Impact of Social Media on Travel Decision Making

Changing Dynamics and Importance of Digital Marketing in Travel Decision-making: An Analysis

In January 2013, Tripadvisor, one of the largest travel websites in the world which has revolutionized the way people travel in the world. Since the arrival of Web 2.0, internet, especially social media and networking has become the part of life. 

Web 2.0 is not only influencing the internet user who rely more and more on sites with user interaction and communities but also the marketing and promotion of leading companies who are integrating social media marketing into their integrated marketing communication program to reach out to existing as well as prospective clients.



Online Reviews and Social Media Impacts Travel Decision Making
Travel Planning is Dominated by Online Resources such as reviews and blogs and comments on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter
TripAdvisor enjoy the patronage of millions of users from around the globe who have helped create one of the strongest travel communities on the internet. The demographical diversity of the users is a huge advantage which has been leveraged in the past with the success of travel trends and surveys. 

In the ‘TripBarometer by TripAdvisor’ is the latest such initiative to read into the mind of both supplier and consumers. The objective of the study was to bring out to fore the parameters influencing travel decision-making process with emphasis on presenting both side of the story – consumer (tourists/travelers) and suppliers (agency/hotels).

The results of the study were based on a comprehensive survey conducted online for the duration of a month beginning 7th December 2012. A total of 15,595 participants from consumer side and 19,447 business samples were taken into consideration.

Key Findings

Customer is King
Renowned marketing guru Philip Kotler gave this mantra a long time ago and it’s still the mantra even in the age of Web 2.0. Nothing beats the power and persuasion impact of word-of-mouth publicity. 

Review portals like Tripadvisor have major impact in travel decision-making.  It’s not surprising that 93% of travel plans are influenced by travel review websites.




Travelers don’t just come to read review while planning their trip but actively come back after completion of their tour to review and add their personal experience. Those who do like a property or travel agent nowadays tend to recommend them to their friends, family and to online community at large. 
According to the finding of the study travelers returning from a trip are more likely to recommend the hotel they stayed in or the agency they used to friends and family directly (58%), while 41% do so online. 

Over half (51%) have written online reviews about the accommodation they stayed at and a third (34%) have written a review for a website. Around a fifth (17%), have written about their travel experience in a blog or forum.

Online platforms also emerged as favored source for travel planning and research with more than 92% travelers turning to them for travel information. 

Research also revealed that people prefer booking accommodation through online travel agencies (27%) instead of choosing accommodation provider’s website (23%). 

Signaling a paradigm shift from past trends, study reveals that less than 9% of people booked their last trip through an offline travel agent.

Community based online travel sources like Lonely Planet and Tripadvisor stand out as being the most trusted source of travel information as trust is increasingly becoming a strong factor in travel decision making. 

Travel review websites fared as the most trusted (32%) and most useful (38%) source of information for travel planning and research.

What Consumer Wants: Take Heed Accommodation Providers
Who doesn’t love a giveaway? According to the findings room discounts impacts choice of accommodation of over 75% people whereas a free night’s stay could influence decision making of 49% tourists. 

Furthermore, free breakfast (84%), free in-room Wi-Fi (80%), free lobby Wi-Fi (66%) and free parking (66%) are some top factors in decision-making process of guests absence of which may influence the final decision of the guest.
Digital Marketing and Travel Industry
Online Reviews influence choice of Accommodation 
Price factor and location also account for selection criteria of 76% and 68% of the guest respectively where travelers review on online travel communities also playing an important part in decision making with 44% influenced by online reviews.

Role of Social Media and Reviews in Travel Decision Making
Not surprisingly, social networking giant Facebook tops the chart when it comes to research and planning a trip. Facebook with share of 76% of people using social media platforms is way ahead of its competitors like Google+ (40%) and Twitter (21%).

Younger tourists (18-24) are more likely than their older counterparts to have used Facebook (90% vs. 49% 65+) and Twitter (29% vs. 12% 65+) to research and plan their last trip. Men are more likely than women to have used Facebook and Twitter (78% vs. 74% and 25% vs. 18%, respectively).

As per the findings, 85% of those who use social media said that interactions between users which include videos, comments and photographs have influenced their travel plans. 

Majority of the samples surveyed said that travel reviews and opinion of tourists on travel website and online communities influence their travel plans and decision.


Use of Social Media in Travel Planning
Social Connect on the go keep travelers connected with the world and allow them to share photos, status and location in real time 
Online Engagement: Digital Marketing Sphere
With access to technology and proliferation of apps and smartphones, it’s easier than ever to connect and share on the go. Apps provided by leading sites such as Foursquare, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tripadvisor allows user to share their locations, photos and check ins in real time. 

According to the findings, More than 51% people stay connected to the internet through their mobile. Of those connected 39 people out of 100 upload photos to social networks and update their social network status to keep their friends and family up to date. 

They also use digital tools to make their trip easier such as finding activities and attractions (33%) and download apps specific to the destination (26%).

Accommodation Planning and Booking: Decision-making factors
Several factors are taken into consideration before making a decision on accommodation. Of these, price (76%) and location (68%) are the most important elements of the marketing mix in driving bookings. 

Online reviews are the third most important factor (44%). Online reviews of accommodation and hotel properties are also important drivers in booking generation with 3 out of 4 businesses surveyed claiming them to be an important factor which directly drives sales.

Lessons to be Learned
With more and more businesses getting aboard the digital train to marketing and consumers with their power to influence sales and reputation of properties, digital marketing is going to be one of the key aspect of integrated marketing communications of the brands and businesses.

The influence of social media and online travel communities is ever impacting decision-making not just in travel industry but in other industries too. Thought leaders, influencers and experts exert significant power and influence their listeners and followers through social networking websites and blogs.  

In future too, web based community website such as Tripadvisor, Indiamike, Facebook and Twitter and authority blogs could play a decisive role in decision making of consumers and reputation management of businesses. 

Customer will increasingly become the focus of all marketing endeavor and reputation management.

Social Media and Digital Marketing will have increased role and impact in travel industry for both suppliers and consumers. Engagement with consumers and reaching out is the key. 

Interaction and community building is the area where the businesses should be focusing. The idea is to be heard by those who are looking for the offering and who really care and hence more likely to share or tell other. 

It is also necessary to focus one’s effort and reach out to those who are listening. For social media marketers, making inroads through nurturing relationship and turning interaction into conversation and community as well as a through influence instead of direct marketing is the need of the hour.

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