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