Latest News
HomeRegional NewsAfricaUse of Twitter in the travel industry
“Social media is eating into the efficacy of email marketing”

Use of Twitter in the travel industry

There are several ways in which the social networking application Twitter is being currently used by companies from the travel sector. This usage can be for engagement, news and information, sales and customer service. Twitter is described as an instant and efficient way of interacting with a customer.

From a hotel’s perspective, Michael Perhaes, Assistant VP Marketing, MGM Grand, says every travel organization needs a presence on Twitter, and a strategy built on both customer engagement and RoI via tactical offers.

“Social media is eating into the efficacy of email marketing and will soon supplant email as a primary communication device; we are already seeing evidence of this on Facebook and our hotel is preparing accordingly. We have dedicated social media staff; we include Facebook and Twitter URLs in all of our marketing communications, and actively enlist followers and fans,” said Perhaes, who is scheduled to speak at the forthcoming Social Media Strategies for Travel USA 2010 Conference.

He added, “This is the first, true two-way marketing communication channel. While we can still “push” offers in a manner similar to email (Twitter Thursdays), the social media channels allow customer feedback and content contribution.”

Special campaigns
Hotels, too, have come up with special campaigns to use Twitter. For instance, last year in September, Travelodge, the British budget hotel brand, began communicating with its customers through the social messaging service Twitter. The hotel chain decided to use the online portal to interact with its customers and inform them of new offers, hotel openings and job opportunities. Since over 85 percent of Travelodge reservations are conducted via the web and with such a strong online following, the company felt it makes sense to interact with its customers via Twitter.

Travelodge identified that this move enable the company to instantly tell its followers about the latest offers, new Travelodge openings and keep them updated on general company news.

Perhaes says his company views Twitter as both an adjunct to email marketing efforts and a useful customer communication tool.

“Our Twitter followers recently reached 15k, allowing us to expect reasonable response rates when we push exclusive offers to our followers. Like most hotels, we extract information by listening to our followers and fans, respond directly when appropriate, or indirectly via the respective department impacted by a comment or thread, positive and negative (food & beverage, reservations, housekeeping, etc.)," he said.

The company also sees customers tweeting about the property. “It provides us with another angle on customer feedback, a fly-on-the-wall observation, if you will. This runs straight into the space carved out by sites like TripAdvisor but with a lot more credibility.”

Attractive deals
Late last year, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) chose to “tweet” nearly one million Priority Club points redeemable for hotel nights, retail gift cards, electronics and more during the hotel group’s December Tweet Away promotion. It was done for 31 days that led up to the new year 2010. IHG invited consumers to follow its hotel deals via its Twitter account.

One of the main reasons behind IHG’s decision for this initiative was the fact that travellers have been on the look-out for hotel deals and value-added packages.

And by following IHG_Deals on Twitter, the company gave travellers a chance to be among the first to hear about the deals in a fun and engaging way.

In another development, Inoqo (in-OH-ko) introduced its Twitter-based hotel booking engine, targeting travellers who are seeking urgent hotel accommodation. For travellers with last-moment accommodation requirements, Inoqo only publishes hotel packages available within the next 48 hours. All offers are for check-in within 48 hours.

On how should companies go about setting up a team or structure for usage of Twitter, Perhaes said it depends on the complexity of the organisation. “We have a one full time specialist overseeing our social media ecosphere, who works closely with Hotel Operations, F&B and Marketing teams to craft offers, Tweet relevant, engaging information and keep our channels properly aligned,” shared Perhaes.

MGM Grand’s Michael Perhaes is scheduled to speak at the forthcoming Social Media Strategies for Travel USA 2010 Conference. The two-day conference will take place in San Francisco (March 24-25).