In news that will make travel brands across the world feel a little uneasy: Facebook has entered the travel market.
There isn't a great cause for alarm just yet, with Facebook taking only small steps with its new offering. City Guides was released to little fanfare, but is a curious move by the social media giant, with the feature giving users the ability to book some hotels and restaurants via their Facebook app.
Seen as a potential challenger to Foursquare, City Guides shows users a list of cities, which have been curated based on how many of their friends have visited the destination. By clicking on a city, users are presented with various recommendations of places to go and things to do.
Facebook appears to be making the most of data generated by its users, with this new feature appearing to utilise users' check-ins and posts by turning them into recommendations.
The new addition to the "More" menu inside the Facebook app will also have caught the attention of Google, which launched its Google Trips app in September. Facebook appears to have got one up on its tech rival, however, by offering users the option of booking a trip. For example, users can make a reservation at ROKA Charlotte Street restaurant in London via Priceline Group's OpenTable.
City Guides also taps into the travel trend of experiencing 'living like a local' with a Places The Locals Go feature.
All told, it's a pretty impressive new offering, but it's still in limited availability and only caters to the more popular destinations right now. So, travel brands shouldn't see Facebook as a potential rival in the market just yet. That said, they could do worse than take a few things away from City Guides, such as:
1. You should be making the most of customer data
The average travel brand will be generating lots of customer data. However, it's all useless unless you're capturing it and turning it into insights. Facebook has long allowed users to check-in via their status updates, but it hadn't done much with that data, until now.
Obviously, Facebook is using data as a means to generate recommendations, but most travel brands will benefit from capturing customer data by being able to communicate more directly in marketing material or judging the success of their sales efforts.
2. Social-infused planning is where it's at
It's long been the case that travellers – millennials especially – book travel according to what their peers on social media are telling them. When booking travel, 89% of millennials plan travel activities based on content posted by their peers online.
Until now, however, they've had to rely on crowd-sourced review sites such as TripAdvisor to get a feel for somewhere. City Guides brings the peer recommendations to them, infusing social with the traditional travel planning app, meaning users don't have to exit the Facebook app to do their research.
3. Mobile is the future of travel bookings
City Guides once again backs up the widely held belief that travellers are becoming more comfortable booking travel on their mobiles. It was once the case that travellers would research their trip on their mobiles, before moving over to their desktop computers to book, but those buying habits are starting to shift in favour of the smaller devices.
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