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Hotel Bookings Migrate From Web Sites To Facebook & iPhones

Resulting from more and more hotels guests using smartphones and referring to Facebook for their travel needs, a select number of social media savvy hotels are developing booking widgets to extend reach beyond their Web sites. Up till now, the only place to book a hotel room online was at the hotel's Web site or through an Online Travel Agency (OTA). Now hotels can engage customers via Facebook applications and iPhones.

Trump Hotel Collection

The Trump Hotel Collection recently expanded its social networking presence to provide another avenue for bookings with a customized Facebook page.

Trump Hotels booking widget on FacebookTrump Hotels booking widget on Facebook
As seen here, Trump's Facebook page has installed a booking widget front and center. With hotels in New York City, Chicago, Las Vegas and Waikiki, Trump guests that follow their hotels' updates don't have to leave Facebook to book a room. According to a Marketwire report, the Trump Hotel Collection's social networking presence currently touches "upwards of a million people a day."

This is an example of magnetic marketing (see "Magnetic Marketing In Social Media Pushes Past Push-Pull Marketing"), where a social networking platform like Facebook becomes the conduit for connecting people with the right information at the right time. Of course, not all visitors to Trump's Facebook page are there to book rooms. However should they be so inclined once there, the convenience and immediacy factor of having the booking widget accessible is a value-add feature. It also underscores Trump's goal of servicing the guest in a seamless way, even before he or she walks in the door.

"It makes sense to tie together our social networking presence with a brand Facebook page since it is the most comprehensive, consumer-facing social network in the marketplace today," said Jim Petrus, chief operating officer, Trump Hotel Collection."

Best Western  Hotel President Berlin

The Best Western Hotel President Berlin was the first Web 2.0 hotel in its region to launch an online booking widget for Facebook, the Web and soon, the iPhone. Powered by Worklight, a Web 2.0 enterprise service, the widget allows customers to check rates, promotions and book rooms at a 10 percent discount direct from its Facebook page.

Best Western Hotel President booking widget on FacebookBest Western Hotel President booking widget on Facebook

Zeev RosenbergZeev Rosenberg"We were looking for a way to monetize our presence on Facebook and reach customers at their desktops," said Zeev Rosenberg, general manager at Best Western Hotel President Berlin. "We turned to WorkLight to efficiently extend our business and complement our traditional online booking tools. Since our launch, we have seen higher-than-expected usage of the booking application."

In an interview with Yonni Harif, Worklight's marketing and alliances manager,  "hotel guests are looking for Yonni HarifYonni Harifconvenience and immediacy, both of which are offered through a Facebook application." In questioning if a visitor is more inclined to book a room off of a Facebook page versus the hotel's Web site, Harif indicated that "while the hotel Web site will continue to drive bookings, it is highly beneficial to use Facebook where guests are already spending time, and allow them to book rooms conveniently… and the 10 percent discount is an added incentive to do so."

Since the hotel's Facebook fans can also add the application to their profile,  their personalized homepages (iGoogle and Netvibes) and any desktop (Windows, Mac or Linux), hotels like the Best Western are finding that the remote widget capability builds loyalty and adds value for returning guests as well. Harif indicates because of growing popularity of the widget, the application will be extended to the iPhone very soon.

"Specifically, the application provides real value to returning guests providing a genuine relationship on Facebook that is much more difficult to achieve via a corporate website," notes Harif

While Harif did not share specific ROI analytics, he indicates that since the Facebook app was launched three months ago, "the hotel has seen larger-than-expected adoption and usage, and management has been very happy with their booking results."


OTA (Online Travel Agencies)

While OTAs have also introduced booking widgets on Facebook fan pages, companies like Travelocity are not providing the Facebook user any incentive and don't appear to be engaging with them through conversation, so I don't see the effectiveness of this remote widget for OTAs, just yet.

Travelocity booking engine on FacebookTravelocity booking engine on Facebook

The guest would need to find the widget via an online search, and there is very little motivation, in my estimation for users to trust a booking made off this page versus going direct to the Travelocity Web site.

Yet, Harif believes that Worklight's competition does "lies mainly with 3rd party" Facebook apps." He notes, that they "expect increasing number of online travel and hospitality businesses to adopt this approach of merging booking services with genuinely useful content, as an opt-in tool for their customers,"

So it is curious to me why more hotels and hospitality chains have not adopted remote booking widgets such as the examples noted here. Perhaps the timing is not right, taking into account Facebook's privacy issues and the amount of backlash they are incurring from their user-base and the media. But I assume once Facebook reevaluates and modifies some of their policies, other hotel companies will also be adding booking widgets on Facebook, smartphones and other social networking sites.

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Ron Callari
Social Media Trends
InventorSpot.com
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Comments
May 26, 2010
by Anonymous

About time!

Spent to much time jumping from Priceline to Expedia etc sites

Combine & link to Facebook, Myspace, Eons for more user traffic alone.

Finally.

Time to reorganize Facebook webpages etc & links.

May 27, 2010
by Anonymous

Hotelmine

Fantastic article Ron and just one of the many reasons why Groups International developed Hotelmine, a new online leisure travel site that serves as a "direct connect" between customers and hotels.

Hotelmine uses social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook as a conduit for P2P information and communication where customers can share their research or a booking of a particular hotel with family and friends.

As for smartphones, Hotelmine will develop applications for iPhone, iPad and similar handheld devices where a customer can book a room, access loyalty programs, view/modify/cancel a reservation, pay a hotel bill, and check-in and check-out of their hotel.

Watch for the beta release of Hotelmine on June 15th...www.hotelmine.com

May 27, 2010
by Anonymous

eMaximize.net

Great article .. thanks for sharing. I would assert that many hoteliers are not adopting the facebook widget yet because they are not aware of it. Most hotel companies went through very serious cutbacks during the last 2 years, marketing and technology probably bearing the brunt of it. In addtion, the hotel industry has always been a bit slow to adopt internet technologies, many are still investing marketing dollars into the GDS.

Booking widgets for facebook and iPhones are clearly the future ... cheers !

May 31, 2010
by Anonymous

Social Shopping in Travel Not a Reality...Yet

Ron -

I strongly believe that we are on the forefront of social shopping in the travel industry. Consumers are already leveraging their social networks as a first-stop during the inspiration stages of their travel planning and are quickly seeking shopping and booking capabilities from travel suppliers and agencies to follow suit. However, I have not seen much evidence to date of anyone executing full transactional booking/fulfillment capabilities within Facebook or Twitter environments. The Trump Page you referenced in the article appears to be just a copy of their e-mail creative with a link to their website booking engine, rather than a true social widget that is portable to any social network. Easy Jet and Design Hotels have also featured calls to action for shopping/booking on their Facebook Pages, but likewise do not appear to have fully integrated transactional booking/fulfillment capabilities within the Facebook platform. The Best Western example you cited looks really promising, yet I see they do not have an active discussion taking place with their fans - their wall is blank. Curious what impact this is having on their consumer's adoption and long-term usage of the widget.

My sense is that this area will change dramatically over the next 3-6 months now that Facebook social plug-ins, Twitter Everywhere and other similar Web 2.0 distribution capabilities have launched. Research already confirms that 25% of consumers exposed to a new brand in social networks, will proceed to that brand's website to learn more, shop and book. Taking one more step out of the equation should boost that figure. I believe travel brands have much to gain by enabling social shopping and creating a highly social inspirational experience for their customers.

Thanks for sharing your post. Will be keen to hear more about what your research uncovers and if anyone else in the group has any additional observations more current to share.

Cheers,
MB

@iMediaMichelle

May 31, 2010
by Anonymous

As far as I can tell I have

As far as I can tell I have not yet seen any good booking engine widget within Facebook. Most widgets simply link the companies website, in some rare cases a search request can be triggerd from within Facebook.

I strongly believe that it is possible to write an booking engine widget which on one hand is deeply integrated within Facebook as well being user friendly. Although this is not an easy task since Facebook regulary tries to limit the ways a developer can interact with the Facebook API.

In the future we might expect more and more websites that will offer an interaction with Facebook and other social networks. It`s all about the question how to use the long tail right.

All the best, Stephan Hochdörfer

Jun 1, 2010
by Anonymous

FB widget

Dear group, this is a very interesting topic. At RailEurope we have developed a widget to compare travel time in Europe: just search "RailEurope" on FB and go to the North American profile then click on the "comparator" tab. We are now looking to develop an integrated fares and schedule widget with separate booking flow that would interact with social networks at every step (not only a FB connect). We agree that social shopping is the future of the travel industry.

Apr 19, 2011
by Anonymous

Currency of Content

Is this an active blog? The dates are old for reader comments (the formal postings do not seem to reflect any dates). If I want to pursue some of these sources for academic citation or other I am challenged without this basic information.