How can readers use new technology (Twitter, Facebook, online sites, etc.) to make the most of their travel budgets?
With social networking accounting for 22 per cent of all time spent online in the U.S. in 2010, it comes as no surprise that hotels, airlines and other segments of the multibillion-dollar travel industry are aggressively harnessing online sites such as Facebook and Twitter to build loyalty to their brands. Once regarded simply as a way for friends to keep in touch and share pictures, social networking has overtaken e-mail, online gaming and search as the number one online activity in the U.S. In fact, one in four U.S. internet page views occurred at one of the top social networking sites in 2009, up from 13.8 per cent a year before. From snagging wallet- friendly hotel deals to researching local restaurants, travellers are using new technology at an unprecedented rate, with such channels now serving as an integral part of the travel experience for millions around the world.
Social media undoubtedly offers a win-win situation for both sides: While frugal travellers turn to these websites to avail of time-sensitive discounts and promotions they might otherwise miss out on, travel companies reap the benefits of cultivating both new and existing customers. In addition, many travellers report being more inclined to buy from brands that advertise in social media, and this is especially so for those who learn about such companies through Facebook posts or tweets submitted by their friends.
Similar to email alerts, travel companies notify travellers through their Facebook and Twitter feeds of recent news, special offers and other perks. There are some companies that post deals on a first-come, first-served basis, others that post them at a set date and time each week, and still others that offer the specials when least expected. Once they’ve “liked” a company on Facebook or begun following it on Twitter, travellers should monitor the pages regularly to stay abreast of the latest and best deals.
A wealth of internet websites can help travellers cut through the clutter and find those deals that suit their tastes and budgets. For example, they can use hotel reservation websites like Dallas- based Getaroom.com to take advantage of hotel specials in premier destinations like New York, San Francisco and London. Such sites provide discounts up to 50 per cent off regular rates, leaving travellers with more money for travel expenses such as airfare, dining and entertainment.
Bargain hunters can also consult sources like Travelzoo.com, which works with more than 900 travel companies to deliver deals to subscribers via its websites and newsletters, and Kayak.com, a travel search engine that aggregates search results and compares the lowest prices from leading travel sites.
travellers can use Facebook.com to create profiles on which they can post everything from photos to information on their favourite hotels. Users communicate with friends and other users through private messages as well as via a chat feature. Plus, they can create and join interest groups, “like” pages maintained by their favourite hotels, and post comments to the Wall of a friend’s Facebook page. travellers can “like” a brand on Facebook for a variety of reasons, namely to receive discounts and promotions, show support for the brand, stay current with news related to the business, or simply for fun and entertainment.
When it comes to hotels, for example, travellers need only search for the hotel or hotel booking company of their choice and press the “like” button on the company’s page. They’ll then gain access to a host of special promotions, deals and incentives – all of which translate to huge savings. They can also enter contests, drawings and sweepstakes for the chance to win free prizes.
Like Facebook, Twitter has experienced immense growth since its founding in 2006 and serves as a popular social outlet through which users can find travel deals from and share opinions about companies. Research suggests that Twitter users are more likely to purchase from or recommend a brand after they’ve become followers. In 2010, Twitter signed on more than 100 million users, a number expected to grow sizably over the next two years.
Once they’ve signed up for a free Twitter account, travellers can send and read tweets – text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the user’s profile page. While many travellers simply use Twitter to “follow” companies, opting to have an approved list of providers send information to them, others seek out coupons or special discount codes by entering terms into Twitter’s search box. travellers can refine their searches by adding a hashtag (#) before their query. For instance, those looking for hotel deals in New York might enter “#NewYorkdeals,” and those scouring the internet for rooms under $100 in Chicago might
type “#Chicagohoteldiscounts.” travellers must act fast once they’ve found a Twitter-only travel deal, as it might only be valid for a couple of days, if not hours.