Social Networking's Influence on Guest Buying Behavior

| April 08, 2009

Hotels and restaurants can expect to face an uphill battle in 2009 as the economic recession continues to hit the hospitality segment hard. With this trend expected to continue, there is one technology trend in particular that hoteliers and restaurateurs alike can expect to have a huge influence on their guests' buying behavior this year: the marketing influence of social networking.

From user-generated reviews, video and photos, to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, Forrester Research (www.forrester.com) notes that 40 percent of online travelers use content from other consumers when making their traveling plans. As more travelers turn to the Internet to research their lodging options, hoteliers will find that increased Internet visibility can result in higher hotel bookings.

"As communities on the web become the standard for connecting online, it is vital to understand how to leverage that channel for capturing profitable and repeatable business," says Ashok Narula, general manager for The Strathcona Hotel (www.thestrathconahotel.com), which was named the 2008 eMarketer of the Year by the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) (www.hsmai.org) and TravelCLICK (www.travelclick.net). The Strathcona Hotel is one of many hotels already taking advantage of this strategy, with more than 50 percent of its business being generated over the Web, thanks to manage-ment' s success in attracting 18- to 34-year-old guests through social networking sites (among other Web initiatives). "The Strathcona has worked diligently to find the right balance of online marketing strategies, especially when it comes to our presence in the social networking world," says Narula.

The effects of social networking are also expected to have a big influence on the restaurant side, especially when it comes to promoting brand loyalty. In Hospitality Technology's March 2009 cover story, "Loyalty 2.0," the CIO for Wendy' s/Arby's Group (www.wendysarbys.com) Don Zimmerman notes the significant potential associated with Web 2.0. "I think there's a lot of potential there as we start to explore what it can yield in the way of new business or enhancing the relationship with existing customers," says Zimmerman. "If I know how you like to interact with us, we could potentially tailor your experience to that knowledge of you and the relationship we've established."

To read more about the influence of emarketing on guest preferences, as well as best practices and strategies, visit htmagazine.com.

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