Friday, March 25, 2011

Hotels Test Facebook's Clout with Travelers

USA Today: Have you booked a hotel room via a hotel's Facebook page yet?

If not, you might soon.

Facebook is gaining clout with hotels as an influencer of travelers - and so more hotels are adding booking options to their Facebook pages, HotelNewsNow.com reports.

This year, Facebook has even surpassed review-giant TripAdvisor in a tiny but important segment: Facebook's referrals led to a higher percentage of hotel bookings than TripAdvisor's referrals, the story says.

The trend suggests that we'll likely see hotels attempt to get more creative at getting travelers to "like" them on Facebook.

During 2009, travel research firm PhoCusWright saw the volume of direct referrals from Facebook to hotel websites grew, the article says. Furthermore, the conversion rate from referral to actual booking was higher (8%) than it was for TripAdvisor and other review sites (4% to 6%), PhoCusWright research director Douglas Quinby says.

Seeing the potential to lure travelers via the social networking giant, Starwood's Westin hotel brand in January added a "Shop" tab on its brand and individual properties' Facebook pages. It serves as a fully-contained shopping transaction, vs. a link from Westin's website.

"What we are seeing now is an emergence of technology that we didn't see six months ago. There is an opportunity for ourselves and other hotel brands to enable these type of transactions within Facebook," David Godsman, VP of global Web for Starwood, tells HotelNewsNow.com.

Michael Hraba of Hraba Hospitality Consulting expects Facebook to become too influential for hoteliers to ignore, even though it may bring in few customers right now. He advises his independent hotel clients to get active on Facebook.

"There is real commerce that is starting to grow on Facebook," he says. "If you are there, you (won't) miss the ones who do want to book. You are available in every possible way your guests need you."

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