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Rave reviews: Ibiza hotel adds Facebook pillars

December 14, 2011

(Published in TTG 15.12.11)

The Fiesta Hotel Group has found an innovative way to harness the power of guests’ holiday snaps on Facebook. Matthew Parsons finds out how clubbers in Ibiza are raving about their hotel stay

There’s no denying the influence of Facebook – especially in light of its recent valuation of $10 billion ahead of its IPO, planned for April of 2012.

Most travel companies have a presence on the social networking website in a bid to boost marketing and loyalty, and grow online sales. But earlier this year one hotel decided to bring about a more physical connection between its guests and Facebook.

In July, Fiesta Hotel Group’s Ushuaia Ibiza Beach Hotel (formerly Playa d’en Bossa) became the first hotel in the world to add “Facebook pillars” around the property, allowing guests to post status updates to their friends back home, and, in the hotel’s words, “make their friends jealous”.

Behind this fun way to allow guests to share their experiences lies a serious approach to data capture, paving the way for highly targeted campaigns.

Installing these pillars was inspired by two unlikely events – a Renault car show in France, and a Coca Cola event in Israel.

These events saw delegates given cards that contained chips with RFID (radio frequency identification) technology, allowing their movements, and engagement, to be tracked.

Fiesta approached the Dutch company that provided these cards, and together with Facebook set about transforming Ushuaia into a Facebook-connected hotel.

It’s all in the wrist
“Our guests are in the 20-30 age bracket – they are into social media. We asked: ‘How can they share their experience?’” says Alfonso Jimenez, marketing director of Fiesta Hotel Group.

It was not practical to provide hotel guests with cards, he says, so instead the hotel decided to place the RFID chips in wristbands, given to guests at check-in, and non-guests arriving to see concerts.

There are seven Facebook pillars: three with cameras (in the beach, stage and lobby areas) and another four for text-only status updates.

Once someone first swipes their wristband, they are asked to enter their Facebook name and password; from then on the pillars “remember” that person.

A pillar can also allow up to six people to sign in at any one time, so for a group photo each guest swipes in, and the same picture is updated to each person’s wall area on their Facebook page.

The hotel puts on four concerts a week, with each one attracting between 4,000 and 7,000 people, so the social media marketing potential is huge.

Numbers game
After just two months, Jimenez says he was happy with the results: 70,000 “Likes”, 6,600 Facebook status updates and 6,000 shared pictures had been generated.

These numbers represent a growing number of fans, and following this data capture, Fiesta was able to swiftly launch a campaign.
“In September, we offered a 15% discount to our Facebook fans. This led to an extra €30-40,000 in revenue for us,” Jimenez says.

“As well as filling rooms, there are commercial opportunities the technology opens for us. We can update the pillars so guests’ messages will also promote a particular DJ, artist or band. We are also selling merchandise.”

Paying off
The hotel spent €23 million on Playa d’en Bossa’s makeover, including the Facebook pillars and extra touches such as streaming TV and audio in the rooms, and special DJ suites – and believes the investment was worth it. Room rates may have risen from €75-80 to €150 per night after the refurb, but for its first season the 230-room hotel was at 85% occupancy.

In the current economic climate, Jimenez says social media marketing is important as hotels need to have that direct link with guests.

However, he acknowledges the trade plays a major role in sales. About 89% of sales come from the trade, and 65% from the British market.

He adds there is also a ripe opportunity for a niche music/clubbing operator to work with Fiesta.

Meanwhile, the hotel group is predicting its model will be copied around the world, and particularly in the travel industry.

“We worked on this with Facebook. It’s a crossover into the holiday experience for them, and they’re now using us as a case study,” Jimenez says.


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