How Social Media Impacted the Way We Travel?
Whether you agree or not, you cannot deny the significant role played by social media in the advancement and success of most industries, including the travel and tourism sector. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. have risen numerous scopes and possibilities for companies to increase their business and profitability manifolds.
Every day, billions of social media users consume countless pieces of content posted online, some of which compel them to make decisions that they would not have otherwise made. Especially during the pandemic, it drastically changed the way we used to see and connect to the world around us.
People have grown to be heavily dependent on social media even for the most basic daily tasks, from watching “how to” videos to finding inspirations and explanations for everything. This heavy reliance on social media was often the subject of discussion, whether it was to praise it or criticise it. Ironically these discussions were also broadcasted through social media platforms.
Among all the social media sites, with over 2.963 billion monthly users Facebook is soaring way ahead of the rest in the race, with Youtube following after with monthly 2.562 billion active users worldwide, while Instagram and Whatsapp are almost tied for the third place with just over 2 billion monthly active users. Seeing this level of traffic led many businesses in the travel sector to opt for different social media platforms to promote their services and products in various ways. The relationship between social media and the travel and tourism industry goes in deeper than what is generally understood.
The Prominent link of Social Media with Travelling
As an absolute way of promoting one’s brand, the travel and tourism industry’s decision to focus on social media for marketing came as no shock. And in today’s day and age, like most other businesses, they don’t even need to promote their own products on social media. In many cases, the products or services are sold purely through a good review or an attractive post on Instagram or Facebook.
There is no shortage of travel influencers on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. And these influencers always manage to capture or represent their travelling experiences in such appealing ways that it would make anyone want to set out on a similar adventure. Since many people are driven by FOMO (fear of missing out) when it comes to purchasing or participation, social media can be a strong motivator for making travel-related decisions.
This idea is backed up by stats from 2019 research, which suggest that 86% of people have researched a destination after seeing posts by famous and authentic travel influencers. Another report by Statista suggested that over 33% of people look for travel inspiration on social media, and the rest are sharing their own content.
Now that we have covered the obvious link between the two, let’s take an in-depth look at how social media has impacted the way we travel.
Social Media’s Impact on Travelling
Enhanced the Basic Travel Research
Thanks to social media platforms like Facebook, Tiktok, Youtube, and Instagram, which serve the purpose of providing search engines with images and videos, our fundamental knowledge of the world around us has become sharper than before. It just takes us minutes to look up a destination and look through all the necessary information, pictures, ratings, check-ins, and much more about the place with the touch of our fingertips. The accessibility of information online has a greater influence on consumers' behaviour than any other marketing tactic.
Once you hit the search bar, thousands of similar posts from countless travel influencers will flood your timeline, providing you with details that would take you days to gather from elsewhere. The detailed information about places, even from the other end of the world, led travellers to confidently finalise their travel plans. A study in Economics Journal revealed that 91.35% of people in a survey chose a travel destination after being motivated by pictures, videos, and reviews posted on social media by their peers. This provides the potential traveller with an overlook of the services and facilities that will be available at the destination from the viewpoint of a consumer and not the brand itself. According to a report by YouGov, 39% of Gen Z travellers use social media as a source of information and inspiration for vacation planning. Furthermore, if you follow the travel gurus on Youtube, you can learn about many travel hacks that can help you be aware of the situation or culture of a destination, which decreases the element of surprise, tips on how to save money while travelling and so much more.
Accessibility to the Best Travel Deals
After social media detects your interest in travelling, you are bound to come across dozens of travel influencers, marketing ads, and budget-travel experts while browsing through your timeline. This is actually a very convenient way for you to be one of the first ones to know about the great travel packages that are available at the time. Some of these deals will be focused on famous tourist destinations while others might be focused on some important festivals, but all of them will have one thing in common, and that is to help you get the most out of your travel experience in the best possible budget.
Travelling around the world became so much easier these days thanks to the travel marketers competing on social media to give the most budget-friendly options, equipped with a complete itinerary with transportation and accommodation. Sometimes they offer discounts to travel influencers so that they can post about their trip, provide their audience with a step-by-step process and give a positive review of the entire experience, either through photos or videos on their social media pages.
Increased Location Targeting
Until very recently cities like Paris, Venice, Prague, Switzerland, Dubai, New York, Las Vegas and other similarly popular destinations were considered a staple in the tourism sector. While locations like Samarkand, Ulaanbaatar, Malaga, Tbilisi, Tulum and many other exotic and exquisite locations remained under-appreciated. But social media has changed that, and no doubt it’s for the best.
After appearing on the list of the up-and-comer travel destination by TripAdvisor in 2016, Tulum, a small town in Mexico, welcomed a whopping 250,000 tourists in 2017. And again after some of the attractions were hyped up on Instagram in 2022, Tulum reportedly received over 2 million visitors. This record further solidifies the power of social media on consumer behaviour, specifically in this case, travellers.
Mostly for the Gram
As we have discussed above, consumers are often motivated to travel to a destination after seeing tempting photos and videos of picturesque locations on social media platforms. The travel influencers also seek out locations where they can snap that perfect instagrammable shot. This creates FOMO and a sense of envy within their audiences which encourages them to follow the same pursuit and capture a similar moment in the same location. Thus altering the reason for travelling in the first place.
The Downside of this Social Media Influence
We are all familiar with the saying, “You can’t trust everything you see on the internet”. As discussed before, most social media influencers, or in this case, travel influencers, always post the best-looking pictures on their social media. But is that all there is to it?
Did they click that picture on the first try? Or did they take hundreds of photos and just pick the best ones to post? Or have they tempered those images? Who’s to say? But there is no denying that people sometimes alter the original image to make it more aesthetic before posting it online. According to a study conducted by Alliance Global, 36% of millennials admitted to posting misleading content to either glamorise their trips or the destination. Some crop out unwanted parts of the image like graffiti, some alter the background if it is not pleasing, and some even edit the sky to make it look more alive.
As some social media platforms offer monetization and most influencers are paid to promote products and services, they race to post the most attractive contents that will definitely garner more likes and clicks. So the next time you see images of unrealistically breathtaking destinations, take them with a grain of salt.