What happened when a hotel armed social media-loving clubbers with RFID wristbands?
It was a curious move earlier this year when a hotel on the famous European dance music island of Ibiza decided to combine RFID technology with social media in a major way.
As well as being an upmarket property, the Ushuaia Ibiza Beach Hotel has one of the many large nightclubs on the island around its pool area and attracts thousands of clubbers to gigs, so it made sense for bosses to experiment with both technology and to tap into the visitor widespread use of Facebook by its guests and visitors.
The idea was quite simple: guests were be given the option to wear an RFID tech-based wristband throughout their stay, a devise which is then synchronised to their Facebook profile.
Sensors were installed throughout the hotel so that users could swipe their wristband to upload pictures, have their status updated automatically (“I am dancing at the Ushuaia…” etc) and check-in using Facebook Places.
Those visiting the hotel in order to see a particular gig were also asked if they wanted to wear the devices.
The business reason for carrying out the project was primarily to raise awareness of the hotel itself, but also attract clubbers to its party nights and capture masses of data about visitors.
So how did it work out?
- At the beginning of the busy period for gigs and guests (in July), Ushuaia had just 4,000 fans on its Facebook page. By the end of season it had close to 70,000.
- Seven wristband scanners were used around the hotel – one at the entrance to the property, another at the hotel’s reception, others dotted around the pool, bar and beach areas.
- Three of the scanners were contained within photo booths, so wristband holders could also take pictures of themselves and friends. Images were automatically uploaded to the walls of each of the guests within seconds.
- An average of 300 individual wristbands were used every single day.
- Each wristband holder performed around three or four functions (checking in on Facebook, uploading pictures).
- Approximately 6,000 items of content were recorded over the course of the season.
- Close to 7,000 wristbands were manufactured at the beginning of the season (each cost between Euro 1.50-2). Around 2,000 were lost or not handed in at the end of a visitor’s stay.
The results which the Ushuaia has shared are interesting on many levels, not least because in social media it went from being just another Ibiza party venue and hotel to one of the most popular and talked about venues on the island.
The hotel has also got its hands on reams of valuable information: demographics of visitors to the gigs (6:4 in favour of men), what gigs they attended, who with, how long for, etc. The email marketing programme during the close season will inevitably be extremely well targeted.
The project did have a few technical hitches, bosses admit. On some occasions, on the busiest nights, bandwidth issues kicked in when hundreds of guests were trying to post status updates to Facebook, for example.
But on the whole, Ushuaia is seeing the experiment as an enormous success and plans to resurrect it for the summer 2012 season, with a number of enhancements such as RFID scanners on the arms of professional photographers so pictures are also uploaded immediately to the main Ushuaia Facebook page.
Kevin May is editor and a co-founder of Tnooz. He was previously editor of UK-based magazine Travolution for nearly four years and web editor of Media Week UK from 2003 to 2005.
He has also worked in regional newspapers (Essex Enquirer) and started his career in journalism at the Police Gazette at New Scotland Yard in London. He has a degree in criminology and a postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism.