New booking tool sees hotels join socially-savvy airlines on Facebook

Airlines have embraced Facebook, with names such as Delta and Malaysia Airlines allowing passengers to book without leaving the social networking site - and now it appears hotels are about to do the same.

Omni Hotels, a luxury resort chain operating around 45 properties in the US, Canada and Mexico, announced last week that customers can reserve a room directly from its fan page.

By logging onto facebook.com/omnihotels, visitors can select a hotel, view prices and check availability, as well as live chatting with a reservations agent and becoming fans of the brand.

Omni says that it's the first chain in the industry to offer the ability to book directly from Facebook without leaving the site, which it says gives guests another level of ease and convenience.

However, according to several research reports it may not be long before other hotels join the club - Facebook pages in the travel industry grew by 20 percent in the first quarter of 2011, according to the recent L2 Digital IQ Index for travel, a study of the "digital competency" of travel brands.

That study gave Delta Airlines the highest digital IQ, but it also suggested that airlines are by far the most digital-savvy travel brands in the industry - the top ranked hotel chain (W Hotels) was in fourth place.

With Omni opening a new front on Facebook, it may not be long before hotel chains outshine the airlines when it comes to social media.

http://www.facebook.com/omnihotels

The most "digitally competent" travel brands:

1. Delta Airlines
2. Southwest
3. American Airlines
4. W Hotels
5. Hilton Hotels & Resorts
6. Westin Hotels & Resorts
7. Continental Airlines
8. Lufthansa
9. Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts
10. Inter-Continental Hotels & Resorts

Data from L2 http://l2thinktank.com/research/travel-2011/

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