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Social networks let firms connect with consumers via inexpensive means, say experts

Mumbai, April 29, 2015

Hospitality companies appear to be significantly increasing their social media spends as the digital world has “revolutionised” marketing strategies, say company officials and experts.

Hotel chains such as Indian Hotels Company (IHC) of the Tatas and Marriott International are coming up with innovative ideas to engage with customers as part of their strategy to boost business in a changing world.

“We have restructured the organisation and have taken a left turn from our traditional sales and marketing, since the focus is to meet the digital world today,” says Rakesh Sarna, Managing Director and Chief Executive of IHC.

The 112-year-old company’s plan is to aggressively use digital and social media to expand the Taj brand by ensuring search engine optimisation and e-commerce connect with different market segments.

Zafar Rais, CEO, MindShift Interactive, a digital outreach agency, believes this is a right strategy. “Social media empowers companies to engage with the right audience in a sustained manner, constantly engaging and increasing influence,” he says.

Around the world, hospitality companies are increasingly using social networks to promote their businesses.

“In the US, 90 per cent of hotels have a Facebook page, and this trend is rising in India as well. It creates loyalty, raises visibility and attracts new guests,” says Irfan Mirza, Director, VM Salgaocar Institute of International Hospitality Education. Agrees Tripti Lochan, CEO, VML, a digital marketing and advertising agency, part of the WPP Group: “With social media influencing even a destination choice for consumers and Google maps being the de-facto navigator, hospitality brands are going digital to speak to the consumer at every stage of the travel cycle, from the dreaming of vacation, to post vacation sharing.”

Reaching out

In a bid to increase the JW Marriott brand recall, the company recently launched #MarriottChefChat with Chef Savio Fernandes.

Though the aim was to promote the Valentine’s Day celebration and treats, the hotel decided to create an engagement opportunity with its followers.

Besides, Marriott International Asia Pacific launched two services for greater online engagement with customers: MeetingsImagined.com and a ‘Meeting Services’ app.

These services are intended to assist planners and organisers, and provide expert tips on everything related to meetings, including networking activities. MeetingsImagined.com is to be launched across around 100 properties throughout Asia Pacific, and 13 fully serviced Marriott International properties in India.

Marriott International, which has more than 4,100 properties and 18 brands across 79 countries, has been studying the way planners interface with hotels when they organise events, says Peggy Fang Roe, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer-Asia Pacific at Marriott.

The #MarriottChefChat saw some 125 tweets from 22 contributors. The total reach on Friday, February 13, was as high as 21,241. The hotel saw an increase in interactions on the page, with the campaign leading to an increase in brand recall, according to MindShift Metrics, the research arm of MindShift Interactive.

“It’s no secret that social media has revolutionised how we market hotels online. Never before has it been so easy to reach so many, so inexpensively,” sums up Arashdeep Sandhu, Head, MindShift Metrics, a research arm of MindShift Interactive. Business Line

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