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.

.

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

Advertisements

Operation Lose America’s Gain

August 30, 2010

Location: Melbourne, Australia

It came as no surprise that after living in the USA for 14 months, I came back to Australia weighing more than when I left. It wasn’t a hard gain; late breaks at work led to late dinners; we’d eat out a couple of times per week; we’d drink at our local on Wednesday and Saturday nights  after work as well as pre-gaming and drinking when we’d hit the clubs on either Sunday or Tuesday nights.

It’s not exactly the best feeling in the world when your favourite old pair of jeans can’t zip or button up anymore. And no, it’s not exactly something I’m proud of, but hey, it’s life and I lived those 14 months to the best of my ability and enjoyed every second of it; no regrets.

I’ve never been that skinny girl nor will I ever be that skinny girl. I can however, do myself a favour and attempt to lose the weight I gained while in the USA, plus some. This will begin tomorrow.

Today I signed up at my local gym. I’ve worked out there before, many a time, and once I get myself into routine, I actually enjoy going there quite a bit. They had a deal going on; purchase three months membership for $349 and receive three months free. Six months should be ample time to reach my goals, or at least I hope.


Longing to go back to Disney

August 19, 2010

.

Location: Melbourne, Australia
.

It has been five weeks since my Internship came to an end and I stopped working for Walt Disney World.

It has been ten days since I left Orlando, FL for Las Vegas.

It has been five days since I left Las Vegas to fly back home to Melbourne, Australia.

Not a second goes by where I don’t think about my Disney family. I miss them so much. I miss everything; the friends, the freedom, the lifestyle. I wish I could go back to day one and do it all over again.

Before embarking on this journey, I used to think I knew everything about myself, but now I’m not so sure.

There are things I never thought I wanted in life, that now I want; things I thought I wanted, but now I don’t.

My time abroad has been a life-changing and eye-opening experience that I will never take for granted.

I have met so many amazing and wonderful people and am blessed to have them in my life, even if it was only for a short while.

This is the parting gift that Bryan left me with.
I haven’t been able to watch it yet without crying.

Disney College Program
July 2009 – July 2010
Best time of my life.

Part I

Part II


The End of the World :-(

August 14, 2010

.
Location:
Los Angeles, California, USA
.
This morning was horrible saying good bye to Kellen and Ali before my flight out of Las Vegas. I’m not going to lie, I cried the whole cab ride to the airport and the cab driver didn’t know what to say or do.

To make matters worse, Southwest left my luggage in Las Vegas after I had already touched down in Los Angeles. I had to sit around hoping it would show up on the next flight. Luckily, it did.

I am now sitting at Terminal 2, Gate 23A at Los Angeles International Airport about to board my flight back to Melbourne, Australia with Air New Zealand.

This is the end of the world as I know it. Saddest day of my life.

Good bye USA, it’s been a blast.


A Final Hurrah in Sin City

August 14, 2010

.
Location:
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
.
Vegas in summary:

Airport Hotel Booze Vegas Strip Booze Booze Girls Girls Girls Vegas Strip Pool Booze Hotel Cirque du Soleil Booze Buffet Girls Girls Girls Buffet Vegas Strip Booze Vegas Strip Pool Booze Buffet Thunder from Downunder Vegas Strip Booze Cirque du Soleil Booze Clubbing Vegas Strip Booze Pool Booze Cirque du Soleil Booze Clubbing Booze Airport Tears.

.
Phew. What a mouthful. After an amazing 14 month run, my last five days in the USA were to be spent in no place other than Las Vegas. I am by no means a Sin City virgin but on this particular trip, we were going to be popping Ali’s Vegas virginity.

It was tough saying farewell to Bryan at the airport on Tuesday morning; probably the toughest of them all. This was the one good bye I was least looking forward to. We had pretty much spent every single day of the entire last year together; grocery shopping, working, drinking, cooking, cleaning, hanging out, going to the Disney parks, vacationing together; literally everything. He pulled up curb side at the Southwest Terminal and helped remove our luggage from the car. After it was all out there was a hesitant pause. Ali and Kellen would be seeing Bryan again so it was all up to me. I took a step towards him and leaned in for a hug. I failed at trying not to cry. I didn’t wear any make up for this particular reason; it was inevitable. We said our good byes while I cried all over his shoulder. I didn’t want to let go of him. Bryan handed me a letter and told me to read it a little later on. He hopped back into the car and like that, he was gone. I’m going to miss him so much.

I check all 130lbs of my luggage in. It’s hard to believe how much crap I’ve accumulated over the last 14 months. Thank God for Southwest Airlines two free checked pieces of luggage policy. While sitting at our gate waiting to board, I decide to read the letter Bryan left me with. I’m not even two lines in before I start to cry again. I’m an emotional mess. His words are so sweet and it pains me to imagine my days without him. My sleeve becomes my tissue; good thing I didn’t wear any eye liner. I get a grip of myself right before it is time to board the plane.

We touch down in Vegas at 10am with hopes The Mirage will let us check in this early and sure enough, it does. Score. Our room is gorgeous and we’ve conveniently been given a room with a strip view at no extra cost! Double score.

Twenty minutes is by far too much time to spend in a hotel room in Vegas so off we go to introduce Ali to the strip. We are only walking for

maybe five minutes before Ali realises you can legally roam the streets with booze in hand. This is way to exciting for Ali to handle so we make our way into the nearest hotel to purchase ourselves our first drink. Never mind that it is only 11am, it is 5pm somewhere, right? I’m glad you agree. Our first drink is down the hatch within minutes. There’s nothing like an ice cold Bud Light in 108°F heat while walking down the Las Vegas strip. As we make out way towards the Paris Hotel our taste buds are tingling for another alcoholic beverage. Ali suggest a beverage of the frothy kind and Kellen and I agree. We come across a little place called Evening Call and purchase a cup each that has refills available for only $5; insane. The cup is white, but when a freezing cold substance is poured into it, it turns red! Pretty cool. I order a coffee slushy with baileys in it. As I bring the straw up to my mouth for my first sip, I start to wonder if I should have ordered this; My stomach doesn’t usually have a great reaction to milk-based products. This is quickly forgotten upon having my first sip. The drink is heavenly; absolutely bloody delicious.

More drinks are consumed as we walk the Vegas strip. Kellen and Ali decide it is fun to collect the cards of nakey girls that the GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS guys are handing out on the side of the road (if you’ve ever been to Vegas you know exactly what I’m talking about). It is not even 2pm and we are already best friend with intoxication. We head back to the hotel to sober up and get ready for tonight.

We have tickets to the 7:30pm session of Cirque du Soleil’s Mystere at Treasure Island. After having seen La Nouba 1047982 times while working there on the Disney College Program, I decided it was time to venture out into the world of Cirque du Soleil and see as many resident shows as possible while in Vegas. I lost my Cirque virginity to La Nouba, so in a sense, I felt like I was cheating on it tonight with Mystere. I tried to convince myself this was probably for the best; after all, I was on a mission to find bigger and better… than La Nouba, of course. Get your mind out of the gutter! Mystere had many similarities to La Nouba in that it was the imaginable being brought to life on stage to provide the ultimate discovery that life itself is a mystery. I thoroughly enjoyed the show probably a little bit more than La Nouba, although the first time I ever saw La Nouba, I was blown away by it all too. After Mystere we eat dinner at the Paris buffet which is absolutely delicious.

Day two is just another day of drinking down the strip only today we are rather excited because we find a place by the name of Bill’s that serves 99c margaritas and beer. Needless to say we make out way on it and indulge in a few. I must take advantage of as much cheap booze as possible now because God knows, once I get back to Australia, I’ll be paying insane prices for it. We lay out by the pool while drinking more beer and frothy beverages before it is time to go in and gussy up for tonight’s adventure.

We head to Planet Hollywood for dinner which is insanely crowded due to The Expendables movie premier going on there. It was a nice surprise to see Sylvester Stallone standing around just before we went into eat. The buffets was amazing and had food from many different countries. One of the better buffets I’ve been to in Vegas for sure. We only have a small time frame which to consume as much food as possible because tonight we are heading to… drum roll please…

Thunder from Downunder

.
at The Excalibur hotel. We have been waiting patiently for this day for a few weeks now and are beyond excited to see my home boys represent. The show was absolutely insanely amazing! The boys were hotter than I can even explain. At one point, the MC asked if anyone had ever touched anything Australian before. Of course, Ali and Kellen start screaming at the top of their lungs and pointing to me. I  may have slightly blushed. The show they put on really is phenomenal and I highly recommend it to any one who’s in Vegas for a bachelorette party or just to have a good time like we were.

Best. Photo. Ever.

Ali and I wake up early on day three to head to the Cirque du Soleil ‘LOVE box office which is located inside The Mirage. This particular Cirque show was coming off a seven day dark week which meant it was more than likely going to be sold out but thought we’d try our luck. The lady selling tickets at the box office tells us the same thing we tell all the guests “We are coming back from a short break, we are sold out, only single seats left, we’re not releasing any more, yada yada yada”. I knew she was lying because this is what we use to tell everyone too even when we had seats on hold. Conveniently, as we are standing there, two seats magically appear. The only catch, they are $172.40 each. Ouch. I wasn’t planning on spending this much on a ticket but tonight is the only night we can see this show. I tell Ali I’m fine with paying it as long as she is too. We both hand over our credit cards and slightly cringe as they get swiped. This better be a good show!

So after watching LOVE I don’t feel bad about dropping the $172.40 on my ticket. It was, hands down, the best show I’ve ever seen. LOVE celebrates the musical legacy of The Beatles. Drawn from the poetry of  their lyrics, LOVE explores the content of the songs in a series of scenes inhabited by real and imaginary people. There was always so much happening I didn’t know where to look which is why I think I’ll have to see this show for a second time on my next visit back to Vegas. Incredible! While still high on energy from LOVE, we head to Jet Nightclub at The Mirage. Being Mirage guests, we get free entry; excellent, more to spend on alcohol. We drink and dance the night away.

Day four is our last full day in Vegas and also my last night in the USA before heading home. Sadness bestows me which means it is time for a drink. We make our way back to the Evening Call in Paris and refill our cups. Kellen doesn’t feel the best so I decide to take advantage of this situation and double fist. I get the Bacardi flavoured rum mixed with tropical flavoured slushy. Delicious. The best part is, I can’t even taste any alcohol so I’m just slurping these babies down as if they’re a regular 7/11 slushy. We head back to the pool for our last day of sunshine and tanning. For me, this will probably be the last time I see sun for the next few months. I have a horrible, cold winter to look forward to after tomorrow.

Tonight we have tickets to see Cirque du Soleil’s Zumanity at New York New York. Zumanity has claimed to be the sensual side of Cirque du Soleil. It is a seductive twist on reality, making the provocative playful and the forbidden electrifying. You are asked to leave all inhibitions at the door and let loose as this Cirque production takes you on a sexy thrill ride full of sensational acrobatics and naughty fun. The show is part burlesque and part cabaret and only viewable to those 18 years and over. Again, another amazing show.

We head to Studio 54 at the MGM. There is a huge line up at the door. Tonight Lady Gaga performed at the MGM and Studio 54 is home to her official after party so the crowds are insane. It doesn’t help that she is due to walk out any minute to do a press conference and pose for the paparazzi right by the front of the club and admissions line. The security guard calls Kellen and I in right before she comes out. Bummer.

Kellen has never been to Studio 54 before but I had told him several times how it is my favourite club in Vegas because the music they play is amazing. After a few drinks, he was quick to agree. We buy each other round after round after round and after a while, I lose count as to how much we’ve consumed. We’re having such an amazing time just dancing the night away. It reaches 3am and we agree that if the next song is crappy, we will leave. Lucky for us, it isn’t, so we continue dancing like it’s nobodies business. Everywhere we look, there are girls dressed up as Lady Gaga. Once Kellen reaches his height of intoxication, he starts asking them all for photos and they kindly pose with him. Too funny. We stumble out of Studio 54 sometime after 4am and make it back to the room exactly at 5am. What a night.

The next morning is like a depressive blur. Ali and Kellen help me carry my bags out to catch a cab. I have an earlier flight out than they do so of course, I have to say my good byes to them. The cab driver finishes loading my bags into his trunk. I turn to Ali, before I even reach out to hug her I’m already crying. She starts crying too. I look over to Kellen to give him a hug and I start crying even more. I know I will be seeing them again so this makes it a little easier. I say good bye one last time then hop into the cab and cry all the way to the airport.

Good bye Las Vegas, until next time…


Diva’s Las Vegas

August 12, 2010

Location: Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
.

Just a quick update with more to come…
.

Thunder from Downunder
Las Vegas
August 11, 2010

Need I say more?


Twelve Hours Left in Orlando…

August 9, 2010


.
Location:
Orlando, Florida, USA
.
Sadly, after spending the last 13 months of my life in Orlando, Florida, it is time to depart.

Leaving for the airport at 5:30am and getting a flight out to Las Vegas at 7:55am where I will spend the next five days before flying back home to Australia.

The worst part; saying good bye to a friend I have become so close with at the airport in the morning.

Good bye, Orlando, I’ll forever cherish all the memories I’ve made here. You hold a special place in my heart ♥.

See you soon.

xo