Hospitality and Tourism: Tourism uniquely positioned for social media

Personal testimonials effective; also: leases for Napa Riverfront

Those within the hospitality and tourism industry are uniquely positioned to both embrace and benefit from the ever-increasing reaches of social media tools as a means to boost occupancy rates.

That was the message from the Sonoma County Tourism Bureau’s recent forum to address travel trends to local hoteliers at Santa Rosa’s Flamingo hotel, during which speakers exhorted the virtues and seeming need for incorporating outfits such as Facebook, Twitter and other niche market social media.

Kerry Rego, who advises about 60 clients for her firm, Kerry Rego Consulting in Santa Rosa, told the industry professionals that where other industries might often rely on word of mouth or local referrals for promotion, the hotel and lodging industry needs to seek out and convince a much broader, global audience by aggressively advertising themselves.

“It seemed to be that tourism was much more ahead and accepting of social media than other industries,” she said. “They’re predisposed to want to reach out as much as possible to people around the globe.”

Equally important is building a presence on the Web that consists of users who share peer reviews with one another and spread the word to others, Ms. Rego said.

“The odds of me listening to peers are much higher than listening to a marketer,” she said.

“Social media allows companies to listen to not only their customers,” Ms. Rego continued, “but it allows fans to sell you.”

She told the crowd of assembled hoteliers and hospitality professionals that, based on her research, 78 percent of Web users believe peers on sites such as Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, foursquare and tripit, compared with third-party advertisers, of which only 14 percent believed more than peers.

Another key element of social media is the vast usage of mobile devices such as iPhones and other smart phones, from where an increasing amount of users obtain information as they travel.

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