Phoenix, AZ (USA Today) -- As of today, travelers can now book a room at any of Best Western's 4,000 hotels in 100 countries without ever leaving Facebook.
The hotel giant has become the first global brand to try to leverage its popularity on Facebook with the ubiquitous social network's 800 million active users by creating a special booking tool. How quickly other global brands follow - or if they follow, remains to be seen.
"We're embarking on a new age in media," says Dorothy Dowling, Best Western's senior vice president of marketing and sales. "It requires different thinking."
Travelers who book their stay on Best Western's Facebook page won't get a better deal than on the brand's website, Dowling says. But they will get convenience - and a speedy transaction - if they spend a lot of time on Facebook.
"Best Western is focused on being where the customer wants to be," she says.
Once a person has booked through the Facebook tool, they'll receive a private, secure hotel reservation confirmation via e-mail - just as they would had they booked on BestWestern.com, Dowling says.
It's clear that Best Western has been concentrating on Facebook for quite some time. It now has about 244,700 fans, just ahead of Hilton Worldwide's 241,900.
In contrast, Marriott International has about 101,500 Facebook fans, Hyatt, about 167,100; Four Seasons, about 99,500; Radisson, about 53,700, and Starwood, about 35,300.
The move makes Best Western the first large hospitality brand that has developed a hotel booking widget for Facebook's expansive network, Dowling says. Facebook declined Hotel Check-In's request for an interview on the topic.
Best Western points to recent research from Harris Interactive, on behalf of Digitas, that found that 45% of social media users are at least somewhat comfortable making online purchases within Facebook and 34% of social media users agree that they'd be more likely to share information with friends about a purchase they made on a social media site than one made on a traditional e-commerce site.
Additionally, consulting firm Booz & Co. estimated that in 2011, $1 billion in goods would be sold through social media - with the amount expected to triple in 2012.
Readers: Would you be interested in booking your hotel room via Facebook?