Hoteliers get to grips with social media

Hotels in Dubai are increasingly using social media websites to promote their brands and boost business during a challenging time for the industry.

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Hotels in Dubai are increasingly using social media websites to promote their brands and boost business during a challenging time for the industry. Revenues have been hit hard by a slowdown in international travel and increased competition, prompting hoteliers to look at inexpensive new ways to attract guests. The Monarch Dubai hotel used its page on the Twitter social networking website to launch its Eid promotion this month and estimated that Twitter was responsible for about 12 per cent of its bookings. The hotel is also using the Facebook site, as well as Twitter, to attract new employees. Last month the Monarch recruited two front-of-house staff via Twitter. "The economic situation has encouraged hotels to use social media; it is free and you can target different people who you would not necessarily be able to target through classic advertising," said Gabby Feile, the personal assistant to Henning Fries, Monarch Dubai's general manager, and who is responsible for maintaining the hotel's web pages.

Raffles Dubai said it set up a Twitter page last month which it hoped would raise awareness of the hotel and bring in additional business. The page already has more than 500 followers signed up and includes competitions, updates on hotel promotions and more general Dubai-based news. It also uses the site to conduct and post humorous surveys such as the top 10 items guests take with them from hotels. "It's not always Raffles, Raffles, Raffles, because people get bored with this continuous commercial aspect of things," said Dima Ayad, the director of marketing and communications at Raffles Dubai. "So we just want to see what people have to say and with that a lot of suggestions might come along the way about how we can make things better," she said. " [Like] all hotels we have to start being smarter about how we communicate."

One of the first hotels to see the potential of social networking sites was the InterContinental in Dubai Festival City. It has been particularly proactive with its Twitter page and has attracted more than 5,000 followers. Six out of 10 Twitter users surveyed in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) said Twitter has affected their perceptions of a brand, according to a report this month by Spot On Public Relations. Seven out of 10 MENA Twitter users said they had formed a more positive perception of a brand because of Twitter. The report showed that a third of users said they had bought a product or service as a result of recommendations on Twitter. The MENA Twitter community overall rose almost fourfold over the first six months of this year, according to the PR firm. Ms Feile said: "You can reach a high number of people in the little time it takes to type the 'tweet'. "Being active in social media is something you need to do, otherwise you will lose. It is a great way to promote the hotel to new target groups."