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Social media in the luxury hotel industry

By Walter Schaerer, Travel Blogger

As travel bloggers, we depend on invitations from hotels, since the revenue generated by the blog is not enough to cover our travel expense. And if you want to publish a high quality blog, expect the travel costs to mount up… To make sure that the hotels fit our design-and-boutique hotel niche, we do online research before approaching them about a collaboration. We were surprised to find as we did how few of the hotels appreciate the value of a good social network presence. If a hotel is not represented attractively on all channels it simply will not be found. What follows are a few constructive examples and recommendations on how to get found:

Ever since advertisers discovered that online channels let them measure the effectiveness of advertising campaigns in detail (Google AdWords, Facebook Atlas, etc.), their ad placements in conventional newspapers have continued to drop. As a result, publishers have seen their revenues collapse, and they can no longer afford to pay their writers. The travel industry has also been hit especially hard by this trend. Margins have been shrinking for years due to Internet price transparency and hotel ad budgets have gone down right along with them. It also makes it increasingly difficult for hotels to get the word out to a wide audience with professional photojournalism coverage.

In come the travel bloggers.

Travel bloggers are aficionados of travel who like nothing better than sharing experiences with their readership. True, they typically reach a smaller audience than a newspaper does, but the upside is that their subjectively-colored travel reports can be found on the Internet for years instead of disappearing with the next batch of recycled newspapers. Even better, their write-ups can contain links to the hotel website and they can be shared on social networks, with consequent important effect on search engine optimization (SEO): Search engine algorithms rank links to subject matter-related websites highly and the formula also takes “social signals” from social networks into consideration. The more often a website is linked and talked about (i.e. cited) the more popular it must be, so goes the algorithmic logic, and hence the site will rank that much higher on the search engine hit list (the search engine results page or SERP). This can be expected to lead to more visitors to a hotel’s website and, provided it sports good looks and functionality (e.g., optimized for mobile), presto! more guests are attracted.

Hotels and social networks

Lobby-Wander-Hotelier-Bernerhof-Gstaad_600By now, most hoteliers have realized that owning a website that is easy to navigate and tells the story with terrific photos is a key advertising asset.

Tip # 1: We usually search for “boutique hotels in XY,” for example. If that is the industry niche you want to occupy, your hotel website should also be findable under these terms. A search for “luxury hotels in XY” is probably too broad for most destinations; the trick is to specify other activities like golf or a spa, for instance, and then put up content relevant to the activity.

As noted already, the most advantageous method of attracting visitors for just about any type of content is search engine optimization. Still, many hotels remarkably continue to underestimate the beneficial effect an active social media presence on Facebook, Google+, Twitter and so on can have. To that end, reviews by bloggers are most effective when their activities on social media are passed along by hotels or service providers. We see this multiplier effect succinctly every time in our own web statistics when hotels share our reviews with their own web visitors: A “like,” “+1,” or “Fav” (respectively, Facebook, Google+, and Twitter) is very easily done; more valuable still, however, for spreading blog reports is sharing their content, preferably accompanied by the hotel’s own commentary. It requires a little extra effort by the hotel, but it pays off by getting the word out more effectively.

The folks at Designhotel Oitavos in Portugal, in my opinion, do an exemplary job in this respect: Not only do their Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest und Google+ presences abound in attractive photos, they also actively share content from travel blogs, as we can testify.

Tip # 2: The Oitavos Hotel would probably get even more hits on Google+ than a “mere” half million (as of June, 2015) if its photos and videos also came with titles, brief captions and a few relevant #hashtags. Using such tactics, I can lay claim to having racked up more than 4.5 million hits to date on my personal Google + profile.

In Switzerland, the “wander hotelier” Thomas Frei is a model social media hotelier. He goes so far as to organize a social media meet-up in the Bernese Highland every year, and it gained him a loyal fanbase of social media influencers.

According to fellow travel blogger Keith Jenkins, founder and publisher of Velvet Escape Luxury Travel Blog, among the great hotel chains it is the Four Seasons group that is well on its way with social network and blogger collaborations. He also recommends taking a look at the exemplary offerings by @Grootbos, a South African 5-star luxury private nature reserve. The entire destination here is really a go-getter and supports blogger trips: In 2013, they launched the much-remarked upon Blogger Outreach Campaign #MeetSouthAfrica.

And in conclusion, permit this bit of wisdom regarding travel bloggers

By now, travel bloggers are a “dime a dozen” as the saying goes: there are attractive publications by passionate travelers for just about any industry niche you can think of. I can’t emphasize the importance of niche enough: the Internet is rife with so much content these days that only those who focus on a specific theme and manage to rank among the best have a hope of standing out in the information flood.

Tip # 3: Keep on the lookout for travel blogs that fit your own niche and don’t just report in vivid language, but also offer enticing photos and suitable, well-edited and therefore entertaining videos. Also, get permission to use the photos for your social networks presence or own website. Most bloggers will feel flattered and will gladly lend a hand – especially if they had been invited beforehand. In our case, after we review a hotel, for example, we make our photos available for use on websites and social networks free of charge. If the photos come across so well that they might even find their way into printed catalogs we license the desired images for a modest fee.

About the author

Walter-Schaerer-Roberto-Arganese_600Walter Schaerer is founder and editor-in-chief of travelmemo.com, a luxury destination travel blog. He created the travel magazine back in 2010 as an experiment to help him gain first-hand experience in working with blogs and social media. But, being so interesting, they took on a life of their own, and he has kept them as his online test benches to this day. They let him participate up close and personal in state-of-the-art web developments – and, by the way, travel to an interesting destination now and then.