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4 Nov 2019 by Nisha Shroff

According to a recent report by Statista, a German online research portal for statistics, India is on the third spot in terms of Instagram with  68 million users as of July 2019. It’s no secret that we are living in a world dominated by instant gratification and social media. Hence, it is no surprise that the hospitality industry is also adopting strategies to adapt to this new environment. From relevant hashtags and Instagram posts to tweets and Youtube videos, travellers want to be in the loop of the efforts and strategies taken up by premium hotel brands.

Speaking about social media, Instagram, especially, is transforming the way hotels    are perceived on a digital platform, and brands are thinking of innovative ways to make their spaces fit ‘for the gram’ or ‘Insta-friendly’, which pretty much means making it more picturesque and unique. Promoting offers and discounts with engaging hashtags on Twitter is also an interesting move by hospitality brands. In this sector, Youtube as a medium is mainly controlled by vloggers, influencers who make video blogs of their stay and experience. These influencers connect with their large target audiences and like the word says, ‘influence’ their audience into considering these hotel experiences.

Previously, premium hotel brands solely depended on their legacy or the weightage of their name to attract their audience. However, with the changing undercurrents, brands now feel that they need to put their best foot forward as far as social media is concerned. Not only is this medium relatively inexpensive, it also has a mega reach that touches millions of  potential clients.

Brands like Hyatt and ITC Hotels offer social media concierge through their Twitter handles @ITCHotelCares and @HyattConcierge. Similarly, The Oberoi Hotels and Resorts’ #OberoiExperiences is quite popular among luxury travellers in India. Shangri-La Hotel, Bengaluru focuses on trends and popular themes like coffee, Monday motivation with quirky hashtags like #OutOfOfficeGoals and   #WomensDay that resonate with millennials.

Dipak Haksar, chief executive, ITC Hotels and Welcomhotel says, “ITC Hotels thrives on a comprehensive digital strategy encompassing all areas of web, mobile, social and e-distribution. Our core focus is information dissemination, consumer engagement and enabling real time reservations.”

Why go online 

In recent years, the travel industry has been abuzz with the conversation surrounding the rise of  ‘experiential travel’. Increasingly, travellers are sourcing their information via Instagram and Pinterest rather than a traditional travel agent.

The boutique hospitality segment has particularly benefitted by the social media boom, as they are able to reach their niche target audience without the stress of big budgets. One such brand is House of Rohet, a Rajasthan-based, family-run boutique hospitality brand. Gautam Narang, brand consultant, Paras Corporation, representing House of Rohet says, “We welcome this social media wave for the boutique and luxury hotel industry with open arms. This is because as compared to archaic websites that have several limitations of display experiences, in social media there is room for limitless creativity.”

Commercially visible gains 

Social media has opened doors for many businesses that have translated their online presence to commercial benefits. Deepika Sinha, marketing and communications manager, JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar, says, “We use the digital space towards creating content that makes customers and potential consumers aware of our hotel’s offerings and experiences. Our content does speak of offers and promotions with the agenda of creating a buzz around the same and making one aware of what they can experience.”

Elaborating on the approach adopted by the hotels for their social media, Sharad Datta, general manager, The Westin Mumbai Garden City, says “Our social media content approach is two-pronged; we leverage individual platforms to their strengths. For instance, on Facebook and Instagram, we can push out our content to the relevant audience gaining visibility of our promotions with a ‘call to action’ link embedded in the caption and stories, to convert bookings instantly. This way, we achieve both, visibility and gain commercially.”

Similarly, Rajan Malhotra, director of sales and marketing, Shangri-La’s – Eros Hotel, New Delhi, says, “We follow the 80/20 rule where 80 per cent of our posts inform, educate, and entertain the audience, while only 20 per cent directly promotes our business.”

Additionally, a spokesperson at  The Leela Palace Chennai explains that social media has become an integral part of their hotel’s marketing strategy, as it not only helps drive traffic and boost SEO, but also helps establish a vital link with their guests. Besides, experts also believe that social media content is different from the traditional means of public relations – digital and print media. A spokesperson at JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu says, “Social media is versatile wheras traditional media once published is set in stone.”

Digital Investment 

Investment in social media content is majorly to enhance brand visibility and to improve brand recall value. However, Datta explains, “We can also use it for quantifying sales or conversions. For example, on Facebook, we can run lead generation advertisements where the hotel can reach out to the customers directly who have expressed their interest after looking at the advertisement by filling their details in the form, possibly leading to a conversion.”

Although, return on investment (ROI) is hard to quantify, some brands believe they gain higher content quality when they broadcast it on social platforms. The Leela Palace Chennai spokesperson explains, “Appropriate ‘call to action’ on content and the tools available to measure the ‘key performing indicators’ help us tweak and optimise our content and maximise our brand visibility online.” The industry also feels that with the advancement in technology, there are various new means of measuring the ROI from a specific campaign.

Strategic content 

While The Leela Palace Chennai’s social media content focuses on what makes the property exceptional, including world-class dining, scenic views, art or an exclusive location; JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar presents itself as an exclusive and luxurious destination. Sinha adds, “The easiest way to maintain the exclusivity whilst having a presence on social media is by curating content that aims at educating the consumer and talk about the brand’s luxury offering without focusing on retail and sales that most brands use social media for. A case in a point would be talking about rare ingredients used in the preparation of food served at the restaurant rather than asking consumers to visit the restaurant and try a new dish.”

Another hotel brand Shangri-La Hotel, Bengaluru’s emphasis is on engagement and conversations than garnering followers and fans. Lifestyle, wellness, F&B and UGC (user-generated content) are some of their essential pillars when it comes to social media.

Way Forward 

As it is quite evident, and will remain so in future as well, the social media presence of hospitality brands is going to play a major role in deciding their overall position in the industry. Expressing her views on this, Saadhvi Mehra, assistant director of marketing, W Goa, says, “Social media is the next best thing to physically meeting your consumers. Today, there are a lot of parameters that help calculate the return on investment for social media content. However, the bottom line is that it is a quick and efficient way to reach out to potentially anyone with a digital presence.”

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