Travel deals, convenience found on social media

Hospitality industry embraces social media, offering trip enhancements to followers

ORLANDO, Fla. – Would you book your next hotel stay on Twitter?

Hotels, airlines and cruise lines are turning up the volume on social media channels.

They're going beyond promoting their brand: they're offering one-size-fits-all deals that help consumers plan, organize and even book their trips. 

Lowes Hotels recently launched "Social Reservations," where people on Twitter can book rooms during a secure chat conversation with an agent. 

And booking may be just the beginning.

Rich Beattie, executive digital editor of Travel + Leisure Magazine, says companies are engaging with travelers much earlier in the planning process and they're providing more personal service than ever before.

[WEB EXTRA: Social Media in Travel and Tourism Awards 2013]

He says personal service can translate into bigger profits.

"One study showed that customers who engage with companies on social media spend 20 to 40-percent more than customers who don't."

At some hotels you may even find a digital concierge to help customize your stay, or get rewards if you check in using Foursquare.

Locally, Rosen Hotels and Resorts is named by industry insiders as a small chain with a big social media footprint. The company owns seven properties in central Florida, including the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort.

Leslie Menichini, vice president of sales and marketing, says Rosen Resorts often feature travel package "enhancements" on their Facebook page. They're perks to guests who follow the resort's social feed.

Menichini says social media is a great way to share her company's personality with her guests.

"We just like to tell our story and in so doing there's something for the customer at the end of that story. It's always about the customer at the end."

It's also about the company. Menichini says that by following comments and posts by guests they are able to improve the overall experience.

"We learn about the habits and what our customers think are important by reading what they're saying about us," she says. "And we can change that experience."

So are you giving up privacy for the opportunity of rewards and better service? Maybe, but Beattie says that's part of the trade off.

"That's what social media is, it's sharing," he says. "If you don't want to share anything, you shouldn't share it."

He believes the benefits to travelers will only get better.

"Where travelers are on the ground, the opportunity to reach them at that time with specific offers in destination, I think is going to be the next big thing in social media."

Social media has become so popular within the travel industry that Travel + Leisure magazine now has a special category of awards for best use of social media. The 2013 winners are listed here.

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