Making travel plans using social media

Published On: Mar 17 2014 09:24:04 AM EDT
Updated On: Mar 18 2014 06:20:00 AM EDT

When frequent traveler Christine Kirk books a trip, she typically hits Twitter looking for recommendations to great spas and restaurants near her hotel. She's no longer surprised when the property tweets back a few suggestions.   

"It's just a really convenient way for me to communicate with the hotel," she said.

The latest travel trend: hotels, airlines and cruise lines using social media to make sure your stay is a good one. Loews hotels recently launched "Social Reservations" where people on twitter can book rooms during a secure chat conversation with an agent.   And booking is just the beginning.

"They are engaging with them in a much earlier part of the trip planning process and providing a lot more personal advice than they have in the past," explained  Rich Beattie with Travel+Leisure.

Beattie sees big brands responding to travelers on a one-on-one level on everything from Facebook to Instagram. They're following your tags and the money.

"One study showed that customers who engage with companies on social media spend 20-40% more than customers who don't," said Beattie. "So, travel companies realize there's a huge upside now to engaging with customers on a very direct one to one level." 

Carrie Mitchell is the public relations director for a Four Seasons property.  She says their popular Pin.Pack.Go program on Pinterest has proven results.

"It works as a collaborative exchange between property and guest, so before they're coming they create their own boards with the destination they would like to go to so it really helps us with customization," she explained.

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

"With so many emerging platforms, we like to see how guests are responding to social media trends," said Mitchell.

So is there a downside?  Beattie says consumers give up some of their privacy in exchange for the tips.

"But that's what social media is, is sharing.  And, if you don't want to share anything, you shouldn't share it," he added.

Meantime, he believes the benefits to travelers are only going to 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," said Beattie.

That sounds good to Kirk, who believes this interaction makes the entire trip more fun.

"You can get a feel for the destination that you're traveling to and sort of get excited about your upcoming stay," she said.

Social media has become so popular within the travel industry that Travel+Leisure magazine now has a special category of awards for companies that make the best use of social media each year.

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