The hotel industry has an ancient history. The hospitality professions are among the oldest of the humane professions and they involve making a guest, client, member, or resident (whichever is the appropriate term) feel welcome and comfortable (Barrows, Powers, and Reynolds, 2003). The first prototypes of hotels appeared when people had found out the world around them is much bigger than their home. Lack of quick transport made travelling quite difficult and exhaustive. Thus special houses near the main roads were opened to provide bed and meal for those who sought for overnight stop. Alike residences were not aimed at receiving profit but at helping people in need. Many hostelries were created at the monasteries to shelter those travelling to holy places. Such hotels were built everywhere: in Middle East, in Europe, in America. However, through times this practice transformed to activity for getting money.
Gradually through years and centuries hospitality survived to our days having become large and powerful industry with considerable turnover and benefit both for owners and for states. Since the 1950s, hospitality has been a key industry in the economic life of many nations. It has become a world leader in providing jobs and new opportunities for people from every age group and from all ethnic, racial and all socioeconomic groups. Most economists predict that hospitality will continue to grow worldwide in the years ahead (Dittmer, 2002). Nowadays accommodation business not only fosters economic development of certain countries, but also plays a significant part in improving and facilitating life of people who become more mobile in modern globalized world.
Hospitality industry forges ahead with hundreds of new hotels appearing around the world each year providing better service and more comfortable living conditions. The demand generates supply and due to that today's hospitality market is very competitive. It entails the need for more efficient management models, marketing methods and development strategy.
In this regard it is vital to catch the main trends in marketing to use all existing channels for clients search. No doubt that social networks form one of the most powerful today's advertising instrument. Of course, it does not mean that traditional leverages for interaction with customers, like common evaluation forums and search websites, are becoming useless. Social networks just introduce new marketing platform with its' peculiarities and advantages worth of paying attention to.
Social media, or Web 2.0 as it is usually called, are fundamentally changing the way travellers and tourists search, find read and trust, as well as collaboratively produce information about tourism suppliers and tourism destinations. Moreover, application of Web 2.0 enable travellers to participate in all business operations and functions (e.g. marketing, new service development). Consequently, travellers become co-marketers, co-designers, co-producers and co-consumers of travel experiences. In using social media, the travellers co-produce and share a huge amount of information and knowledge namely user-generated content (UGC) and/or social intelligence. The latter is useful and it has a great impact not only on travellers' behaviour and decision-making processes, but it can also be exploited for informationalising and improving the effectiveness of business operations (Sigala, Christou, and Gretzel, 2012).
First of all, being a free online service social network equals opportunities of large hotel networks and small private inns. Thanks to social media, representatives of small hotels are not required to have huge budget in order to find clients or partners. Therefore more and more medium level hotel appear which have affordable for common customers prices. Modern technologies make it possible to get better oriented in the customers' interests and create the conditions which fit them perfectly.
The majority of experts agree that effective promotion in social networks is not only about bringing potential customers to the hotel's website making him or her book a room, but more about endorsing a dialogue and feedback from the internet community. When traditional advertising becomes less efficient, establishing trustworthy relations with tourists will bring much more results.
One more strong point of social networks is their function of simplifying communication between people and businesses. Official language is no more obligatory in addressing customers. The more friendly and open relations you build, the more fruitful social network activity is.
Social media technologies make interaction easier the client may ask you a question via Twitter or surf it for the information related to your business using special hashtags. People share pictures of the rooms on the official fan-pages on Facebook and write comments to your posts or to posts by other clients. Moreover, they can communicate with each other right there on your account page and ask question receiving only truthful answers form other visitors. Social networks give total freedom to your clients in expressing their opinion regarding your service and this mostly have positive effect. Hotels' administration faster finds out about the problems in the hotel and may therefore react faster, proving to care of what the client thinks of it.
In this connection it is interesting to mention that, for example, Facebook offers a very useful service of polls. The page administrator may create poll asking the visitors' opinion on various issues in the case of hospitality sphere the questions may be dedicated to what service the customer finds necessary, but missing, or how the client estimates different aspects of your activity. Such poll would send the message to the visitors that you do care about their feedback and that you are constantly working on improvement for their comfort.
Yet in the same time this freedom the social networks offer to clients in expressing their views should be treated very cautiously. Hotels spend millions on advertising their service and the advertisement still remains the most important part of communication strategy. It definitely has strong effect on all other elements of the strategy being the most expensive one. Social media channels in terms of their low price may undermine all the ads efforts by just one negative comment published by a discontented customer on the official profile of the hotel. Social factor being such a great novelty of new media may play a bad track with you.
Anyway, even if the tourist is satisfied with the hotel, he or she needs to be reminded about their magnificent rest. People tend to try something new each season especially with such a growing number of hotels appearing each year. They are not likely to come back to the place they once stayed in. In this case the reminding ads or post in social network with beautiful picture may bring them back to your inn.
There are several more effective instruments introduced by new media however some of them may still require funds to invest. Sure, the most valuable is the ads service proposed, for instance, by Facebook. Advertising via this social network allows to target the message exactly at the audience you are interested in. Such settings as city, age, interests and others similar help to address your core potential clients. However, it is worth saying that efficiency of such advertisements directly depends on amount of money you are ready to spend. Here the golden rule of advertising governs: the more you spend, the more you get.
Another interesting way to find new followers of your business' official profiles in social media and thus potential clients is to organize a competition giving appealing prized for sharing information about the hotel among friends. It may be either free stay for several nights, or significant discount for additional services, or other branded things (cups, hats, t-shirts). Of course, the feedback will correlate to the prize offered, but it will definitely increase your social media campaign productivity.
Common opportunity is offered by the special social network Foursquare. It is the geolocation platform where people may tag their location at the certain time with the use of their mobile phones. Business owners add their hotels to the Foursquare map so that customers may inform on Foursquare that they are in the premises of the hotel. It is fun for people especially when they are staying in luxurious hotels as their friends may see it. However small inns may also benefit from it by offering small souvenirs or welcome cocktails to their clients for check in. In such a manner more people find out about the hotel and the client is satisfied.
To sum up, the only thing which comes to mind is the obvious fact: further prospects of social networks development give ground to assume that this kind of media will conquer larger place in marketing strategies of companies in general, and of hotels in particular. Today only the most advanced market players are ready to spend resources time, people and money to promote their business in social media, but the nearest several years will involve all the rest companies into this extremely fun but tricky game called social media management.