“Over the course of 2009, we saw the volume of direct referrals from Facebook to hotel websites grow. The conversion rate was higher for Facebook than it was for TripAdvisor and other travel review sites,” said Douglas Quinby, senior director of research for PhoCusWright, a travel research firm in Sherman, Connecticut. The conversion rate on direct referrals from traveler review sites to hotel supplier websites ranged from 4% to 6% in 2009, while conversion from Facebook to hotel websites was 8%.

Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide has provided a booking function within a tab on Facebook for all of its brands and properties since it has been on Facebook.

“Conversion on Facebook is smaller but close to conversion on our brand websites. (Starwood’s Facebook fans) start to see other people’s experiences at the properties,” said David Godsman, VP of global Web for Starwood.

While Starwood primarily uses Facebook to “engage” with its guests, the company’s executives realize the valuable e-commerce potential on the global social-networking site. To that end, Westin Hotels & Resorts in January introduced a “Shop” tab on its properties’ Facebook pages. The shopping widget serves as a fully-contained shopping transaction, instead of working as a link from Westin’s website.

“What we are seeing now is an emergence of technology that that we didn’t see six months ago. There is an opportunity for ourselves and other hotel brands to enable these type of transactions within Facebook,” Godsman said.

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