Rise of the Real-time Web

This USA Today article offered predictions for the top ten 2010 travel trends.  One prediction is “The Rise of Real-Time Web” which points out real-time postings of travel experiences and a speedier response by companies and institutions.  The article mentions that there are “flash sales” offered on Facebook and Twitter by airline companies, which is a speedy method to sell the last airline seat to followers.

In an article found on Aviationweek.com, the article offers examples of these flash sales.  For example, Southwest Airlines offered a two-day sale on Twitter rather than paying for advertising.  On those two days, they had the highest traffic days on Southwest’s website and top two revenue days in Southwest’s history.

The article discusses different airlines strategies and methods for using these tools and handling communications with guests and customers.  I found the Virgin America case interesting.  Since the airline provides Wi-Fi on the flight, they will get more than 350 direct messages on Twitter and obviously many customers will update on statuses/complaints in real time.  While Virgin America is willing to spend resources to monitor and respond to their followers, I wondered if they considered the social media impact when deciding to provide Wi-Fi.

The USA Today article mentions that free Wi-Fi will grow at upscale hotels, similar to many economy and mid-priced hotels.  In addition to the main Wi-Fi costs, the hotel operators who decide to provide Wi-Fi should also expect to allocate resources to handle and monitor social media communications for in-house guests’ complaints and issues.  A guest “tweeting” about gross towels at an economy hotel probably won’t expect a response.  However, upscale hotels looking to “wow” guests will need monitor the tweet and replace the inferior towel with a fluffy one.

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