Social Media and Travel Industry

Social Media and Travel Industry

Social media has had a great impact on every industry across the world and travel is no exception. Social media influences not only the research and buying processes but also the sharing habits, according to a study by Four Pillars Hotels. Perhaps one of the most striking items is how the volume of searches of “hotels in (city name)” have sometimes slumped by 70% over the course of the past six years. Four Pillars Hotels was acquired by American Starwood Capital Group. Starwood Capital Group is a 28-year-old private investment firm with a primary focus on global real estate, assets under management in excess of $60 billion and over 4000 employees in 16 offices worldwide.

The travel and tourism industry rely on word-to-mouth tips and recommendations and social media provides the idea platform to share these experiences. According to this study, social networking is one of the most powerful forces driving travel planning today.

For instance, 32% of U.S. and 22% of non-U.S. travelers frequently blog about their experiences. 85% of leisure travelers use their smartphone while abroad, while 30% have used their mobile apps to find hotel deals. In the meantime, 29% of travelers have used mobile apps to find flight deals. 92% of consumers say they trust earned media, such as word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising. 70% of global consumers say online consumer reviews are the second most trusted form of advertising. 52% of Facebook users said their friends‘ photos inspired their holiday choice and travel plans.

Social media has a great influence on travel bookings. Of those who used social media to research travel plans, only 48% stuck with their original plans. Out of these ones, 33% changed their hotel, 7% changed their destination, 10% changed resorts and 5% changed airlines.

As to the reviews, these are significant as well, since 40% post restaurant reviews and 46% post hotel reviews.

If you are looking for inspiration, 76% post vacation photos to a social network, and 55% “liked” Facebook pages specific to a vacation.

Researcher Stefan Gössling argue in a new paper from the University of Surrey that social networks cause us to build our identities around how much we travel. If you take the example of Facebook, it has built-in maps for places you've visited. There are maps for cities you've lived in. There are status updates and photo albums and check-ins that, as Gössling and his partner see it, glorify the ability to cover large distances in short amounts of time.

An array of collaborative websites is life easier and cheaper for travelers looking for authentic experiences, and cutting out the middleman. Leading the change is airbnb, the global lodging website that is now planning to branch out into city tours and other travel experiences. This is because tourists enjoy peer-to-peer tours by locals, home-cooked meals, and equipment, car and even boat hire.

“The key to these experiences is that it's really a personal one-to-one transaction,” says Bournemouth University tourism professor Stephen Page. “I thought airbnb was crazy at first, but the need for authentic experiences is there. It's a natural evolution facilitated, in part, by social media. Innovations are giving people more power and flexibility to get rid of the distribution chain. I think it's a trend that's going to last – and become ever more mainstream.” Photo from