A new travel website is offering discounts to guests based on their social media popularity. Trevor Baker tests out whether he is influential enough to qualify
We all know how powerful social media is. Teenagers can become media stars from their bedrooms; YouTube channels can reach tens of millions; and tweets can turn into books.
It’s no surprise, then, that one company has based its entire business model on harnessing the positive power of the internet. New website, Hotelied is offering people with a big social media presence – or “taste makers” – discounts on hotel stays. Using the strapline “It pays to be you”, it offers its members “the opportunity to be rewarded for being themselves” by offering rates tailored to their social media profile. It doesn’t specify how much social media activity is expected in return, simply saying that partner hotels are keen to work with “influencers.”
To unlock the discounts all you have to do is supply hotelied with links to your social media profiles (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram) as well as any reward programmes you might have with hotels or airlines.
But just how popular do you have to be to get a discount? As a freelance food and travel journalist based in Alicante, I’ve only got a paltry 507 followers on Twitter but working in the media must be worth something, right? A quick and somewhat unscientific experiment reveals that the answer is probably not.
I asked three other social media users to test the site: a partner in a law firm (my friend Imogen) who travels several times a month from her base in Spain; an influential travel writer (Paul Steele aka The Bald Hiker, who has more than 600,000 followers on Twitter); and my mum, who’s a retired sheltered housing manager living in Devon. To make it fair, we all search for hotel rooms in New York on Saturday 11 October (hotelied are currently limited to four US cities – New York, LA, Miami and Palm Springs – though they have plans to expand).
I’m offered two discounts: The Dream Downtown, a boutique hotel in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan, is available for $460 (a 20% discount on the original price of $575); and the luxurious Gansevoort Park offers $491 (a 10% discount on the price available on Expedia and other websites).
Unsurprisngly, my mum isn’t offered any discounts at all. Booking through Hotelied it would cost her $115 more a night to stay at The Dream Downtown than it would for me. This is probably because, although she does have a Twitter account, she’s never tweeted and, at the time of registering, has no followers (I have subsequently started following her).
More surprisingly, Imogen, my lawyer friend, who’s the only one of us who might conceivably book into a pricey hotel in New York in the near future, isn’t offered any discount either. Her travel history and hotel and airline reward scheme memberships don’t seem to count for anything. Clearly law isn’t a cool enough industry and she doesn’t spend enough time on Facebook or Twitter.
The winner, perhaps unsurprisingly, turns out to be Paul Steele. He’s offered the same deal as me at Dream Downtown but a more attractive $464 at Gansevoort Park. He says, however, that the offers “start at expensive before the discount, and are still expensive [with the discount]. Not my style of travel”.
It does seem that the website is pitched at someone who’d happily spend $500 a night on a hotel but who’d really rather it was only $450, thanks very much. If you’re in that position then all you need is a LinkedIn page that says you have a cool job and as many Twitter followers as you can get your hands on. Is this the future of the travel industry? Or just a terrible way to reward all the wrong kind of people?
This article was written by Trevor Baker, for theguardian.com on Thursday 2nd October 2014 13.26 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010