Adding Value & Brand Loyalty by Embracing Social Media

September 19, 2010

Why the Australian travel & hospitality industry should become tech-savvy.

Having taken an immediate interest in social media from the very beginning, while Interning abroad in the USA last year, I was extremely surprised to observe just how much the Australian travel and hospitality industry were lacking when compared to the US in terms of social media. While witnessing first hand how US companies such as Southwest Airlines had embraced social media to generate interest within their company, I was silently hoping that Australia would echo such sentiments; sooner rather than later.

Fifteen months later and I’m back on Aussie soil and glad to see that the Australian travel and hospitality industry (well, part of it, at least) has finally come to its senses and is taking a walk on the tech-savvy side.

For those companies still lacking or refusing to get with the times, here is the link between using social media to attract brand loyalty and add corporate value to your company:

1. Discounts and Deal Offers

While the economy is on a mend, it is still not in tip-top shape. The average middle-class individual or family is budget conscious and constantly on the look out for travel discounts and deals; why spend more if you can get the same flight or hotel at a discount rate through a different travel agent, website or airline? While it pays to do your research, Twitter is breaking down the research phase by tweeting an immediate answer directly to your Twitter feed.

Having embraced the power of Twitter, Jetstar @JetstarAirways are a great example of this. Every Friday Jetstar tweets its Friday Fare Frenzy deals with a link back to its website for all of its 10,236 followers to see. Many of these fares are so cheap it is no doubt that many of Jetstar’s followers purchase on impulse either for a spontaneous weekend getaway or a planned vacation. Not only does Jetstar promote its Friday Fare Frenzy but also tweets other fantastic travel deals and arranges phone contact for customers that are experiencing difficulties or are unsatisfied with the service they have received.

Like Jetstar, STA Travel Australia @statravelAU is also a lover of all things Twitter. STA Travel promotes discount airfares and any travel tours they have on sale as well as running Twitter prize give aways for their 6,482 followers.

I can’t understand why travel and hospitality companies, or any company for that matter, wouldn’t want to embrace the communication powers that Twitter embodies; in essence, it is free advertising.

2. Communication of Catastrophic Events

With the ever-lingering concern of terrorism and natural disasters in the back of people’s minds while travelling, the ability of travel companies to deal with catastrophe and unplanned tragedy quickly and efficiently while still showing sympathy and concern to those involved is vital to their success.

On January 16, 2009 at 7:36am US EST, Janis Krums @jkrums tweeted these words accompanied by this photo he snapped on his cell phone:

Twitter user, Janis Krums was on a ferry used to rescue stranded passengers after the miracle landing of  US Airways Flight 1549 into the Hudson River. His tweet was the first to make headlines; before any official media or news outlet was able to pick up on it. In fact, Twitter broke the news of the incident around 15 minutes before the mainstream media alerted viewers and readers to the crash.

As Twitter user @hrhmedia pointed out , the FlightStats information website was showing the downed flight as 26 minutes late, but still “en route” to its destination of Charlotte in North Carolina. And while Twitter’s trends page, which identifies the hot keywords used in tweets, was flagging up terms such as “US Airways”, “Hudson”, “plane” and “crash”, Google’s similar trending service showed no signs of those keywords an hour and more after the incident occurred.

While not being able to find any supporting evidence that US Airways @USAirways had their Twitter account back when this incident occured, it would have, on their part, been in line to tweet about the incident and that no lives were lost to reassure the families and friends of those on board. Another great and recent US Airways Twitter example can be viewed below:

3. Generate Customer Loyalty and Engagement

While the first real challenge for travel and hospitality companies is actually joining social media communities and developing a taste for how they work, the key goal of staking a claim in the social media world is to build a base of dedicated followers who will keep coming back.

Most travel and hospitality organisations are looking for more than just a transaction. They’re after loyalty; a long term engagement between the company, brand and the customer.

The key to achieving this is by the use of deals offered exclusively through social media channels.

Airtran Airways introduced Facebook Friday Fares giving its Facebook fans unique deals as well as the AirTran U Creeper game which gives its Facebook fans the opportunity to win a round-trip flight with the airline.

United Airlines @UnitedAirlines has cleverly combined a tweet and a fare to introduce twares. These are fare specials offered exlusively through Twitter. With a following of 116,638 and growing daily, it’s no wonder so many Twitter users are following United. Exclusive deals like this one keep the customer coming back again and again.

4. Real-time Monitoring

Airlines are able to notify all followers via Twitter of any cancelled or delayed flights as they happen. This may save you a few hours of sitting around at the airport or driving to the airport to pick someone up only to wait around for hours and spend countless dollars on rip off parking fares because of a delayed flight.

Newcomer, The Honey Bar @theHONEYBAR is a purpose built hospitality venue in the South Melbourne precinct. They have taken an immense interest in Twitter to communicate to their rapidly growing list of 506 followers. The Honey Bar has even suggest it will go above and beyond to satisfy its customers…

@deltachris tweeted The Honey Bar informing them that he had past by earlier in the night but didn’t have the time to stop in. The Honey Bar tweet back informing Chris that…

Twitter has made it possible to be in the know as it happens. Imagine how satisfied one would be if they could tweet in their meal in advance to their favourite restaurant and not have to sit around and wait for it to be cooked.

Later this month, The Honey Bar will play host to the @socialmelb Tweetup (Twitter meet up); another intelligent way of generating interest and followers amongst the Melbourne scene.

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So what are you waiting for? Embrace your inner tech-geek and reap the benefits of social media today.


Zero. Zilch. Nada.

September 5, 2010

Location: Melbourne, Australia

I have been back in Australia for three weeks. Within this three week period I have applied for 23 jobs; all degree related. From these 23 applications I submit, I received responses back from zero; Z-E-R-O. Nada. Not even a courtesy email saying thank you, but no thank you. Who knew a simple email could be so difficult?

I’m still trying to figure out if I’m not approaching the whole CV and cover letter thing correctly or if I just plain out suck.

I kinda really want a degree-relevant job; like, now. Please?


Traveling during an economic crisis…

January 16, 2009

Despite popular belief, traveling is still quite possible during this global economic crisis. While some countries have already hit recession, it is being predicted that Australia, fortunately, will surpass it. This does not mean everything is all well and good here, though;  just today it was announced that nearly 45,000 Australians lost their jobs in the month of December, 2008, a .1% rise on previous figures. This largest monthly decline of full-time jobs since March 2003 saw the job loss tally climb to 77,000 since August, 2008.

Although, for some, these figures represent gloom and despair, if you feel confident about the security of your position and your earnings, believe it or not, now is possibly the best time for you to get out there and see the world.

During an economic downturn and recession, travel is often the first cut people make in their budgets. Given that this crisis has struck on a global level, the whole world is adjusting to suit this changing economic climate. Just like the earths’ occupants, the world of travel is also having to alter its tactics to respond to the recognized decline that an unsteady economy brings with it. Airline companies right around the globe are slashing the prices of airfares to help enhance ticket sales. Their aim is to fill seats and they will do what ever it takes in order to ensure their aircraft’s are at full capacity. They realize that if they want people to travel during this time of uncertainty, they are going to have to make you an offer you can’t refuse and that is exactly what smart travel and airline companies like STA Travel and Qantas have been doing.

Launched in December of 2008, STA Travel Australia introduced online travel auctions to their website. Similar to that of eBay, you are able to bid on a huge selection of airfares, tours, package holidays and accommodation. The best part about all of this is that every single auction begins at a crazy $1 AU. That’s right folks, just $1! This puts you in control when deciding on a maximum amount to bid. If you’re after a bargain holiday, STA’s online travel auction is definitely worth the look.

Although by now, this offer has expired, just the other day STA Travel was promoting an insane sale fare of $999 AU including taxes for a return flight from Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane to Los Angeles, USA. In a perfect economic climate, fares like this are just unheard of. Despite the current exchange rate of $0.66 AU to $1 US, an airfare this cheap can all but make up for the loss in exchange.

In November of 2008, Qantas released a too-good-to-refuse marketing scheme in hopes to amplify its dwindling 9.3% fall in September traffic. A two-for-one ticket sale was launched by Qantas to stimulate demand for international travel. This offering allowed for a second passenger to fly for the cost of only taxes and charges; an offer which received an extremely strong response by the public. Again, in a perfect economic climate, Qantas would never, not even for a second, dream of letting a passenger fly for free.

As mentioned above, the Australian dollar has plummeted severely within the last few months after reaching an all time high in July of 2008. The Aussie dollar has dropped from a whopping $0.98 AU to $0.66 AU to the U.S. dollar. The comparison between the Aussie and U.S. dollar always seems to be the one making the news here, and while some may view this conversion as extremely unfavorable, it should be remembered that there is a whole world out there to discover; your travel plans are not just restricted to the U.S.

Try vacationing in a country with a favorable conversion rate. While these countries may cost a little bit more airfare wise, once you arrive it is a case of more bang for your buck. The Lonely Planet suggests visiting the Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Thailand, Laos, Syria, Ukraine and Uruguay. While some of these countries may seem out side of your comfort zone or perhaps not your ideal sense of vacation style, they can be a real adventure to discover. Everybody needs a little adventure in their lives; it’s good for you. Go on, surprise yourself.

Choosing to stay in a hostel over a hotel can be one of the biggest money-saving decisions of your entire vacation. Many people are under the impression that hostels only offer shared, mixed-sex dorm rooms with public facilities. Quite the opposite, actually. Many, if not all, hostels offer private rooms with a private bathroom and sometimes, if you are lucky, even a television. I spent a few nights in a hostel while staying in London, England. My main justification for choosing a hostel over a hotel was the fact that I would be spending barely any time in my room. I really just required a bed and bathroom facilities to get ready in the mornings. I recall paying £15 per night ($33 AU). If the point of your vacation is to get out there and discover the world, your accommodation really just needs to be secure, clean and quiet enough to allow you to get some peaceful shut-eye each night. Another advantage of staying in hostels are the number of people you meet and quickly become friends with from right around the globe; this could prove to be another cost-cutter for when you require future accommodation.

Without realizing it, one of the biggest money-eaters while on vacation is food. The constant eating out at restaurants or snacking in between meals quickly accumulates. Food and beverages were easily my biggest cost concern when traveling, especially through Europe as everything seems to be rather pricey there. My suggestion is to purchase snacks from the supermarket to nibble on through out the day. Don’t go to the biggest major supermarket in town either, have a wander; walk a few blocks down and you will be sure to find smaller, family-run retailers (this is especially more so common in the back streets of Europe) that charge up to half the price that the larger, tourist-infested supermarkets are charging. While in France a few friends and I got lost amongst the back streets of Paris. We came across the most beautiful produce,  freshly baked baguettes and scrumptious pastries at small, independently run stores. We only had to chip in a few Euro each and we all enjoyed a glorious picnic dinner under the Eiffel Tower. There is no way eating at a restaurant could beat that experience, or that price.

Lastly, why waste your time stressing? Your concern is not going to mend the pitiful economy nor will it prevent your country from hitting recession. If you are in the position to, get out there and see the world. After all, traveling is a form of stress relief!

DON'T LET THE DWINDLING ECONOMY CAT YOUR TRAVEL PLANS