The Potential Contribution and Uses of Twitter by Tourism Businesses and Destinations

The Potential Contribution and Uses of Twitter by Tourism Businesses and Destinations

Marios D. Sotiriadis (Department of Transport Economics, Logistics & Tourism, University of South Africa (UNISA), Pretoria, South Africa)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/IJOM.2016040105
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Abstract

The tools of Web 2.0 provide opportunities and challenges for the destinations and providers of tourism services to better listen to and understand their current and potential consumers. This article approaches the Social Media, and more specifically Twitter, as a tool for integrated communication with tourism consumers. It takes a strategic and operational marketing perspective to analyze the potential contribution of Twitter, from the point of view of tourism providers. Twitter is regarded as a source of and medium for interactive communication with customers. Therefore, the main aim of this study is to examine and suggest the ways in which tourism destinations and businesses could take advantage of Twitter as a channel of interactive communication and constructive dialogue. More specifically, it examines the potential contribution and possible uses of Twitter by tourism businesses in acquiring customer feedback.
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1. Introduction

During last three decades information and communication technologies (ICTs) have had a major impact on tourism in general. Ongoing developments in ICTs, particularly with respect to the Internet, have led to changes in the way tourism-related information is distributed. These changes have affected the planning and consumption patterns of tourists before and during their trips (No & Kim, 2015) and they have revolutionized how tourism businesses and destinations share information and communicate with people (Morrison, 2013).

The influence of ICTs on business environment and the ongoing outputs of the “digital revolution” for tourism industry are well documented in the literature (Benckendorff et al., 2014; Law et al., 2014). The major impacts have come through websites, Social Media (SM) or Social Network Sites (SNSs) and mobile telephony. The explosion in consumer use of SM has been highlighted by scholars (Leung et al., 2013; Sigala et al., 2012). These so-called Web2.0 tools are presenting a host of new challenges as well as opportunities for tourism destinations and providers.

One of the main challenges in the digital environment and globalized travel and tourism markets is the rise of SM (e.g. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube) that allow tourists to interact and share their views and experiences with potentially unrestricted virtual communities (Leung et al., 2013; Sigala et al., 2012). According to the latest estimations the worldwide audience of SM will surpass two billion users in 2015 (eMarketer, 2015). Since there are more and more people communicating via SM, this approach to meeting and communicating with people all over the world is emerging as a major social phenomenon (Munar & Jacobsen, 2014).

This social phenomenon has revolutionized communications and consequently the marketing of tourism destinations and businesses. One of the main functions of SM is to establish an interactive channel of communication, which is mutually beneficial to both poles/parties involved: it offers a medium for tourists to express their demands, wishes and requirements, and gives providers of tourism services a tool to acquire customer feedback (Leung et al., 2013; Oz, 2015). Whilst this represents a real challenge for tourism providers, it also offers unparalleled opportunities for customer feedback and opens new channels of communication between the latter and their consumers.

It is believed that it is imperative for tourism destinations and businesses to consider how SM are shaping business-to-consumer marketing communications and how may tap into their full potential (Benckendorff et al., 2014; Law et al., 2014; Sotiriadis & Van Zyl, 2013). Within this context, the present paper takes a strategic and operational marketing perspective to analyze the potential contribution of SM, from the point of view of tourism providers. The main aim of this paper is therefore to suggest ways to take advantage of Twitter as a channel of interactive communication and constructive dialogue. More specifically, it examines the potential contribution and possible uses of Twitter by tourism businesses and destinations in acquiring customer feedback for service performance improvement and customer-driven innovation.

Hence, it is structured into four parts, namely: (Section 2) a review of related literature, the academic research on SM in tourism; (Section 3) a synoptic analysis of the ways in which SM and Twitter are used by tourists; and (Section 4) formulation of suggestions and recommendations regarding the potential contribution and possible uses of Twitter by tourism providers in acquiring customer feedback for two purposes – service improvement and customer-driven innovation. The paper is completed by a brief presentation of future research directions and the concluding remarks and recommendations.

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