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Archive for the ‘Travel Industry News & Trends’ Category

Social media and your hotel – not just a marketing function

Posted by TeamITI on June 11, 2010

Social media is changing the face of hotel marketing. No matter how beautiful the images are on your Web site, one photo of a stained blanket posted to TripAdvisor can change anyone’s mind about booking a room at your hotel. Like it or not, your guests now play the largest role in determining your brand persona.

Marketing
By now I hope that every marketing department is closely watching the hotel reviews on the various travel sites such as Orbitz, Travelocity, Yahoo!Travel, etc. Whether you use a social media monitoring service or comb through the sites manually, it’s critical that you know how your guests feel about their experience at your hotel and what they’re telling the public about their stay.

While properties might differ in how reviews are handled, most agree that it is important to acknowledge the review, when permitted by the site, whether it’s positive or negative. Thank the reviewer for taking the time to comment and assure him/her that the review will be shared with the appropriate team. The step that most marketers miss is they don’t follow through. Make sure you send the review to the right department for follow up or nothing will be learned from the experience. Often, when situations are corrected and an apology is extended, reviewers will follow up with an addendum.

Reviews can also be handy for determining where to spend ad dollars. If you’re purchasing display ads on travel review sites, look at your average rating and review frequency. You are much better off buying media on sites where you have many people reviewing your property and have a lot of positive reviews. Your conversion rate will be much higher than on a site with just a couple of stale reviews.

Social Media Marketing
Once your organization is comfortable with the idea that the public plays a large role in your brand reputation, the next lesson you must learn is to embrace user-generated content. ‘Elf Yourself’, ‘Star Trek Yourself’ and other insanely popular social applications have taught us that people are vane and love to see their names and faces associated with brands they care about. Let your brand advocates tell your story in a personal way. Create an RSS of your positive reviews and share them on your Web site. On your Facebook page, ask friends to tell you about their most memorable stay or to submit their pictures taken at your property. Better yet, ask fans to post a review on a site that might not be getting a lot of reviews. On your corporate site, prominently display information on how to find your property on social networks and how to follow you on Twitter.

Human Resources
HR should make it a regular practice to read reviews to get a sense of staff performance. Many reviewers will single out people who made their stay memorable.

Reward employees that are called out in reviews for making someone’s stay great and work with employees who were unfavorably mentioned. People will often put in writing what they would never say to your face so make sure you treat this feedback seriously.

While social media gave the power of your reputation to the people, it also gave brands the opportunity to easily reach customers and rectify situations that might otherwise fester and hurt your sales. Everyone in your organization can and should play a role in this new era. Let the adventure continue.

This article is published by HotelMarketing.com , please read the original article here.

Posted in Social Media, Travel Industry News & Trends, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Dynamic versus static hotel reviews

Posted by TeamITI on May 19, 2010

It used to be that Trip Advisor was the only major player in hotel reviews. However, consumers now have many other ways to vent frustrations or express positive experiences – and they’re all online on their phones accessing social media platforms.

Two consumer trends are converging in the hotel review process. The first one is the adoption of Smart Phones as a primary communication tool and the second is the ‘immediacy’ consumer, one that wants to communicate their experiences and touch their communities in the ‘now’. Neither of these trends are going away. eMarketing predicts that mobile and Smart Phones are going to double in the next two years.  (12/19/09)

Consumers can update their social network pages via the apps that are available on their phones. They can push out Tweets on Twitter and post to their FaceBook wall the experiences they have. They can also access review sites like Yelp to immediately post comments. Trip Advisor has developed a mobile phone optimized web site for hotel reviews that provides a range of reviews useful in local hotel selection however; posting a new review is not as straightforward.

Consider the following anecdotal experiences. Several families are traveling together to a resort with kids and a grandparent to look after the kids so the adults can ‘play’. The resort is positive experience for them. One of the men is Twittering to his co-workers back at the office about how terrific the resort is. One of the women has taken pictures with her phone and is uploading them to her FaceBook wall with the same positive review of the facility and the grandparent is also posting to her FaceBook friends about the experience. The kids are posting to their MySpace pages about how ‘cool’ the place is! Three generations using their phones and social media to send out positive reviews.

A guest is experiencing issues checking into her hotel. The wait is long and the front desk team is less than empathetic to her situation. She Tweets her experience to her followers on Twitter.  However, this hotel company has a monitoring service that picks up on these negative mentions and is able to immediately get to the hotel manager to rectify the situation. They are able to turn the negative Tweets into a positive experience that is also communicated by the guest to her Followers and Friends. Both of these anecdotes illustrate the ‘immediacy’ of reviews on social networks.

There are sophisticated monitoring tools at various price points that can ‘pick up’ immediate mentions on social networks as in the second scenario and ‘save’ the transaction and the guest experience. However, what can smaller or independent properties with limited budgets do to monitor their reputation on social networks?

The Budget vs. the Online Reputation
While a recovery is slowly taking hold for the hotel community, budgets are still very tight.  However, if the money is available, there are a multitude of tools that can assist in monitoring social network reviews.  Revinate is a site that monitors social media just for hotels. It provides the property with a complete dashboard that includes all mentions of the hotel and its competition across review sites, Twitter, blogs, news, photo and video sites as well as all mentions of your competition across those sites. TravelClick offers Searchview and Chatter Guard from Lodging Interactive also offer a product that will monitor social media and provide a dashboard for the property to view the data in one place. There are a number of others, too many to mention, at various price points to enable social media monitoring. All of them allow hotels to monitor social network mentions and respond accordingly.

Free and/or Really Cheap Tools
SocialMention.com is a social media search and analysis platform that aggregates user generated content from across the internet into a single stream of information. It charges a nominal amount for some business applications but much of it is free including Social Alerts specifically for social media. Buzzmonitor is an embeddable widget showing recent instances of your search term. Twitterdom.com offers a multitude of apps, most free, some at a nominal cost. Twit3, a monitoring app, has been replaced by Spindex, an experimental social aggregator from Microsoft. It supports Twitter, FaceBook, Evernote, and RSS currently.

Google Tools
Google Tools are mostly free and get the job done. There are so many, it deserves its own section. Google Reader allows a hotel to enter up to 14 web pages to monitor and receive results instantly. It will also mark those that have already been read.  Good old Google Alerts allows key words to be entered and receive an update daily or whenever something new is posted on a web site or blog.  Google Alerts handles social media relatively well but does not include Tweets. You can enter your hotel name, your competitor’s names and receive emails of mentions of them any time they appear on the internet.  ‘Social up’ the web site or blog with Google Friends. On the Gadget page for Google Friend Connect there are eight gadgets that allow visitors to the site or blog to interact with each other and the property, post comments, participate in polls, etc.
Smaller and independent hotels do have low cost or free resources that enable them to access and respond to the ‘immediate’ social network reviews and comments made about them. It all depends on your social media presence and what information in terms of monitoring is important to you. Timely responses to negative or problematic mentions are the actions that allow you to manage your social media presence.
After consulting and presenting seminars on this topic, it is apparent that social media site build out for optimal lead generation is a daunting task for many properties from independents, independent franchises and B&Bs. Posting and monitoring don’t have to be complicated.

This article is published by hotelmarketing.com, please read the original article here.

Posted in Travel Industry News & Trends | Leave a Comment »

Airlines Share Specials on Facebook but Stop Short of Selling Tickets

Posted by TeamITI on April 5, 2010

Many different types of businesses are setting up shop on Facebook these days but airlines have a marketing model especially suited for the type of fan interaction that Facebook can provide — cheap air fares. We’ve taken a look at airlines along with other travel companies previously but this time around we thought we’d focus on airlines exclusively to see how they’re exploiting Facebook to promote their flights and promotions.

Selling merchandise
Most companies stopped short of actually selling tickets right on Facebook. Selling merchandise via stores right on Facebook is a trend we at Inside Facebook have seen growing across industries — from cosmetics to clothing  — but airlines for whatever reason have created Facebook applications that take users right up until the point of purchase, then prompt them to head over to the companies’ web sites. It’s not clear why.

Yet, a few of these companies had excellent Facebook integrations that stopped just short of purchasing — perhaps that last step is not too far off?

Integrations
For the purposes of this story we looked at a few domestic airlines: Southwest with 781,700 fans, Jet Blue with 132,500 fans, Virgin America with 54,400 fans and American Airlines with 51,700 fans. We also reviewed some foreign carriers: easy Jet with 25,300 fans, Singapore Airlines with more than 49,000 fans, Philippine Airlines with 45,500 fans, Turkey’s Onur Air with 72,300 fans, Germany’s Lufthansa with 27,000 fans, airBaltic with 30,700 fans and Air Asia with 208,400 fans. Generally most of these companies based their communications on the Wall in the form of updates or links, a few used notes, some talked back via comments on photos/discussion threads/Wall posts, most uploaded photos and some uploaded videos.

Of the foreign airlines, easy Jet and Air Asia seemed to have the best Facebook integrations, both in the form of applications. Easy Jet’s Holiday Planner app (located on a tab of the same name) requires users to become a fan before use. The app basically allows you to create a trip, name it, pick from among easy Jet’s destinations, select a date and budget, then invite your friends via Facebook — stopping just short of purchasing on the social network. Others can also vote on this trip. Purchasing requires visiting easy Jet’s web site. Air Asia incorporated notes and contest tabs with its application located on the tab by the same name, Airstrology. The fun app presents the user with “Madam Araisia” who says “let my cards see which magical part of India your heart lies in” as part of the company’s promotion of five new Indian destinations.

Promotion
With the exception of Singapore Airlines and Philippine Airlines, the foreign carriers said they offered Facebook fans special deals on their Pages. Singapore announced new routes and promoted their services on their Pages while Philippine Airlines asked fans to encourage friends to become fans to hear about the company’s deals, but neither had Facebook fan-specific promotions; the promotions they did post linked to their respective web sites. Onur Air, Lufthansa and airBaltic on the other hand, promoted Facebook fan-specific deals on their Pages. Onur Air did this with its notes. Lufthansa did so with a status update, as did airBaltic. The latter also included a neat Where We Fly? app on its Page allowing users to click on a city and see connections to airBaltic destinations. Deals posted on these Pages included winning flight miles or discounted rates on airfares.

Strategies
Of the U.S. carriers, Southwest Airlines seems to have come out on top for a reason. This company’s Facebook Page posts status updates with special fare deals and promotes its content on Facebook with a different strategy than it does on its web site. The landing tab for Southwest gives an overview of the Page’s content and includes: virtual gifts (post cards from Southwest destinations), a poll, a link to the company’s Twitter account and YouTube channel, a chance to sign up for weekly fare emails. It asks users to become fans, to help give them updates. Southwest responds to questions and comments from fans, hypes many of its good points such as the Bags Fly Free tab  and incorporates seasonal promotions such as March Madness with the More LUV tab.

But, there’s no trip planner on the Page and most posted links are to YouTube or the company’s web site. Interestingly, U.S. companies didn’t seem to offer Facebook-specific deals past promotions or contests like their international counterparts.

Virgin America offered little more than company news and information in status updates and Jet Blue announced similar information, such as new flights and destinations in status updates and links on the Wall.

American Airlines probably had the best app of the bunch with its Travel Bag on the tab of the same name (seen at the beginning of the post), which includes an interactive map and rate finder that allows users to find a flight — and then go to the web site for a purchase. Another app allows users to find out whether their American Airlines flight will include wi-fi. Otherwise, the Page also included informative Wall activity, and Twitter and YouTube information for the company.

What we saw overall with airlines was that several have the capability to be selling tickets directly on Facebook, but for whatever reason, they all stop short and re-direct to their web sites. There’s a lot more room for airlines to grow on Facebook — many still don’t even list where they fly or what their rates are directly on their Pages and most don’t even integrate apps into their Facebook Pages.

This article is published by Inside Facebook, read the original article here.

Posted in Social Media, Travel Industry News & Trends | Leave a Comment »

Google Maps adds hotel search and pricing, panic and confusion assured

Posted by TeamITI on March 24, 2010

[tweetmeme source=”itimarketing”]

Google launched an experiment through its mapping division last night to place search and price functionality against hotel listings on Google Maps – implications of which could be far-ranging.

Announced via the Earth and Maps Blog and currently limited to just a few users, Google says the tools will allow people to enter check-in dates for a stay in a city and the number of nights.
Results are plotted on the map but the interesting part comes in the text results on the left-hand side.
Each listed hotel also has a drop-down displaying prices supplied from existing PPC ads for that hotel in the system.

Google, probably expecting all hell to break loose amongst hotels and OTAs who have worked tirelessly to SEO their hotel listings, got in early with this bit of reassurance: “This new feature will not change the way that hotels are ranked in Google Maps. Google Maps ranks business listings based on their relevance to the search terms entered, along with geographic distance (where indicated) and other factors, regardless of whether there is an associated price.”

But the organic results aspect of this will not exclusively be what worries hotel chains and OTAs or, indeed, affiliates and content sites – it will be how such new search functionality will change the behaviour of PPC clients.
The experiment is currently only being run with a handful of advertisers (lucky them?), but imagine how this might effect the wider hotel bidding process if and when it is rolled out fully.

Google hints at what it is trying to do, at least from a consumer perspective: “By showing you this relevant hotel rate information directly in the Google Maps results panel we hope to make this aspect of your trip planning more speedy and efficient.”
“Efficiency of trip-planning” is the key phrase here. Faced with very visible options to choose to book direct with the hotel or through an online travel agency, for example, what will have to be the price difference by the OTA to ensure it captures that booking?

Some might suggest OTAs will have to provide quite a compelling reason to add another layer in the minds of the consumer so that they book with them – and will it be solely price-led or is loyalty enough?
Alternatively this move could actually benefit those that have clever bid management software in place to create that level of efficiency and complexity within their own pricing and yield systems.

This article is published by tnooz, read the original article here.

Posted in Articles & Research, Tools & Tutorials, Travel Industry News & Trends | Leave a Comment »