A Lesson on Social Media for the Skeptics

SANDI CAIN, NEWS EDITOR
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Dubai – A standing-room-only crowd of 130 attended the WTM Vision Conference Dubai on May 1 to hear Mark Frary, co-founder of the World Travel Market’s Social Travel Market Conference, talk about using social medial to promote hotels in the region. The single-day session was held during the Arabian Travel Market presented by Reed Travel Exhibitions. More than 1,000 people registered interest in the conference on the WTM website, according to Paul Nelson, press manager for conference organizer Reed Expo in London.

Frary told hoteliers that “by choosing to invest time and money in social media, hoteliers can become part of the conversation and exert influence on how they are perceived.” Frary pointed to Facebook’s 845 million users as a gold mine for hoteliers to leverage.

Frary said that using social networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google+ can help area hoteliers promote their properties and fill their rooms. He pointed to hotels like the Atlantis Palm on Palm Jumeirah Island and the Kempinski Group’s hotels in Dubai, Qatar and Lebanon as leaders in the use of social media.

The Other 39%
When doubters in the audience noted that 61% of Facebook users state they don’t want hotel brands active in their social media, Frary replied, “I would be happy engaging with the 39% of those 845 million who want interaction with (hotel) brands.”

He then provided tips to the audience on how they might use social networks for their own promotions. He said the voice of the hotel customer has been growing since 2005 and has become “deafening” in its saturation of both good and bad comments about the hotels social networker users visit. “The reality is that this social media chatter will go on even if hotels choose not to engage with social media,” he said.

The Middle East appears poised for tourism growth that might be encouraged by social media campaigns. According to tourism outlook data from Euromonitor International, emerging regions like the Middle East saw an 11% growth in 2010, though regional unrest erased some of that in 2011, when visitor numbers declined 6.2%. The dip was short-lived, and growth of 1.3% is expected this year, according to the report. The opening of Dubai’s 160 million-passenger Al Maktoum Airport in the coming year is likely to focus attention on the region as a tourist destination again.

Reach Mark Frary at (011) 44-152-563-4793 or mark.frary@travelperspective.co.uk