“Checking In” to Spring Break

Happy Spring Break! Many students have spent the last couple months (or longer) trying to figure out where their Spring Break time is best spent. If you’re like me, this preparation may have involved a thorough internet search to find the perfect hotel for your week off. An increasing number of hotel chains have discovered the perks of social media use and are developing ways to satisfy the needs and wants of their customers on an increasingly personal level.

Social media sites such as Foursquare, Twitter and Facebook Places, allow a user to “check in” or log their current location. While some companies may be skeptical about the relevance of such tools to the business that they do, the hotel industry has discovered that these services create a greater feeling of inclusion and personalization to their guests. Now hotels can invite guests to “check in” both literally and virtually, completely committing to their stay. Another added benefit of location-based check-in tools is the ability to track and incentivize a guest’s stay. Hotels participating in incentive programs for social media have been known to use a variety of rewards to reach out to their social media circle; examples include anything from a discounted meal in the hotel restaurant to late checkout times for the final night of your stay. Some hotels have gone so far as to collaborate with airlines or credit card companies to create an unofficial “rewards program”; offering discounts and frequent flier miles for using your American Express card or staying at the Hilton.

Of course with programs such as these, there can (and will) arise questions of security and privacy. Many savvy social media users are hesitant to place their exact location online. The flip side of this is that many users don’t want the world to know where they are NOT (for instance at home…protecting their belongings). While safety and security concerns are understandable, potential thieves and “bad guys” are not the only party with a vested interest in your location and personal information. Some of the aforementioned hotels have begun tracking mentions of their brand to create a more customized experience. For instance, say you book a night at a Marriott and tweet about how excited you are to stay there for your anniversary. With the use of these tools it’s not unlikely that you will open the door to find a chilled bottle of Champagne with a note from the staff wishing you a “Happy Anniversary”. Or, on a creepier note, a woman on the local radio the other day described checking into a hotel to find a wrapped dog bone and a note saying “Snickers misses you”, a response to her Facebook status the day before where she stated that she “ hate(s) to leave Snickers (her dog) at home when she goes on vacation”… To me, this was a little bit too personalized.

As is typical with this type of marketing, it is necessary to find a happy medium between discovering a guest’s needs and invading their privacy. How far is too far and is there such thing as too personal? While this may not be a topic that concerns you too much while lounging on the beach in Florida or soaking up the culture in a foreign country, it’s important to keep in mind that while logging your location, you may be signing up for more than you recognize. So what do you think? Will you be
“checking in” before you checkout this Spring Break?

Lauren Habig