How does the rapid-response world of Facebook and Twitter suit one of the most laid-back destinations in the Caribbean? For Keirsin Tjon Pian Gi, the public relations and e-commerce manager at the Aruba Marriott Resort, social media is all in a day's work.
"We've been involved with Facebook and Twitter since the end of 2008. The Marriott sees social media as another way to connect with, respond to, and expand our audience," Pian Gi said, adding that she walks a fine line when communicating with guests on the hotel's Facebook and Twitter sites. "With social media, I need to constantly remind myself that I'm representing the Marriott and not just expressing my personal views."
Social Media: What's Happening in Aruba
According to SocialBakers.com, a website specializing in social media statistics, about half of Aruba's 110,000 residents have had some experience with Facebook. Social media is trending upward on the island. For many of Aruba's 24 hotels, communicating with followers via Facebook and Twitter is a relatively new endeavor.
The Amsterdam Manor, a hotel located on Aruba's Eagle Beach, launched its Facebook page a year ago. The Amsterdam recently let Facebook followers know that a very high profile guest paid a visit to Aruba in October. The all-inclusive hotel, featuring Dutch colonial architecture, alerted the hotel's 1,200 Facebook followers that Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands had paid a visit to the island. Laura Vrolijk, the Amsterdam's sales and marketing manager, found Facebook to be the perfect venue for sharing the news of the island's royal close encounter.
Pat Donovan, the director of sales at Aruba's Westin Resort, has found that in the two years the 481-room hotel has been involved with social media, it's proven to be a great resource for creating a deeper bond with guests. "We've discovered that through our Facebook community, fans not only engage with our hotel representatives, they also develop lasting friendships with other followers. To show appreciation for our loyal customers, we create customized Facebook deals to revisit our property," Donovan said.
The Marriott's Tjon Pian Gi acknowledged the immediacy of communicating via social media. "We recently had a Twitter follower request a crib for her hotel room in anticipation of an upcoming vacation. I forwarded this inquiry to our front desk, and we were able to satisfy the guest's needs," Tjon Pian Gi said.
Keeping Up with Twitter and Facebook
Social media duties were turned over to Tjon Pian Gi three years ago. Even though she speaks four languages and holds a bachelor's degree in international tourism, the 29-year-old Gi admits that her social media skills are still a work in progress. "It wasn't that long ago that I was asking about hash tags and what's up with the Twitter birdie. Today, social media is an integral part of my day-to-day job responsibilities," Tjon Pian Gi said.
Come Back to Aruba
Aruba is the Caribbean island with the highest return rate among guests. Tjon Pian Gi sees social media as a way to reinforce this success by learning from followers' questions and comments. One of the ways that Aruba hotel representatives can see how they're doing with guests and their competition is through TripAdvisor, the user-generated hotel review website.
TripAdvisor and their community is one site where the Aruba Marriott is gaining momentum. "We've risen to number three out of 24 hotels located on Palm and Eagle Beach. Social media is another way to gauge where the Marriott stands today and how we can improve in the future," Tjon Pian Gi said.
Hotels in Aruba are discovering that social media is an excellent pipeline for getting the word out to future guests. You never know when the Queen of the Netherlands will be asking her Facebook friends about a great place to stay in the Caribbean.
-- Tim Cotroneo