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Saturday, May 18, 2024
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Technology, Social Media Visit Changes on Hospitality Sector

Tech titans like Google Inc. and Facebook Inc. are increasingly finding their way into consumers’ vacation planning, as hotel operators and tourism promoters go mobile and social with their marketing efforts.

Facebook esti-mates that 1.1 million of its U.S. users regularly share their travel experiences, through news feeds, wall postings, Instagram messages and other photo sharing, said Kelly Frailey, a Facebook client partner for global marketing solutions, at a recent hospitality forum in Mission Valley.

Frailey, who deals with hospitality companies among other clients, was among several panelists who discussed innovations in technology and real estate in the hospitality industry today as part of the CCIM San Diego Chapter’s annual San Diego Hospitality Industry Outlook on May 7.

She said the ubiquity of social media is upending the traditional ways in which consumers plan vacations, including how and when they make decisions. Facebook sharing, she said, is encouraging them to “dream, plan, book, experience and reflect” about travel at all times, increasingly while using mobile devices.

The message is not lost on hotels that have set up their own visitor-attractive Facebook pages, she said, along with airlines like Germany’s Lufthansa and tourism destinations like New Zealand. Frailey said those clients are aiming to reach Facebook users who number 150 million users in the U.S. alone, 63 percent of whom return to the social site daily.

Taking Social Media to Bottom Line

Google is seeing similar interaction with hospitality industry players, getting companies to engage through its search engine and keyword-based advertising programs, as well as venues like Google Hangouts and its social site, Google Plus, said Rob Torres, the company’s managing director for travel who was also on the May 7 industry outlook panel.

Both Google and Facebook are bolstering methods for sharing and targeting consumers’ posted information to the needs of their clients and advertisers, although both are treading carefully amid public concerns about privacy.

Hotels increasingly use social media feedback to improve internal operations and to encourage bookings, experts said. While research is in its early stages, analysts have also encountered evidence that effective use of social media can significantly impact a hotel’s bottom line, especially in relation to review sites like TripAdvisor.

A 2012 national study by Cornell University’s Center for Hospitality Research concluded that if a hotel increases its average review scores by just one point on a five-point scale, the hotel can increase its price by 11.2 percent and maintain the same occupancy or market share.

Nonlinear Travel Planning

Looking to catch consumers wherever and whenever they might be interacting with technology, the San Diego Tourism Authority now devotes 40 percent of its marketing budget to online, video and social media.

“Travel planning used to be thought of as linear; it’s no longer that way,” said Kerri Kapich, the tourism authority’s senior vice president of marketing.

Regardless of whether they have a trip scheduled, Kapich said, there are opportunities to put San Diego in front of consumers through ads placed within programming on the Hulu video service, on the websites of TV networks like ABC and Fox, and on sites like TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet, as well as the authority’s website.

Facebook, Google and YouTube are also in the mix. The style of the presentation is varied across different digital venues and geared to each platform’s core audience demographics.

“It’s not just storytelling, it’s story selling,” Kapich said.

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