New Options for Managing Hotel Public Relations

The Millennial Mindset Gives Power to Instagram

By Leora Halpern Lanz President, LHL Communications | April 29, 2018

Co-authored by Gina Hock, Graduate, Boston University School of Hospitality Administration

Move over Google, because Instagram could be the next best search engine. With 2018 came the ever-growing popularity of the photo-sharing application, and the rise of influential marketers who now have the weight to impact the travel and tourism industry in significant ways.

The social site is no longer only for the millennial generation – those born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s. As the digital world continues to develop, the platform serves as a social site for everyone, any age. Users may not fall into the millennial generation criteria regarding birth year, however, they can still possess the attributes, desires, and needs of said generation. We call these users "millennial-minded." They form relationships with groups who have common interests, they enjoy personalized experiences, they want to keep up and stay relevant with trends while also posting photos of their experiences on social media sites. With an ever increasing audience, Instagram only grows more powerful. A research study conducted by HubSpot found that the platform features more than 700 million active monthly users, over 95 million shared photos, and is branding itself as a global vehicle for personal and business use. 

Thus, Instagram has shifted from an exchange site to share photos with friends, to a trusted source for the search of goods and services, vacation ideas, and lifestyle trends. Roger Drake, Emmy Award Winning Video Content Producer and Marketing Strategist of Drake PR & Marketing shares his insight. "The visual nature [of Instagram] lends itself so well to especially restaurants to showcase the beauty of their food and presentation. It's a great way to connect with your social users and encourage customers to post their photos and positively influence behavior. When done well, it results in an increase in guest traffic."

According to a 2018 Forbes article, consumers see Instagram travel suggestions as "more genuine" than commercial travel promotions.  With Instagram's "location search" feature, consumers are moving away from Safari and choosing Instagram to search for restaurants, hotels, and destinations. The function compiles the photos taken in that particular location with that specific geotag, giving the user a real-life, nearly real-time perspective on any kind of experience. It serves as a tool for the consumer decision process in the hospitality sector, prompting users to eliminate certain options and fixate on the hotels that meet their needs. If a user wants to book a vacation in Palm Springs, he can simply search "The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage" or "Ace Hotel & Swim Club" to view guest photos, and learn from user generated content how it may be to grab a drink by the pool or enjoy a Sunday brunch, and ultimately decide where to stay.

Such a shift in use is prompting hotels and public relations agencies to quickly react and implement this model as a modern day public relations tool. Once reliant upon sit-down lunches with journalists, phone calls with travel writers, and consultations with third party media experts, the travel PR industry is shifting to a more digital, integrated space, dominated by Instagram users with thousands of followers. The significant following gives these users an established credibility – so they're named "influencers."

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Coming up in January 2019...

Mobile Technology: The Future is Now

Mobile Technology continues to advance at a relentless pace and the hotel industry continues to adapt. Hotel guests have shown a strong preference for mobile self-service - from checking-in/out at a hotel kiosk, to ordering room service, making dinner reservations, booking spa treatments, and managing laundry/dry cleaning services. And they also enjoy the convenience of paying for these services with smart phone mobile payments. In addition, some hotels have adopted a “concierge in your pocket” concept. Through a proprietary hotel app, guests can access useful information such as local entertainment venues, tourist attractions, event calendars, and medical facilities and services. In-room entertainment continues to be a key factor, as guests insist on the capacity to plug in their own mobile devices to customize their entertainment choices. Mobile technology also allows for greater marketing opportunities. For example, many hotels have adopted the use of “push notifications” - sending promotions, discounts and special event messages to guests based on their property location, purchase history, profiles, etc. Near field communication (NFC) technology is also being utilized to support applications such as opening room doors, earning loyalty points, renting a bike, accessing a rental car, and more. Finally, some hotels have adopted more futuristic technology. Robots are in use that have the ability to move between floors to deliver room service requests for all kinds of items - food, beverages, towels, toothbrushes, chargers and snacks. And infrared scanners are being used by housekeeping staff that can detect body heat within a room, alerting staff that the room is occupied and they should come back at a later time. The January Hotel Business Review will report on what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in this exciting mobile technology space.