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Social Networks Save the Holiday.


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Costa Rican eco-lodge uses social media to win new customers in difficult times.

It’s been a difficult year for tourism. Travelling is one of the first things private households cut in years of financial hardship. In an ironic twist, marketing is what the travel industry cuts in response.

But that isn’t even an option for small hotels who mostly depend on tourists being sent their way. Or, to be more precise, used to be dependent on that. The relationship to various middle men, i.e. travel agents, was the most important driver in small tourism, but that role is moving to the social networks fast.

However, while World of Warcraft might have a horde of community managers on standby, who’s doing the work at the small hotels? That’s what I asked Geinier Guzmán, the General Manager of La Cusinga Lodge in Costa Rica during my recent stay there.

Not every small hotel is hitting the social web with the vigour of La Cusinga. But Guzmán’s strategies probably don’t veer far from the path of economic necessity: Not enough money for a full time social media professional turns it into a trial and error process.

Of course, when engaging with the socialweb, it really helps to have something to say. Guzmán is not only the manager of his own eco lodge, he is also a local politician and an environmental activist. The news he shares with La Cusinga’s network are an engaging mix of hotel factlets and news about environmental issues and sustainable tourism in Costa Rica.

La Cusinga’s strategy of combining advertising and information seems to sit well with the social media audience. More than 2500 fans have joined their Facebook group so far. And bookings for 2010 are looking pretty good, too.

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