Tourism Industry News

Travel firms respond to events, share news via Twitter

04/02/2009 09:00

Hotels, airlines, airports and other travel companies are joining the Twitter community to pitch services, update travel conditions and respond directly to the individual needs of customers. They're finding the mobile nature of the technology is ideal for talking to travelers.

"We consider our Twitter account akin to an information booth," says Morgan Johnston, manager of corporate communication at JetBlue Airways. "Responding to situations after they've happened is a great idea, responding to situations while they're happening is even better."


JetBlue frequently responds to tweets by directing people to tools already available for their use, such as flight-status updates and weather alerts, Johnston says. Tablet Hotels also uses its Twitter account to keep an eye on what customers are saying and what it can do in response.


Problems no longer 'quiet'

"We had one of our (frequent guest) members Twitter from the front desk when the hotel was giving her a hard time," Michael Davis, co-founder of Tablet Hotels, says. "We caught it within 30 seconds of posting, and our customer service called the hotel to resolve. "Customer problems can no longer be kept 'quiet' with the emergence of the Web," Davis says.


The Marriott hotel group agrees. It has two Twitter accounts - one serves public relations and customer service, the other focuses on Marriott's efforts to go green.


"The most interesting way we used Twitter was after the attack on our Islamabad (Pakistan) hotel," says John Wolf, senior director of public relations for Marriott.


Wolf said the responses after the Sept. 20 bombing that killed more than 50 people "were not only heartwarming, but overwhelming. It really represented what social media is all about, because the conversation was authentic and genuine, and because the replies came from people in so many nations."


Not all the tweets are during emergencies, big or small. Southwest Airlines regularly posts photos of airport giveaways to its account. The airline even hosts "Tweetups" for users to get together. "Traveling through DAL, DEN, or PHX today? 10am-5pm we'll be wrapping your gifts with our Container Store friends in the SWA gate areas," Southwest's Christi Day tweeted in December during the holiday travel period.


Scouting out cities

Before road warriors and leisure travelers hit the road, more are turning to Twitter to scout their destinations. Baltimore, Chicago and Philadelphia tourism officials are active users on the site, offering tips from restaurants to shopping. Baltimore will go so far as to respond to tweets requesting live music on specific dates. "We'll respond with what's on our radar, but the community will chime in," says Tom Noonan, president and CEO of the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association. The service can deliver a more personal touch by responding directly to travelers.


"We try to be transparent with Twitter," says Caroline Bean, with national media relations for the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. "I have no problem letting people know who I am. I don't want to be some mysterious 'Philadelphia Tourism bot' but instead, a real human voice who loves Philadelphia and wants to tell other people about this awesome city."


Specific destinations are getting into the micro-blogging game. California's Monterey Bay Aquarium is an avid user, as are the folks behind the Brooklyn Museum, who promote exhibits and happenings on the site. The San Francisco Zoo learned the power of Twitter early. "We had one (user) complaining that one of our exhibits was closed," Gwendolyn Tornatore of the Zoo says.


"They had come all the way out here and were upset they didn't get to see that specific animal," she says. "This was a key learning experience for us, and we started to Twitter when animals were off exhibit or if our carousel was closed for the day."


Source: USA Today



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