Instagram. A hotel booking platform?


Go online and search “Book A Hotel Room” and it’s likely you will have results from across the web, however one result you probably will not see is Instagram. That may be improving as some hotel brands are now utilizing the social platform as a place to start the reservation process and drive more direct bookings.

Conrad Hotels and Resorts, whose parent company is Hilton Worldwide, is now enabling travelers to book rooms at its 24 hotels by clicking on an Instagram photo of a property that then leads them to the reservations page.

Conrad is making use of Like2Buy technology by Curalate, a visual marketing firm, to turn Instagram photos into money-making vehicles.

“The point of Instagram is to inspire,” states Stuart Foster, vice president of marketing at Conrad. Click on the photo, he says, and the Like2Buy technology “seamlessly links up you to the booking widget of that property. It’s instant gratification for someone aiming to truly be inspired to travel.”

Many of the photos have been taken by professionals on behalf the hotel. In many cases, the photographer is the hotel guest. The pictures include buildings, rooms, food, and experiences. For instance, a photo of the Conrad Pezula in South Africa shows people horseback riding.

Foster says Conrad was inspired by the fashion industry to leverage Instagram. “We were looking outside of hospitality and saw that people were looking at shoes and fashion items and they would like to obtain them right away,” he says.

Curalate has also partnered with retailers such as Nordstrom and Target. “Instagram has become this huge force,” says Apu Gupta, CEO and co-founder of Curalate. “No marketer can ignore that platform.”

A Forrester study last year discovered that Instagram delivered brands 58 times more interaction per follower than Facebook and 120 times more than Twitter.

As of the end 2014, Instagram was the third most widely used social network among travelers, according to PhoCusWright. The travel market research firm found that 83% of travelers are active Facebook users, 38% are Twitter users, and 29% are Instagram users.

Among Millennials, however, the percentage of Instagram users jumped to 50 %. Hotels have aggressively been targeting those younger travelers, who are poised to become a larger share of consumers afterwards.

“Instagram is an especially interesting platform because it has grown so quickly,” says Douglas Quinby, vice president of research at PhoCusWright. “It is especially popular with younger travelers– the much-coveted millennials– and it is a highly visual medium and lends itself to inspiration and shopping.”

Foster explains that in case all goes well with the Conrad program, travelers could eventually be able to book hotel rooms via Instagram at the Waldorf Astoria and other Hilton properties. Other hotel companies have tried to turn social media channels into revenue generators. In 2013, Loews Hotels introduced reservations by Twitter. Travelers could request a room by tweeting to @Loews_Hotels with the hashtag #BookLoews.

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