If hoteliers are the curators of life’s true style, then hotels are the canvas on which trends in dining, design, and wellness come to life. But times are changing. It’s hard not to notice that new hotels are decidedly under-styled and superfluous service and decadent décor are on the outs. Whether it’s the natural swing of the trend pendulum or a stylistic reaction to current economic realities, it’s becoming undeniable that fancy schmancy is out and functionality is in.
While the effect of this trend on hardware (like the absence of bellboys and ornamented lobbies) is quite obvious, the lack of something else might not be as apparent… the lack of soft cost spending. The media landscape is experiencing a marked shift as hotels try a thriftier channel to reach consumers.
Social media is nothing new but until recently it was decidedly a one-way street: a way for hotels to convey information to subscribers. But social media is meant to be a dialogue and it turns out that guests are more than willing to share experiences, provide feedback, and actively engage with brands if given the chance. It makes sense financially too.
Why use up a good chunk of budget on glossy print ads when you can host a Foursquare scavenger hunt? How about a Tweet-up? Or a Facebook contest? Why waste resources organizing a big media event when influential bloggers and social media enthusiasts already review and engage with your hotel for free? By tapping into an engaged audience—in-house guests and brand fans—hotels are saving a lot of money and conversing in real-time with their target customer.
Take @StarwoodBuzz for example. With over 46,000 followers on Twitter the brand is not only great at engaging influencers and tribal leaders, but is completely transparent and even responds to customer concerns. The W Opera in Paris even encourages guests to post honest reviews directly on the site à la Trip Advisor. Hotels are now rewarding guests via re-tweets, contests, and upgrades; easy incentives that cost significantly less than ad spend.
The bottom line is that guests are happy to get involved and if you think about it, isn’t that what travel is all about? Adventure, exploration, and curiosity; these words have all but vanished from the vocabulary of most upscale hoteliers—maybe social media is an equalizing force that will bring back the element of discovery to the travel experience....
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