Planning and booking trips using social media


When frequent traveler Christine Kirk books a trip, she typically hits Twitter looking for recommendations to great spas and restaurants near her hotel. She's no longer surprised when the property tweets back a few suggestions.

"It's just a really convenient way for me to communicate with the hotel," said Kirk.

The latest travel trend: hotels, airlines and cruise lines using social media to make sure your stay is a good one. Loews Hotels recently launched social reservations where people on Twitter can book rooms during a secure chat conversation with an agent. And booking is just the beginning.

"They are engaging with them in a much earlier part of the trip-planning process and providing a lot more personal advice than they have in the past," said Rich Beattie, Travel + Leisure magazine's executive digital editor.

Beattie sees big brands responding to travelers on a one-on-one level on everything from Facebook to Instagram. They're following your tags and the money.

"One study showed that customers who engage with companies on social media spend 20 to 40 percent more than customers who don't," said Beattie. "So travel companies realize there's a huge upside now to engaging with customers on a very direct one-to-one level."

Carrie Mitchell is the public relations director for the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. She says their popular "Pin.Pack.Go" program on Pinterest has proven results.

"It works as a collaborative exchange between property and guest, so before they're coming they create their own boards with the destination they would like to go to, so it really helps us with customization," said Mitchell.

At some hotels, you may even find a digital concierge to help customize your stay, or get rewards if you check in using Foursquare.

So is there a downside? Beattie says consumers give up some of their privacy in exchange for the tips.

"But that's what social media is, is sharing. And if you don't want to share anything, you shouldn't share it," said Beattie.

Meantime he believes the benefits to travelers are only going to get better.

"Where travelers are on the ground, the opportunity to reach them at that time with specific offers in destination, I think is going to be the next big thing in social media," said Beattie.

Social media has become so popular within the travel industry that Travel + Leisure magazine now has a special category of awards for companies that make the best use of social media each year.

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