In this earlier blog post, we discussed how social media has affected the ecommerce and payments industries, so now we will dive into how it has specifically impacted the travel industry. Social media has changed the way we communicate with our friends and the very definition of what “friends” are; the way we advertise and the way we buy; what we share, when we share, and with whom we share. For better or worse, social media has been weaved into the fabric of our lives and its impact is not only palpable, it is our new existence.
When our world is defined by and on social media, it affects everything we do and everyone we know.
Travel industry trends have been heavily impacted by the rise of social media, mainly in these five areas that pose great opportunity for global travel operators.
1. Customer Service
Travelers no longer have to send letters or faxes, or wait on hold indefinitely when they have an issue. Thanks to social media, it is now as easy as Tweeting their gripe in 140 characters or commenting on the company’s Facebook page. Because the complaint is made public, they expect to be answered instantaneously and in a way that not only appeases their complaint but also builds trustworthiness for the brand.
For example, Delta Airlines’ Twitter stream is filled with complaints about everything from a downed website to flight delays and uncomfortable seats. Their customer service reps take every opportunity to make things right as 1.5 million followers are following along.
More than ever before, travelers rely on reviews, recommendations, and other forms of user-generated content (UGC). Real ratings by real travelers are viewed as more reliable than a company’s own website or professional write-ups or articles.
Sites like TripAdvisor have seen a soaring number of reviews and ratings on everything from hotels to restaurants or extreme travel experience operators.
3. New & old friendships
Thanks to social networks, travelers are able to easily update their friends and family back home about their travel experiences, but they can also use the power of the medium to make new friends on their travels.
Stats show that 64% of non U.S. travelers and 38% of US travelers use social networks while travelling and a whopping 76% of travelers post vacation photos to social media.
Keeping friends (both old and new) in the know about their travel is part of the allure of social media.
4. Self-service travel
Since the emergence of social media, the search volume on Google has gone down significantly for travel-related queries. Travelers use Kayak, TripAdvisor, and Expedia to book their own travel arrangements. Travel agents that have not boarded the social media bandwagon are seeing a decline in sales, and travel operators who have a social media presence, and a high-quality, secure online payment platform are booking direct sales and earning rave reviews on multiple sites.
5. Offers and deals
Budget-conscious travelers turn to social media for promotions, deals, and special offers. Savvy business owners are relying on networks like Facebook to promote their businesses, serve their customers, and collect reviews.
Offering deals through social media encourages travelers not only to book their travel arrangements, which you can read more about in this blog post, but also to encourage their friends to do so. In this sense, it can be viewed as a travel industry growth hack. For example, advertise a special of 20% off for purchasing a night at your hotel. Then, offer your guests an additional 20% off if any of their social media friends also purchase the deal through their share link.
The rise of social media as a defining part of our lives is good for the travel industry: it offers endless opportunities for high-quality travel operators to gain exposure and earn business in ways that were never before possible.
By embracing social media and welcoming social media travelers, every tourism business can prosper.