Thursday, April 21, 2011

Hotels Turn to Social Media to Connect With Travelers

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Οι ξενοδόχοι στρέφονται με γρήγορους ρυθμούς στα Social Media, θέλοντας να είναι παρόντες όταν οι χρήστες θα κάνουν Like μια υπηρεσία τους ή όταν θα θελήσουν να κλείσουν τη διαμονή τους.

Αυτό τους εξασφαλίζει τη δυνατότητα να αλληλεπιδράσουν άμεσα με τους ενδιαφερόμενους, να ξεκινήσουν διάλογο και να τους βοηθήσουν να κλείσουν δωμάτιο. Μέσα από αυτήν την πιο προσωπική επικοινωνία που αναπτύσσεται μεταξύ ξενοδοχείου και πελατών, οι ξενοδόχοι είναι πλέον σε θέση να αναλύσουν καταναλωτικές συνήθειες, ανάγκες και ιδιαιτερότητες του απευθυνόμενου κοινού τους.

Το παρόν άρθρο αφορά στην αλλαγή αυτή – στη στροφή δηλαδή των ξενοδοχείων στη χρήση Κοινωνικών Δικτύων – και είναι μια θαυμάσια ευκαιρία να μελετήσουμε πώς τα Social Media θα λειτουργήσουν ως μια προσοδοφόρα επένδυση που μπορεί να κάνει ένα ξενοδοχείο, καθώς και τα αποτελέσματα που φέρει αυτή.

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Hotels have begun offering direct bookings through Facebook and smartphone apps, and they hope that the convenience and direct contact will lure back travelers who have been turning to online travel agencies.

We want to be there when someone transforms the recommendations of their friends into booking a reservation,” said David Godsman, vice president for global Web services for Starwood Hotels. “If they press the ‘Like’ button, we want to start a conversation.” He said he viewed his company’s Facebook pages as a way to extend Starwood’s relationship with its customers “from the 10 days they stay with us, to all year long.” Starwood has Facebook pages for 1,000 hotel properties across its nine brands.

Hotels need to make sure that their booking engines can be found wherever the customer is, rather than asking the customer to search them out, said Glenn Withiam, a spokesman for Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration, which recently held a hotel industry conference that examined social media.

Offering reservations directly helps to keep the conversation between the hotel and its guests, Mr. Withiam said. He added that using social media to communicate took the relationship beyond the booking transaction. The hotel can find out what pillow guests prefer, the drinks they want in the minibar or the type of room they need. Personalized service can keep a guest coming back, he said, and that, in turn, helps hotels hold the line on room prices.

Hotels need to demonstrate the value of staying with them,” Mr. Withiam said, because when the focus is just on the lowest price, the competition leads to fewer amenities, lower service levels and decreased customer satisfaction.

Mr. Withiam added that travelers were expecting trip-related services to be available on the new platforms.

While travel agencies can be great assets for hotels — allowing them to sell more rooms and to sell those rooms at a lower price without diminishing the hotel’s brand image — there are multiple drawbacks, Mr. Withiam said.

Trump Hotel Collection has been offering Facebook reservations for around six months, and Ivanka Trump, executive vice president for development and acquisitions at the Trump Organization, even has a booking widget on her personal Facebook page. Ms. Trump said her company had an advantage in social media because “we are a personality-driven brand.” She added, “When I tweet out a hotel special, a million people see it.” Once guests have made reservations though Facebook, Ms. Trump said a hotel “attaché” contacted them to complete a “dossier” of their personal preferences, like the newspapers they wanted delivered, in-room amenities they required or particular room temperatures.

Jillian Carroll, a Facebook spokeswoman, said that the travel industry was a natural partner. “Travel is inherently social,” she said. Travelers have long asked their friends for hotel and restaurant recommendations, and then shared their impressions afterwards. In addition to making reservations, Ms. Carroll said, some travel-related companies used Facebook to respond to customer complaints, notify users of travel reviews posted by their friends or run sweepstakes to win a free hotel stay.

To help the companies refine their pages, Facebook offers analytics showing the aggregate demographic information of the people who “Like” a particular page. Companies can also discover the time of day that receives the most engagement and which actions spur more people to press the Like button.

While at-your-fingertips booking and personalized service may be important to business travelers, there is no denying the bottom line. “All too often, travelers will leave a hotel Web site and look for a better rate in an online travel agency,” Mr. Clayton said. To entice customers to book directly via Facebook, some hotels are offering a guaranteed lowest price.

Using Facebook and smartphone apps, hotels hope to deepen or regain the relationships they had with customers and to raise the quality of their experiences when they check in. Attracting guests to book directly in new ways is a win for the hotel, said Mr. Withiam, from a financial, customer relationship and brand perspective.

Πηγή: nytimes.com

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Πιστεύετε ότι αξίζει για ένα ξενοδοχείο στην Ελλάδα να παρέχει τη δυνατότητα για bookings μέσω Facebook; Εσείς θα κλείνατε τη διαμονή σας μέσω της Fan Page ενός ξενοδοχείου; Μας ενδιαφέρει πολύ να ακούσουμε τις απόψεις σας...