(MoneyWatch) There was a time when most people wouldn't consider making travel reservations without a travel agent. Then came the Internet, rendering the ubiquity of full service travel centers obsolete in the span of just a few years. Well, changes are once again afoot. This time, will the 140-character tweet displace websites for booking travel?
While it seems unlikely that Twitter will become everyone's preferred method for making travel arrangements, Loews Hotels has started taking reservations by Tweet just this week. You can now send a tweet to @Loews_Hotels and include the hastag #BookLoews to get a reservation specialist's attention.
I tried the process shortly after the system went online and found the process surprisingly smooth. After sending the tweet, a Loews representative promptly replied to my tweet with a link to a chat window. We then traded messages to lock in my reservation -- I was even send a link to views of the hotel room when I requested it -- and we switched to a secure window for me to input my credit card info. The whole process only took a few minutes.
Loews is not taking bookings via Twitter 24/7 -- they shut down for the evening around 10 p.m. PT, so if you have a need to book after that hour, you can do it online by yourself or wait till morning.
So did it work? Indeed it did. And I must admit that it was a pretty "human" process -- not unlike picking up a phone and talking directly to a person. That's refreshing after spending the last decade interacting exclusively with online forms and web pages. And keep in mind that despite how this is being spun, you're not really booking anything on Twitter. Twitter is simply how you flag down Loews' attention. After that, you're tossed a link to a chat window. The rest happens well away from the microblogging tool.
This is obviously a very limited experiment and small in scope. Loews is including 16 of its 19 properties (Orlando locations excluded) and it is, of course, Loews only -- no other hotel chains have anything similar.