Airlines, airports and hotels experiment with location-based social networks

Airlines, airports and hotels are starting to embrace the latest trend in social media: location-based social networks. The most popular platform is currently Foursquare, which has 2.7 million users worldwide (of which 60% in the U.S.) and is adding 100,000 users per week. Foursquare allows members to share their current physical location with friends via their gps-enabled cellphone when they enter a new location, a procedure also known as ‘checking-in’. Foursquare just reached 100 million ‘check-ins’ and says that the most popular venues are transit-related locations such as airports and train stations.

An important social status element of foursquare are ‘badges’. Points are awarded for ‘checking in’ at a locations, and by checking in frequently, visiting specific locations, or performing tasks members can earn badges. For example, the ‘Jetsetter’ badge can be earned by visiting an airport 5 times, and the ‘Airport’ badge can be earned by visiting 5 different airports. 

Since early August 2010, foursquare users can also check-in at 30,000 feet. Passengers in the U.S who use Gogo’s inflight Internet service can earn a special foursquare ‘Mile High Badge’, once they connect. Gogo is hoping that foursquare users will be tempted to try out its WiFi service if they know that they will receive a special badge for using it, as many foursquare users are avid badge hunters.

If a user has checked-in to a venue more than anyone else in the past 60 days, and they have a profile photo, they will be crowned ‘Mayor’ of that venue, visible to everyone. In a smart move, Air New Zealand rewards foursquare users who are the mayor of select airports and terminals served by the airline with free admission to its lounges just by showing their mayor status and boarding pass. If they are already a member of ANZ´s lounge program, the airline awards them 100 Airpoints Dollars instead. Mayors of ANZ´s lounges are eligible for 100 Airpoints Dollars as well. 

On a similar note, Minneapolis-St Paul Airport (MSP) rewards the foursquare mayor of MSP with a limited-edition, MSP ball cap or a MSP embroidered polo shirt, while Heathrow Airport is giving its foursquare ‘mayors’ a copy of the airport’s resident photographer, Dennis Stone, latest book.

In July 2010, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) became the first hotel to reward real loyalty points for geolocation check-ins. IHG partnered with Topguest, a new platform that gives travelers loyalty points for check-ins indifferent of the location-based app they use. Priority Club members of IHG who become Topguest members are awarded 50 Priority Club points (once a day) when they virtually check-in at one of IHG’s 4,400 hotels worldwide. Members do not need to have a room reservation to earn points. 

Related articles:
Lufthansa MySkyStatus lets passengers auto-tweet their flight position
Gatwick Airport wants travelers to tweet their feedback while at the airport
Air New Zealand’s ‘Airpoints Fairy’ honours a wish a day


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