  Two thirds of projects currently in development include a residential component, whether primary or secondary homes or vacation properties.

“Working with our owners, we are also looking at our existing locations with an eye to improving our market position, whether it’s extensive renovations as we recently completed in Buenos Aires, Riyadh and Las Vegas; or the creation of destination-specific restaurant and spa concepts,” says Woroch.

Which new Four Seasons resort are you most looking forward to visiting?

Become a Travel Expert with Tripoto

tripoto
While there are many different social travel startups that have emerged the past few years, Tripoto has taken a crowdsourced approach to creating itineraries and also focuses on providing the best tools for travel bloggers to create those itineraries.

People can write their travel stories in a structured format – trip summary, type (nature, backpacker etc), cost, duration, detailed itinerary, and pictures. Users can also send messages to the author of a travel story. This way, the author becomes a tour guide as well.

Started by Anirudh Gupta (ex-founder of NotionInk and was an EIR at Rocket Internet) and Michael Lyngdoh (ex-founder of Helios Suntrough operations), the travel site has 100+ high quality travel itineraries from around the world and attracted celebrity early adopters like Baichung Bhutia.

“Tripoto was founded after listening to stories of thousands of travellers,” explained Gupta. “We realized that these amazing travel stories need to be brought together on a single platform for easy search and discovery. We wanted to make it easy for people to share their stories and more importantly present these stories in a way that other travellers can use them.”

tripoto

While many sites focus primarily on commercial destinations and exclude lesser known regions, the Tripoto team aims to map every single destination and get credible information about it from real travelers.

“People’s desire to travel to offbeat places has increased exponentially in India and they are no longer satisfied with the usual ‘Agra tours’ or ‘Golden Triangle’ tours. They are constantly looking for inspiring experiences,” says Gupta.

Tripoto is useful for travelers as, instead of searching for information across multiple blogs and spot based recommendations, a Tripoto use can scour thoroughly details itineraries of fellow travelers, experts and guides.

Users can filter searches based on personality type, interests, duration and cost. If they really like a trip, they can even connect with the traveler that created it to learn more from his/her first-hand experience.

Similarly, for travel bloggers and sharers, Tripoto leverages technology to provide tools that enable sharing of itineraries and stories in an easy and beautiful way (either privately or publicly).

Tripoto also serves as a platform wherein travelers can create a beautiful travel portfolio, expand their reach and build their personal brand.

Would you use a platform like Tripoto to plan your travel itinerary?

Social Media Key Priority For Travel Technology Professionals

A recent survey conducted by Travel Technology Europe showed that 71% of the people who responded believe that social media, specifically sites like Facebook and Twitter was essential to their business. One in ten believe that social media is a waste of time.


Social Media Rules!
The surprising statistic of the survey isn’t the 71%. The surprise is that there’s even one respondent in ten that would actually feel that way. That’s ten percent of the people surveyed, and though that’s not a significant percentage, it’s still a noticeable amount. Frankly, if I ran a travel-related business and I caught wind that one of my employees was in that ten percent, I’d fire their clueless butts.

Seriously now; ten percent of the people surveyed think social media is a waste of time in the travel industry? Travel is a leisure pastime (well, at least recreational travel is), and if anything screams “leisure time”, it’s social media. People who think social media has no place in travel need to go off and herd sheep in the Falklands.

Any business that wants to increase its visibility in the 21st century needs to go where the people are, and the people are online, using social media. Some businesses are even getting creative with it, as the next section shows.

The Idea Behind Social Lounges
Certain businesses in the travel industry have taken to adding a more visual element to their websites as it pertains to social media. Rather than just having a list of social media platforms and some cliched “Like us on Facebook!” entreaty, hotels are putting together social lounges that provide a visual library of each hotel’s social media presences.

Salamander Resort in Middleburg, Virginia offers a good example of this trend. Consider it a virtual hangout where people can browse around and see images of the location along with relevant posts broken down by social media platform. This brings together two very key parts of marketing: images (the whole thing about pictures being worth a thousand words), and testimonials (in the form of posts). Nothing but good can come from this approach.

Bringing Technology Into The Picture
Social media works hand in hand with mobile technology, and increasing numbers of travel professionals are using tablets and other mobile devices in order to better engage customers and increase their online presence.

As more people turn to their mobile devices, hospitality professionals benefit from the flexibility and immediacy that smart phones and tablets so they can provide constant, timely communication between themselves and their customers.

According to a November 2013 survey conducted by TripAdvisor, almost two-thirds of all American travelers use social media while on vacation. So much for dropping off the grid and putting the daily grind behind you while on vacation, eh? This means that travel professionals need to make sure that they meet customers on their own terms.

Airlines And Social Media
Qantas and KLM have brought in staff and technology that allows them to monitor social media traffic based on customers’ GPS co-ordinates, and rush to rectify problems experiences by travelers at the respective airports. If other airlines follow suit, and there’s no reason why they wouldn’t, this means that customer service reps, troubleshooters, and other travel professionals will have to make sure that mobile devices are part of their standard tools.

Adapt Or Perish
Like it or not, concepts like smart phones, tablets, Facebook, Twitter are here to stay. Businesses who jump on board the bandwagon will ride it to success. Those who don’t will be left in the dust.

This post was contributed by John Terra. John has been a freelance writer since 1985. He writes about everything from running 5K’s to SEO optimization.

Photo credit: TaylorMiles

Digital Trends Driving Hotel Marketing In 2014

With people turning increasingly to their smart phones to conduct all manner of business, it comes as no surprise that the hospitality industry is getting its share of mobile e-commerce traffic. Here are some of the hot digital trends for hotel marketing in 2014.

Time to combine the elegance of yesteryear with the digital trends of today

Social Media
Whether it’s Facebook, GooglePlus, Twitter, or any of the other platforms out there, there’s little argument that many people out there have some association with social media. This is a good time to focus some marketing efforts at social media, and that includes creating profile pages for hotels.

More Video
A picture is worth a thousand words, and a video enhances that value. According to one source, 81% of online travel bookers checked out videos before committing to a purchase. Fact is, if you have a good product, video shows it off better (think walk-through tours!), and makes potential customers more inclined to buy.

Mobile Usage Trends Upward
Daily Travel News predicts that by 2017 half of direct online bookings will be done by mobile devices such as smart phones. Strong growth is predicted for 2014 as smart phones and tablets supplant the PC has the go-to way of accessing the Internet.

Website Load Speeds
Google is using load speeds as one way of determining search rank results, and it’s in your best interest to have your hotel’s website show up at the top of the page. Furthermore, visitors expect faster load times, and if your website can’t keep up, they will simply leave and find one that is faster.

GooglePlus
While some critics say that GooglePlus’ rollout has not snared as many people away from other social sites as expected, it’s a cold hard fact that Google favors GooglePlus when it comes to search engine results. Therefore, expect GooglePlus’ role in SEO to increase in 2014. If your hospitality business doesn’t have a page there yet, you’d better get moving.

The Importance of Remarketing
Remarketing is the process of targeting those people who visit a website without converting into a sale, and bringing them back. It’s a staggering truth that 96% of people who visit a website leave without buying anything. This includes featuring ads that people would see when they conduct a search or use mobile apps.

A Lot More Not Provided Keywords
A not provided keyword means that Google is not sharing some search information with you, namely the key words or phrases that the searcher used to find you in the first place. This is being done to protect the users’ privacy, but it also puts a big dent if your analytics are based on keywords. As it stands now, about 80% of Google searches come back as “keyword not provided”. Expect this to reach one hundred percent by the end of Q1.

Direct Bookings Over Online Travel Agencies
The travel industry has sure changed from the days of schlepping down to the local travel agent and booking a trip. With the explosion of the Internet, agencies brought their act online as a means of evolving, but even this measure may not be enough as meta-searches, strongly branded websites, and social media make it easier to simply do direct bookings.

The Rise of Meta Search
Metasearches allow users to search over multiple search engines at once. Hotels that want to take advantage of this function need to adjust their marketing to work with meta searches, therefore pulling traffic away from OTAs and bringing visitors directly to their sites.

Geo-Targeting
This one’s a natural for the hospitality industry. With geo-targeting, you determine the location of a website visitor and offer them content and deals that are tailor-made for their particular locale. For instance, if someone is in Detroit and they are traveling to Boston, having a deal for Red Sox tickets or duckboat tours would be a valuable asset, whereas it would be totally useless to a customer who’s in Seattle and is traveling to San Francisco. Geo-targeting lets you focus your ads on the right demographic, and prevents time (and money) wasting mistakes.

There are other trends to keep in mind of, but the above list is a good start. With the continued hotness of mobile computing, 2014 should prove to be an interesting year full of change. Those businesses that stay on top of those changes will be the ones that emerge successful.

This post was contributed by John Terra, who has been a freelance writer since 1985. He writes about everything from SEO tips to smart phones. He’s fond of checking out content on sites like Synscort.com.

Photo Credit: marcp_dmoz

How Travel Agents Are Using Social Media To Win Back Business

Why use a travel agent when you can surf the net for the best travel deals, reserve your own flight, rent a car, and choose a hotel with the best amenities–all without ever having to leave the comfort of your own home? This is the type of question that travel agents around the work are up against–tech-savvy travelers who are used to a self-serve world and do not see the benefit in having a real life travel agent.

In order to win over these potential clients, travel agents must provide them with compelling reasons to use their services. And many are choosing to share these “compelling reasons” through social media marketing.

1. Become the one they trust.

Booking a trip through a faceless online company can be a risky endeavor. As a veteran travel agent, you are a seasoned professional–someone that a prospective traveler can entrust with their vacation dreams.

By harnessing the power of social media, you can create a positive online reputation as a consummate professional who knows the travel industry like the back of your own hand. Create a Facebook page that allows customers to ask you questions directly. Post reviews based on your personal travel experiences. Share your vacation photos on Pinterest. By curating helpful tips, honest reviews, and real-time travel news, future travelers will perceive you as a knowledgeable specialist who “has their back.” Now, that’s a compelling reason to use a travel agent.

2. Build up their bucket lists.

Images are powerful motivational tools. Clever travel agents are using social media platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram to showcase idyllic travel destinations in creative ways. One great way to create customer interest and increase engagement is to post a beautiful snapshot of a mystery destination. Your audience can have fun trying to name the location and, in turn, you can provide them with hints and interesting facts–showing off your knowledge and compelling them to seek you out for their next vacation booking.

You can also create novel Pinterest boards with topical titles like “Destination Weddings,” “Celebrity Cruises,” “Honeymoon Hot Spots,” or “Winter Getaways.” Travelers could peruse your boards for travel pins–pins, of course, that lead to your corporate site.

3. Offer them deals.

Part of the appeal of online travel companies is their ability to offer great deals. Show your clients that you can play at this game too. Use social media platforms to inform your audience about seat sales, last minute deals, car rental bargains, and special room rates. By becoming the go-to source for savings, you will be able to win over new clientele.

4. Keep them informed during an emergency.

Unfortunately, some travelers do find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Whether they are in the Caribbean during hurricane season, the Middle East amidst political unrest, or some other travel catastrophe, both the vacationer and their loved ones will be anxious to find information.

As a travel agent, this presents the perfect opportunity to foster goodwill and trust. By tweeting updates about the situation, sharing emergency response information, and providing the contact details for the appropriate agencies, you can provide a valuable community service and nurture your own reputation.

5. Provide personal customer service.

Social media is a fantastic way to deal with customer issues as they arise. By having an online presence, customers can contact you directly with problems or queries–providing you with a chance to resolve the matter before it escalates.

You can also keep tabs on your customers’ vacation experiences by following their social media platforms. If they happen to post something like “I’m stranded at the airport because our flight was cancelled,” you will be afforded the opportunity to find them a solution to their problem–making you the world’s greatest travel agent in their eyes.

Yes, social media marketing is a cost-effective and relatively effortless way to win new clientele and keep existing customers coming back for more. Join the masses and start tweeting, pinning, plussing, and posting. Your bottom line with thank you.

How does your travel agency utilize social media in their marketing mix?

This post was contibuted by Kimberley Laws, a freelance writer and avid blogger for Mediashower.com. She has written on a variety of topics including luxury barging, fly-fishing, Vegas attractions, and hospitality marketing.

Image courtesy of [Master isolated images] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net