New roadmap for high-end travel
Facebook, Twitter and a host of invite-only travel websites are fast
becoming a key pipeline for well-heeled travellers as well as the
budget-conscious to find hot deals and destinations.
Bigwigs from the world's elite travel industry, gathered in the chic
Riviera resort of Cannes for the annual ILTM trade fair that wrapped up
Thursday, had their eyes on social networks as a crucial tool for the
"Social networks, such as Facebook with its 600 million users, will
have a dramatic impact on how affluent consumers make their (travel)
decisions," Klara Glowczewska, editor of Conde Nast Traveler, told a
conference at the event.
The American-born socialite and interior designer, Baroness Monica
von Neumann, told Luxury Travel Magazine she uses travel websites for
their customer reviews and hotel rankings.
"Testimonials really help in the decision-making process," Von
Neumann said. And the trend is set to intensify when the first wave of
US baby boomers - veteran travellers who are web-savvy and engaged in
social networking - turn 65 next year, predicts Preferred Hotel Group
president Lindsey Ueberroth.
Matthew Upchurch, CEO of the elite network of travel agencies,
Virtuoso, sees the Internet as opportunity more than threat for its
6,000-plus advisors, spread across 22 countries.
"Social media is one of the best things that ever happened to true
professional travel advisors," Upchurch told AFP. "I have up to 1,200
friends on Facebook, who are either close friends or colleagues and when
I learn something really interesting about a destination that I have
just come back from, I click 'share' and everybody benefits."
media are also starting to have a major impact on exclusive hotels and
resorts, which are using them to boost their online presence, attract a
new clientele and ensure customer ratings remain high.
Hotels are increasingly using Facebook and Twitter to publicise new
activities and deals and keep up a dialogue with customers.
Most luxury hotels today employ social media managers to protect
their image and reputation online, Olivier Chavy, a senior luxury and
lifestyle executive at the Conrad and Waldorf Astoria hotels and
resorts, told AFP.
Online bookings today account for between 55 and 60 percent of all
business, Chavy noted, meaning that a single bad review on a popular
travel website can destroy a reputation for luxury that has taken years
to build up.
Savvy upmarket travellers, however, can pick up tips on less well
known websites and invitation-only online communities, such as
asmallworld, the kiwicollection of hotels, Jetsetter, Rue La La,
SniqueAway, Tablet Hotels, Vacationista or Voyage Prive.