Social Sites And Travel: Good For Looking, Not Buying

social sitesSocial sites like Facebook are one of the sources considered when travelers look to find some sort of shopping-related deal. But how many travelers use social sites to actually book a trip?

According to PhoCusWright’s Social Media in Travel 2012: Social Networks and Traveler Reviews, more than three-fourths of travelers turn to social networks to find some type of shopping-related deal, and 30% specifically seek out travel-related deals. But companies that have implemented booking tools within Facebook have so far reported mixed results.

“Everybody and their grandma may be on Facebook, but for many in the travel industry, that has not made social into a reliably actionable and demonstrably profitable marketing medium,” said Douglas Quinby, senior director of research at PhoCusWright in Travel Daily News.

According to the study, travelers do not use social networks to purchase travel, as they would search or travel sites. Sharing travel photos and stories on social sites is popular. Making purchases, not so much.
“The potential of social for travel may lie less in any one platform and more in the ecosystem of social data,” says Quinby, “to socialize a traveler’s experience across a variety of online travel websites and mobile applications.”

Need travel information in person? The up close and personal nature of travel shows like the New York Times Travel Show might be the answer. Travel shows feature exhibitors representing countries from around the world with a focus on travel destinations, packages and special offers, as well as tour operators, cruise lines and live entertainment for the whole family as we see in this video:




[Flickr photo by ideagirlmedia]

10 Hotels Helping Guests Celebrate This Labor Day

Riverside Hotel Looking to travel at the end of the summer, but don’t want to miss out on the Labor Day festivities? Stay at one of these U.S. hotels offering packages, deals and parties.

Riverside Hotel
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Sometimes it pays to work overtime. The Riverside Hotel is offering perks to vacationers who put in the time. Basically, the longer you stay, the less you will pay. With their limited time “Stay More, Save More” package, visitors who stay one night will receive 10% off, visitors who stay two nights will receive 20% off and visitors who stay three nights or more will received 30% off. Other perks include:

  • 25% off at Echo Salon
  • 20% off dinner at Indigo restaurant
  • Buy one ice cream at Kilwin’s, get one free
  • 50% off beer, wine or cocktails at Golden Lyon Pub

Nightly rates start at $149 per night, before the discount. Package is valid until September 30, 2012. Click here to book.The Broadmoor
Colorado Springs, Colorado

Residing near the southern edge of the Rocky Mountains you’ll find The Broadmoor, a luxurious yet historical hotel, which first opened in 1918. This Labor Day, the property is helping families enjoy the holiday with their “Labor Day Family Escape” package, which includes:

  • Overnight accommodations
  • Bicycle and paddle boat rentals daily
  • One hour horseback trail ride or Garden of the Gods jeep tour for each person
  • Complimentary access to The BROADMOOR movie theater
  • 40% discount on adult tickets at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
  • 15% discount on select retail purchases
  • 40% discount on published suite rates

Package available August 30 through September 4. Rates start at $485 per couple for three nights. Click here for more information.

lodge at tiburon The Lodge At Tiburon
Tiburon, California

Located only steps away from the docks of the San Francisco Bay, The Lodge At Tiburon is a relaxing retreat nestled among the cafés, boutiques and galleries of Tiburon. To help guests enjoy the upcoming holiday, the property is offering a “Labor Day Escape” package. The offer includes 30% the nightly room rate, daily breakfast and dinner for two at the newly opened Tiburon Tavern, a local gastropub with a farm-to-table dining approach.

Package rates start at $168 per night, with a minimum two-night stay required. Click here for more information.

Lakeway Resort and Spa
Austin, Texas

Lakeway Resort and Spa is ideally located near wineries, marinas, restaurants, nightlife and championship golf courses and offers numerous leisure activities. To help guests celebrate Labor Day, the resort has put together an exciting lineup of activities for guests to take part in. Some of the weekend highlights include sporting events for children, complimentary happy hours, S’more making, live music, a swim up breakfast, pizza and pasta buffets and more.

Rates start at $229 during the holiday weekend, with a minimum two-night stay required. Click here for more information.

windham hill inn Windham Hill Inn
West Townshend, Vermont

For those looking to escape the city and unwind amongst the Green Mountains in Vermont, Windham Hill Inn is offering a “Labor Day Mountain Escape.” Along with getting the opportunity to explore over 160 acres of beautiful landscape, guests staying at the inn over the holiday weekend will receive:

  • 3-course daily breakfast
  • Afternoon tea and homemade scones
  • Evening Vermont cheese board
  • Use of binoculars for on-property bird watching
  • Use of tennis court and swimming pool
  • Private garden tour by kitchen team member

Moreover, for an additional cost, guests can arrange to have the kitchen prepare a special Labor Day picnic for them to enjoy on the grounds where it will be stocked with Labor Day favorites such as watermelon, fruit salad, a chocolate dessert and more.

Rates start at $255 per night based on double occupancy. Click here for more information.

The Grove Park Inn
Asheville, North Carolina

This Labor Day, The Grove Park Inn is featuring a festive lineup of activities. From August 31 to September 3, guests can take part in shag dance lessons, pool games, live music throughout the resort, a Coastal Seafood Buffet and much more. Additionally, the weekend package offer includes:

  • Two nights of resort accommodations in a Property View room
  • Breakfast daily at your choice of the Blue Ridge Dining Room’s lavish buffet or In-Room Dining
  • Dinner at the Blue Ridge Dining Room’s coastal seafood buffet on Sunday, September 2, 2012
  • Tickets to the summer kick-off concert on Sunday evening
  • Tickets to the Saturday concert featuring “The Band of Oz”
  • Tickets to the Sunday concert featuring “Chairmen of the Board”
  • Complimentary admission to many of the weekend’s events and activities

Package rates start at $659 per couple for two nights. Click here for more information.

keystone lodge and spa Keystone Lodge and Spa
Keystone, Colorado

For couples looking for a romantic mountain retreat this Labor Day, the AAA Four Diamond Award-winning Keystone Lodge and Spa is offering a “Labor Day Weekend Couples Lodging and Play for Free” package. This three-night package for two features:

  • Nine holes of golf on afternoon of arrival
  • Wagon ride dinner
  • Guided hiking tour
  • Four hour bike rentals
  • Mountain biking lift haul
  • 20% off lodging

Package rates start at $818.68 including tax, surcharge and resort fee. This is for two people for three nights. Available August 31 to September 3. Click here for more information.

MileNorth, A Chicago Hotel
Chicago, Illinois

MileNorth, A Chicago Hotel is located just a few blocks from Lake Michigan where guests can enjoy summer activities like riding bikes along the Lakefront Trail, Great Lake surfing and relaxing on dune-covered beaches. The newly branded property is inviting travelers to Celebrate Chicago this Labor Day. The offer includes:

  • Two cocktails at C-View, the 29th floor rooftop lounge with sweeping views of the city
  • A gift tin of Chicago’s signature Garret’s Popcorn
  • Four ride vouchers to explore Chicago’s largest outdoor playground, Navy Pier
  • $10 Chicago Transit Authority card to live like a local during your trip

Rates start $184 per night. Click here for more information.

w hotel scottsdale W Scottsdale
Scottsdale, Arizona

A luxurious yet comfortable hotel, the W Scottsdale is offering a variety of “pick your package” promotions to coincide with their end of summer Labor Day pool party. The event, which is scheduled for September 2, will take place on the hotel’s rooftop pool deck, WET. Moreover, guests can opt for special offers like:

  • “Road Trip”: Guests will receive a $35 gas card, complimentary overnight WHEELS valet parking, a W Scottsdale travel cup and accommodations in a Wonderful room.
  • “Vitamin W”: Labor Day sun worshippers will receive a W Scottsdale beach tote, Aloe Vera cooling spray, lip balm, a poolside pitcher of margaritas and accommodations in a Wonderful room.
  • “Feel the Music”: Beat lovers will get a $30 iTunes gift card, W Scottsdale ear phones, W Hotels music CD, two cool cocktails and accommodations in a Wonderful room.

Rates begin at $199 per night. Click here for more information.

The Liberty Hotel, A Luxury Collection Hotel
Boston, Massachusetts

This Labor Day, The Liberty Hotel, A Luxury Collection Hotel is giving guests the chance to end the summer in style with their “Farewell To Summer” package. Participating guests will receive overnight accommodations, daily breakfast for two at CLINK and free valet parking.

Package rates start at $299 per night, with a two-night minimum required. Valid August 31 to September 3. Click here for more information.

Is Twitter The New Travel Agent?

travel agent Have you used a travel agent in the last year to plan or book a vacation? How about a social media website like Twitter? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “…the ability of travelers to research vacations and book their own trips using the internet is expected to continue to suppress demand for travel agents.”

More and more, travelers are turning to Twitter to make their travel plans. What’s great about Twitter is you can interact with people, regardless of whether you follow them or they follow you. Additionally, you can search for information based on a topic with a simple hashtag. For example, if you’re going on an around-the-world trip, you can search the hashtag #rtw. You can also post your own questions and hashtag the tweet, to make it easier for knowledgeable travelers to find your questions.beach Why Twitter?

Currently, there are over 140 million active Twitter users, with 400 million Tweets being sent per day. And in terms of getting diverse resources and advice, the social media platform supports over 28 different languages, with 70 percent of user accounts being outside the United States.

One main reason many people turn to Twitter for travel planning is because there is a wealth of information, and an endless supply of resources. While traditional travel agents set clients up with tours and packages offered by only their partners, Twitter aggregates millions of people giving advice, tips, deals, contest offers and packages. Moreover, you’ll be able to get lesser-known destination tips from people who’ve actually taken a similar vacation.

travel Businesses On Twitter

Businesses are also catching on to Twitter, as they see the potential to get their brand and deals out there. For example, Jetsetter tweets from @Jetsetterdotcom to build a following and converse one-on-one with members and potential members. They answer questions about tours and hotels on their site, and because they have over 30,000 followers, it’s easy for them to get helpful travel information out to interested parties.

“We use Twitter to share advice and expertise, but also to inspire, similar to the role agents play,” explains Jon Goldman, the website’s Social Media Manager. “Twitter enables us to talk one-on-one with our members. But, unlike agents, we can scale the conversation and inspire and assist thousands of people in one day. Our handle, @jetsetterdotcom isn’t limited to appointments or office hours. It’s a balance of high touch personal service, but at scale.”

Warren Chang, Vice President and General Manager of Fly.com, agrees that Twitter is an excellent way for the company to get their brand recognized, while also helping travelers find deals.

“The real benefit of Twitter is that it is lightning fast,” says Chang. “It takes less than 5 minutes from seeing a fare you want to take advantage of, to actually booking it. In many cases, the best deals disappear within hours or even minutes. For example, we tweeted three incredible Europe deals, which reached our Twitter followers about an hour before we published them via Travelzoo. These fares were sold out within only a few hours, so our followers had the leg up.”

It’s also a great way to offer feedback to travel companies for quick, sometimes real time responses. For example, when my luggage was recently lost on a United Airlines flight, I couldn’t get in touch with a real person via the phone number they provided. Hoping to speak with a non-robot, I sent a tweet to @UnitedAirlines asking them how to find out about my lost baggage, and was sent a response within the hour from a company representative.

How To Use Twitter For Travel

Another way Twitter seems to be trumping traditional travel agents is the vast amount of different resources available on one website. When you go to a travel agent, there are a set number of trip possibilities and prices, because your agent is only working with select companies. With Twitter, however, there are a lot more possibilities to find unique information, deals and tips in one place, no matter where you’re going.

airplane Flights

For flight bookings and deals, you can search using @Delta, @AmericanAir or any other airline account name, with the search term “sale.” To stay on top of special offers, you can follow the airlines you travel with the most, who often post their sales to Twitter. Moreover, airlines like @VirginAmerica reward their Twitter followers by tweeting out deals, contests and sales – sometimes even before they let anyone else know. This means Twitter users will always be first to grab a seat.

  • @SouthwestAir: “Travel should always be #wrinklefree Enter to win a getaway & new travel wardrobe from SWA & @DockersKhakis social:southwest.com/Qoy” (tweet)
  • @JetBlueCheeps: “Getaways Cheeps! $215pp/dbl occ limited avail 2nt pkgs to Las Vegas w/air from BOS or JFK. Terms apply. cot/ag/KDuvlb” (tweet)
  • @airfarewatchdog: “#Philadelphia to #SanDiego $241 RT incl. all taxes. bit.ly/NROpxz on #Delta. #Travel thru Dec. 25 #PHL #SAN” (tweet)

hotel Hotels

To help people find trip accommodations, Twitter users can follow their favorite hotel brands, for example @Fairmonthotels or @Marriottintl, to find special promotions. Or, if they’re unsure of where to stay, searching via hashtag is effective. For example, searching #vegas #hotel together in the search box brings back a plethora of hotel promotions and deals. Some good Twitter handle and tweet examples include:

  • @Travelzoo: “Stay 2 wknd nts @HolidayInn, @CrownePlaza & other @IHG_Deals hotels, get a $75 prepaid MasterCard. ow.ly/bUV50 #travel #deals” (tweet)
  • @HyattConcierge: “@ThreeMiz For August 25-28, 2012 we can offer you a breakfast package for USD 627.00 plus 14.4% Tax total for all 3 nights” (tweet)
  • @hotelsdotcom: “Tweet a picture of your “perfect place” to @hotelsdotcom, along with #Bedventure, to be entered to #win 10 Welcome Rewards credits! #contest” (tweet)

party Trip Itinerary

Once you’ve secured air and hotel, vacationers can do a search to find tweets in the area. For example, plugging in search terms like “#party #nightlife Vegas” will show you tons of tweets from real people, brands, hotels, celebrities and others that give you an idea of where people seem to be having fun. This is also a great way to find links to articles on the topic from sources that are most relevant to you. Some good Twitter handle and tweet examples include:

  • @TheVegasFoodie: “**TONIGHT!** @ChefMichaelMina’s @STRIPSTEAKLV Hosts @The_Macallan dinner, @MandalayBay | #vegas #food #events — pic.twitter.com/g7HhRonA” (tweet)
  • @NY_Now: “Latest buzz for shows: sch.mp/aoxPt- RT @BigShotBand We start playing tonight at 8:30pm sharp at Brooklyn Fireproof East” (tweet)
  • @hummingbird604: “Love musicals? You should enter my giveaway for Altar Boyz (@TheArtsClub) bit.ly/KOhzyO” (tweet)

pizzaLocal Food

Using Twitter to follow local food bloggers and celebrities can help travelers get information they wouldn’t get from a travel agent, or probably even a guidebook. Once you figure out your destination, you can search for bloggers who tweet about food and that particular destination. Some good Twitter handle and tweet examples include:

  • @ericisaac: “This is Dom. He makes the best pizza ever. Have you ever tried the best pizza ever? fb.me/13QuxHnTK” (tweet)
  • @katieparla: “Banana, Pakistani mango and watermelon #gelato at Otaleg #rome #roma #food instagr.am/p/Mbr53Kn-d5/” (tweet)
  • @NEWWORLDREVIEW1: “Octopus & fish brochettes @hoteldco #mancora #peru pic.twitter.com/Xert8Khy” (tweet)

money Savings

Travelers can also take advantage of discounts in the city they are going to visit, by following that area’s @Groupon, @LivingSocial or other discount company handles. You can find deals on everything from sushi to seaweed spa wraps.

Travel Tips

For those looking to get tips about a destination or just learn about the area’s safety, Twitter can provide this, as well. Twitter is best for real-time information. Travel alerts that may not be updated on websites are certainly being tweeted out from accounts like @151TravelTips or the State Department’s @TravelGov for up to the minute alerts on your mobile device. Some top travel bloggers and writers to follow include @earthXplorer, @Vagabondish, @nytimestravel, @PeterSGreenberg, @adventuregirl and @GotSaga.

Do you think Twitter is the new travel agent?

[images via stevendamron, Jessie on a Journey, mroach, Kuster & Wildhaber Photography, Son of Groucho, Jessie on a Journey, rob_rob2001, 401K 2012]

The Future Of Air Travel: On-Flight Upgrade Auctions

airline Sitting in economy class on an airplane, it’s hard not to pine for the spacious seating in business and first class. Pretty soon, however, your longing could become a reality – for a lot cheaper than you’d expect.

On-flight auctions that allow passengers to bid on available seat upgrades are currently being adopted by certain airlines in Canada and China. And, if everything goes according to plan, within the next two to three years all airlines will use the service.

How it would work is the auction would begin with an announcement being made over the loud speaker, letting all passengers know about its commencement. Flight attendants would then distribute hand-held devices for the bidding.

Other in-flight innovations currently in the works include broadcasting live sports and ordering meals and duty-free items on your smartphone.

What do you think of on-flight upgrade auctions?

[Image via mrkathika]

Booking.com Launches Last Minute Hotel App

booking.com tonightCapitalizing on the success of apps like Hotel Tonight, Priceline Group’s Booking.com has launched a same-day booking product for iPhone and iPod touch.

The inherent advantage with this app is Booking.com’s much larger user base – over 200,000 hotels. While we’re longtime fans of Hotel Tonight, which allows us to find some of our favorite name-brand hotels at a lower cost, we’re well aware of the need for an app like this for nights when we just need a place to sleep – or when our other options aren’t quite yielding what we want.

A recent search for a hotel in our area near DC showed 94 options with same-night availability. Hotels were found at a minimum rate of $70 for the Budget Inn, Falls Church, and a high rate of $695 for the Mandarin Oriental DC.

We do like that the app really streamlines the mobile experience to those features users need. One tap on the app retrieves all the available hotels in the immediate area, including those special last-minute deals.

Booking is simple too – just two clicks and the room is yours. Achieving what it calls “from app to nap in five taps,” the app also takes care of the after-booking process by contacting the hotel, emailing you a reservation confirmation and showing a detailed map of how to get to your destination.

We’d call that pretty simple. Even better? The app is free in the iTunes store.