How the Decade’s Rise of Social Media Modified Travel
Over the past decade, social media has changed the way we communicate, connect, and, yes, travel.
According to Statista, 36.5 percent of people use social media as inspiration and ideas for travel, and 60 percent share photos on social media while traveling. It searches over 1 million travel-related hashtags every week. Whether we want to travel or vacation, travel and social media are interconnected.
Although social media keeps us connected with family while on vacation and offers space for instant reviews, these online platforms have had negative impacts such as overtourism and showcasing how intricate the impact social media has on travel.
To gain more insight, we spoke to leading companies in the travel industry to find out how social media platforms are affecting our travel today.
Tammy Levent, CEO of Elite Travel and founder of TASK, says, “Social media has helped [travel agents] Growth of our industry. We are more represented than ever before. “
Passport Online, a company that publishes social media content for travel agents, found Facebook shares for travel agents increased 44 percent in the first six months of last year, and in 2018 social media exposure increased Channels by over 100 percent compared to 2017.
“You have agents who built their entire business on social media and have a large number of followers. [which] is crucial when you have such a big competition on social media, ”explains Levent. “The longevity of constant material, blogs, posts, videos and photos is key to building your agency with social media. By creating a space of approvals and likes with great content, many agencies have grown. “
Regardless of how great social media can be, Levent says that is not the only key to success: “Some agents only rely on social media to build their business, and it’s not a smart move, they need to be seen on all platforms will … your brand, marketing efforts and a website need to work together. Customers still need to be confident that they are working with a legitimate company. “
As the founder of TASK, Travel Agent Success Kit, Levent has found that Google outperforms social media in terms of travel agents connecting with consumers. If agents want to use social media, she has found that Facebook is the best platform to connect with consumers.
Travel public relations
Thanks to social media, travel brands are no longer limited to print media. It provided a new place to share campaigns and ads that could be targeted to specific travelers with the push of a button.
“With the advent of social sharing and the associated desire for experiences with material things (especially by millennials), social media has become a target for travel-related decisions,” says Allison Focella, Senior Digital Strategist at TURNER. A PR and social media agency representing tourism associations like the Bermuda Tourism Authority, adventure tour companies like REI Adventures, and hotels like The Lodge at Chaa Creek in Belize.
On the marketing side, Focella says social media analytics has played a pivotal role, saving travel brands huge amounts of time and money while giving customers travel ads that are more specifically tailored to their needs.
“Social media analytics allows for much more targeted delivery and measurement, but often helps us target our PR programs more effectively by showing us what types of editorial content are producing real results so that we can move on with our time and our news Can work more effectively, “she says.
“With older PR metrics, we would measure success by securing an article in a high-circulation publication. In today’s environment, however, we can show when a much smaller niche article in the social world has been shared, engaged, and clicked significantly more, which allows a direct measurement of a PR placement against business goals. “
From TURNER’s point of view, brands use social media best when they use them as they should be used – as a place of connection.
“Social media works best when brands see it as a collaboration with their customers rather than a one-way sales channel,” explains Focella. “Developing the right social strategy based on business goals and user behavior is key. Therefore, we use a hybrid approach of organic social development, custom content development, influencer programming and paid social media. “
Perhaps the best that social media has done is, according to Focella, “to improve the playing field and allow small, independent boutique brands to compete with much larger established brands with significant marketing budgets”.
Small, charming locally owned B & Bs and hotels that couldn’t afford to advertise in travel magazines now have a chance to connect with tourists looking for places to stay on social media .
Adventure tour operator
Intrepid Travel is the world’s largest small-group adventure travel company, and they couldn’t get this far without social media.
“Social media is incredibly important to us as a customer service channel and customer loyalty channel as it provides education and inspiration for our community,” said Amanda Cunningham, Global Social Media Specialist, Intrepid Travel.
As with the tourism and hospitality sectors, Intrepid Travel uses the marketing skills of social media to reach new customers and spread brand awareness. However, unlike other travel brands, they do this with the intention of making travel more sustainable and responsible.
“We recognize that social media has also made the world smaller, which has both positive and negative consequences,” says Cunningham. “The ability to mark places in pictures can draw a disproportionate amount of attention to destinations that are poorly prepared for tourism – and even contribute to overtourism.”
As Cunningham mentioned, geotagging on social media has violated some destinations like the Galapagos Islands and many national parks around the world. Social media users drawn to stunning photos come up with these goals and leave catastrophic damage to the ecosystem and community. Intrepid Travel tries to combat the negative effects of social media with responsible posts.
“We were able to use our platforms to shed light on lesser-known regions, clear up misunderstandings when traveling, and raise awareness of responsible travel initiatives,” explains Cunningham.
In the past year, they used social media to announce new initiatives, such as being the first global tour operator to ban elephant rides on tours and sharing authentic travel stories from people like Annette, founder of a body positive community, Fat Girls Traveling.
“We don’t just want to be the best travel company in the world, we want to be the best travel company in the world. Regardless of whether we partner with influencers or brands who value sustainable and inclusive travel as much as we do, it is fair to say that our focus on people and the planet will only intensify in 2020, “says Cunningham.
Marriott International announced today that it has signed contracts with hotel developers to open two all-inclusive oceanfront resorts in the Caribbean – an 800-room Marriott hotel in Jamaica and a 283-room autograph collection in Curaçao. https://t.co/mpvxMsurPz pic.twitter.com/52dWLTZkjO
– Marriott International (@MarriottIntl) November 14, 2019
Diana Trowbridge, Vice President, Owner, and Franchisee + Brand, Marketing and Digital at Marriott International Caribbean & Latin America, says being on social media isn’t just enough for hotels.
“It is no longer enough to just have a social media presence. As a company, we need to be familiar with social media, ”she says. “Customer service expectations are increasing year on year and consumers are looking for brands to create a seamless experience that spans hotel property across Facebook or any other timeline.”
With social media, a hotel’s customer service is no longer limited to what’s happening on the hotel’s premises. Rather, customer service encompasses personal interactions and the interactions between hotels and consumers on social platforms. When a consumer tweets a complaint, the expectation is that hotels will fix the situation immediately. This is a big job when hotels have to manage multiple social media accounts and serve tens of thousands of customers.
However, Marriott International has risen to this challenge.
“With so many consumers using different social media platforms every day, it was a natural evolution for Marriott to use digital channels as a marketplace where we can target potential customers and spend their time on,” she adds .
Starting a new decade, Trowbridge explains that Marriott is always looking for new ways in which social media can be used to improve the customer experience: “We’re looking for ways to connect with our guests, listen to their feedback, and to help you have amazing, memorable travel experiences. Social media helps us with this. “
Travel blogger & social influencing factors
Travel bloggers became famous with the introduction of sites like WordPress and Blogger, but there’s no denying that social media has been a factor in their continued success.
These days, travelers are looking for travel bloggers and social travel influencers (who are not always one and the same) for inspiration. Popular travel blogger Jasmine Alley explains: “Social media has given travel bloggers a new way to creatively share their trips. Whether via photos, videos, tweets, etc. – we can put together a portfolio of our trips via social media. “
Social media has also given people like Alley the opportunity to start their own business.
“For me, social media actually enabled me to be a full-time travel blogger,” says Alley. “Tourism associations, hotels, etc. use my social media presence to find out about travel options.”
Travel brands like tourism associations and hotels are paying travel bloggers to post content on social media platforms in order to entice the massive travel blogger followers to visit. Because of this new marketing method, bloggers and social influencers are earning full-time wages in a career that didn’t exist 10 years ago.
“As I keep building my blog, I can use the social media income to travel whenever the opportunity arises,” says Alley.
Looking ahead, Alley predicts that photo and video platforms will continue to be the most effective in the travel industry.
“TikTok is an easy way to put travel videos together. I think it’s going to be a big player,” she says. “Also, anything where people can exchange reviews will likely be effective. People want to see what a place looks like and what they should know beforehand to make them feel prepared. “