When you think of social media, what comes to mind is probably thoughts of platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. And while these are some of the biggest and most popular platforms out there, these apps only scratch the surface of what social media has to offer.
Social Media one of the biggest phenomenon's of the 21st century, and given there is the technology available, social media is accessible to every person on the globe no matter the location. This means that it is still evolving, expanding and pushing into new areas that nobody thought possible.
Social media is no longer just used for social purposes of keeping in touch with friends and sharing experiences with one another, but a tool used by almost every person, wether it be for personal or business related objectives. Research has shown that over 95% of business's use at least one platform of social media such as Facebook to market their product (Stelzner, 2015). Soon enough, that number will reach 100%.
So why is this the case?
It is because social media has the power to go viral. If a business has a cool or unique product, there is almost a guarantee that someone is going to share it, which causes a snowball effect allowing this concept to spread out and advertise itself. It is one of the most effective uses of advertising ever. This brings along many opportunities for businesses- by pushing product into the face on consumers wherever they go and taking advantage of the fact that content can easily go viral, and spread very, very quickly.
And the Tourism industry is a culprit of doing just that. Tourism is all about marketing, marketing, marketing. It is a word of mouth industry that thrives on people telling other people about their experiences (Bennett, 2012). And does this not fit perfectly with the purpose of social media?
Previously if you wanted to plan a holiday you would go to a travel agent, explain the kind of trip you wanted, and they would take care of the rest while advising and suggesting options.
Not anymore. These days, you don't even have to leave the house. In this technosocial world, apps and sites such as Trip Advisor, Hotels Combined, Air BNB and other travel planer apps are quickly replacing physical jobs of travel agents. This style of customisable user-generated content is seen by the consumers as more credible and authentic- basing it off other peoples real opinions, rather than someone being payed to tell you how good something is. This draws in more people to join this online network. And when considering there are over 1 billion active users, social media is dominating the industry (The Dunloe, 2015).
Just one example of how social media has changed the industry
So what does all this mean for the future of the tourism industry?
The Tourism industry is considered to be a non-staple industry by governments across the world, meaning that it is a luxury thing to spend money on. However, this so called 'luxury' is quickly turning into one of the biggest markets around. And social media has played a major role in expanding its popularity, with this site alone having over 50 million unique monthly visitors.
Sites such as Trip Advisor have had huge influences on the market, having millions of different people visiting their 'virtual travel agent' to plan a holiday every . This is the next step in holiday planning and marketing. Not only this, but consumers ability to engage in these networked type sites to read comments and reviews about places they want to visit, hotels to stay at have only boosted the popularity.
How many times when you look through your Facebook feed do you see a post or advertisement showing some 'awesome new place you have to visit in your lifetime!'? Insider is one of the more prominent of these pages with over 7 million followers on its main site (not including its sub pages).
So lets look at a case study. Travel Agent. This job has been around for generations. However, with the access of technology, people can do it all themselves, therefore making Travel agents are what is not considered to be a "useless job."
CNN has referred Travel agents as an endangered species. They also said that "new breeds of agent have emerged that target luxury, business and niche travellers who value personal relationships and expertise over savings." (Weber, 2013).
It is predicted that the Travel Agent job title will continue to decline and be replaced with a new kind of agent. A virtual one. Technology will continue its upward spiral into this market.
So why is it that over 80% consumers planning a holiday are trusting social media over people? (Travel Weekly, 2012)
The first major factor would be affordability. There are no costs or fees involved in joining a social media site, but there are when employing a travel agent. Not only this but it was found that there are a larger number of sales and deals offered on various sites than what a travel agent could offer.
Another reason would be people trusting the opinions and recommendation of other people just like them over someone being payed to say nice things.
While this user-generated system does have its advantages of people being able to get real opinions about places to stay and visit, it is also one of the biggest downfalls social media has to offer. It goes with the saying, once something is put on the Internet, its never coming down.
Social media gives companies direct, unmediated access to prospects and customers. Things go wrong – a service disruption, a mishandled customer or false advertising. And sometimes, the criticism isn’t even based on facts – just a consumer with a grudge can all lead to negative reviews (Henderson, 2016).
This can compromises the reputation of certain destinations- if someone has a bad time at an example, hotel, then the entire hotel visitors could fall. But these are the risks that are involved to get the brand out there into the market.
The shift towards technology and social media in this industry may have pushed travel agents out of jobs, but that doesn't mean anything for the rest of the industry. Global tourism is higher than it has ever been.
Overall, it can be said that while social media has been a problem for a majority of travel agents and the potential negative comments and reviews that can be said by anyone, it has opened up a whole new window of opportunity to tourism. Tourism is becoming more and more popular, and people are sharing their experiences making everything more appealing. Tourist destinations are making use of the ease of word of mouth that social media offers advertising their experiences.
So is utilising social media worth it in the tourism industry? Yes it is.
Bennett, S. (2012, June 27). The Impact Of Social Media On Travel And Tourism. Retrieved April 8, 2017, from AD Week: http://www.adweek.com/digital/social-media-travel-hospitality/
Stelzner, M. A. (2015, May). 2015 Social Media Marketing Industry Report. Social Media Examiner.
The Dunloe. (2015, September 23). The Impact of Social Media on the Tourism Industry. Retrieved April 6, 2017, from Hospitality Net: http://www.hospitalitynet.org/news/4071855.html
Henderson, C. (2016, August 30). Beware the Troll: 8 Ways to Deal With Negative Social Media Comments. Retrieved April 7, 2017, from Sales Force: https://www.salesforce.com/uk/blog/2016/08/8-ways-to-deal-with-negative-social-media-comments.html
Kensing, K. (2017). When All Else Fails, Consider a Useless Job. Retrieved from Career Cast: http://www.careercast.com/career-news/useless-jobs
Weber, R. L. (2013, October 10). The travel agent is dying, but it's not yet dead. Retrieved April 7, 2017, from CNN: http://edition.cnn.com/2013/10/03/travel/travel-agent-survival/
Travel Weekly. (2013, August 3). 80% booking holidays online, finds stud. Retrieved April 7, 2017, from Travel Weekly: http://www.travelweekly.co.uk/articles/41280/80-booking-holidays-online-finds-study