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 CollectionThe 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 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 BerlinThe 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 Facebook
Zeev 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 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 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.