By Victoria Hsia

Facebook recently began rolling out a new feature that further positions the platform as a travel planning tool: City Guides. Available on the mobile app, City Guides serve as Facebook-curated destination guides, complete with recommendations of places to go and things to do. This functionality was first launched back in December, but is now being rolled out on a larger scale.

How Do Facebook City Guides Work?

There are two ways to access a City Guide: by tapping “City Guides” in the app menu or by searching for a particular city in the search bar. When you access City Guides through the app’s menu, you will see various cities listed and friends who have been there. At this time, only some major international cities have a City Guide, but this could change if Facebook continues to build out the feature.

When you tap a City Guide, you will see at the top an image of the city with the current temperature, weather, and time. Next you will see a list of places within the city that your friends have visited, along with their star rating and reviews. For some places, Facebook also highlights a few key attributes and features that many people mention regarding the place. For example, next to a restaurant it might say “People talk about best place for oyster, friendly service and happy hour.”

Beneath “Places Your Friends Have Been” is a section called “Places The Locals Go,” which offers popular, highly rated spots. Here users can also see at a glance if any of their friends have visited. The last section of each City Guide is “Popular Attractions,” which showcases things like famous landmarks and tourist attractions. With City Guides, you can easily save a city or a specific place to reference later by tapping the bookmark icon to the right.

How Can Hotels Capitalize on Facebook City Guides?

  1. Reach potential guests throughout the travel planning journey. Facebook City Guides are useful for people who are actively planning a trip, as well as people who are just looking for some travel inspiration or to discover local favorites in their city. A key benefit of this feature is that it aggregates data from a user’s Facebook friends and publicly available data – a trove of data that surpasses many other social platforms’, resulting in a more comprehensive guide to a city’s top points of interest.
  1. Keep your hotel brand top of mind. City Guides also allows users to easily save a place or visit the place’s Facebook Page to learn more, contact the business, book a hotel room, and more. Hotels can encourage users to book a stay by implementing a “Book Now” call-to-action-button at the top of their Page linking directly to their website.

  1. Encourage brand ambassadors to recommend your hotel to their peers. The new City Guides feature isn’t Facebook’s first foray into the travel planning space, as the platform has already made strides to encourage people to utilize it for this purpose. Another recently launched travel feature is Recommendations, which allows users to easily gather recommendations from their friends. Based on the words used in a status update, Facebook will trigger this tool. For example, if a user posts “I’m looking for hotels in San Francisco,” Facebook will turn on Recommendations. Each time friends mention a recognized place, it will be added to a map. If a recommended business has a Facebook Page, the tool automatically features a link to its Page along with its star rating and address.

  1. Optimize your hotel’s Facebook presence to drive more referral traffic. As Facebook continues to become more of a primary travel planning tool, businesses can potentially gain exposure, drive referral traffic, and potentially generate direct revenue from this channel. New features such as City Guides and Recommendations make it even more important to have a fully-optimized and active Page with a call-to-action button such as “Book Now.” Furthermore, hotels should promote their Facebook presence and encourage guests to check in and write reviews, as people are more likely to express interest in a place that their friends have visited and that boasts a high star rating.
  1. Integrate Facebook City Guides into your website content. Since Facebook City Guides include a section that highlights places that are popular among locals, they can serve as a great resource to help position a hotel as the hero of the destination. For example, a hotelier can implement an interactive What’s Nearby/Points of Interest Module on the hotel website and include a section called “Places Locals Love” that highlights nearby attractions, restaurants, and other businesses from the destination’s City Guide. Hoteliers can also utilize this information when crafting website or blog content surrounding the destination.

How do Facebook City Guides Compare to Google Trips?

While some may see Facebook City Guides as an answer to the new Google Trips app, a key advantage for Facebook is that users can easily click through to a hotel’s website and book a room. Additionally, users on Google Trips cannot see if their friends have checked in on Facebook, an action that is becoming increasingly common as the social media giant’s user base grows. On the other hand, Google Trips provides a different benefit by allowing users to sync and access their travel plans offline.

Overall, Facebook City Guides are a useful tool to aid potential guests throughout the travel planning journey. Not only do potential guests have access to content and recommendations from their peers, they get an all-access preview of where the locals love to go– a very popular mantra of travelers today. As the travel ecosystem continues to evolve, it is crucial that hoteliers utilize the tools that will best achieve their business objectives. By doing so, they will be able to remain competitive and drive more revenue from the direct online channel.