Social media is now an integral part of the travel experience for tens of millions of people. In a recent study by STUDYLOGIC LLC, over 80 percent of a large test group of travelers revealed they access social media during their trips. The study further indicated that logging on to various social networks has replaced to an extent calling home to connect with family and friends too.
Accordingly, Sheraton Hotels now offers their Link@Sheraton experienced in connection with Microsoft. But, just wanting to be a community may not be enough even for Sheraton. For the lucid travel technology observer announcing old initiatives and branding everything Facebook wannabe may not be enough.
The migration of typically brick and mortar activities to online or digital has been taking place for some time now. Banking to shopping, people every increasingly utilize online tools to help make their lives simpler, stay connected, discover the possibility and opportunity out there. But let’s not get ahead too excited over Sheraton’s regurgitated press about dated innovation. Today’s news must be taken with a grain of salt.
So too, apparently social media channels are in some ways replacing other digital conduits, in this case phoning home. Of the 4,204 people in the U.S., U.K. and China polled in this Sheraton Starwood study at least 50 percent of Sheraton guests surveyed said they hook up with Link@Sheraton while on the road. Even more interestingly and indicatively, over 70 percent say they log into Facebook while away from home.
Among the many revealing facts we gleaned from this report, maybe the most interesting is the percentage of people who us social media and other digital tools in planning their travels. Of those polled, fully 64% said they use social media to plan their trips – and the younger demographic uses the tools even more predominantly – some 78% of the 25-34 year old age group sign in to plan. In case anyone wondered about the viability of building a better online travel planner, this would seem to prove out the need.
Link@Sheraton has been around for a few years now. Basically Sheraton created a nice atmosphere at a great number of their hotels so that guests could connect via a special hotel lobby where flat screen terminals, Microsoft amenities, and other digital components aid in extending their connectedness. Billed now as part of part of “Sheraton Belong” Link@Sheraton is no longer a novel idea. In fact, including this service in a press release that should have spotlighted the more interesting and appropriate “Sheraton Better When Shared” community aspect was a bit cumbersome of Starwood to be honest. Link@Sheraton is, after all, really the Internet lounge at the hotels – the community aspects aside Facebook is really showcased via the interesting “Shared” aspect (above).
Twitter, Facebook, and the above mentioned SBWS component of Starwood’s digital engagement are the core of a pretty good online engagement by the company. Without being too critical of their most recent press release, suffice it to say these elements should have sat atop the news, with the older and more basic Starwood innovation underneath. As you can see from the screens, the SBWS platform for sharing is as much or more refined than some online travel portals themselves.
Despite the shortcomings of Starwood’s news outreach, the company has done more than most to assist their clients in connecting. The patented community of sharing has its limitations too, the hotel having not maximized the potential here either. As for the research behind this announcement, it seems clear that Facebook, Twitter, among other tools, are simply made for connecting on the go. Over 400 hotels in the Sheraton chain now feature the MS powered Link@Sheraton lounges, the sharing community is just beginning to connect obviously.