Peer Influence Mechanism Behind Travel Experience Sharing on Social Network Sites

Peer Influence Mechanism Behind Travel Experience Sharing on Social Network Sites

James Malitoni Chilembwe (Glasgow Caledonian University, UK & Mzuzu University, Malawi) and Victor Ronald Mweiwa (Malawi Institute of Tourism, Malawi)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1947-9.ch002

Abstract

The way tourism consumers share travel experiences have changed tremendously in recent years. There is increased use of technology to distribute travel experiences via social networking sites. Travel companies are increasingly developing their websites in order to network with their tourism customers. These network sites play a significant role in receiving customer feedback using online reviews. As a result, travel companies can utilize their customer evaluations to improve products and service offerings. The visual images and textual postings on network sites have the power to motivate others to embark on travel. This chapter is about peer influence mechanisms behind travel experience sharing on the social network sites. It uses both phenomenology and ethnographic methodological approaches to analyze some of the comments and photographs posted on SNSs by tourists in Malawi. It concludes that most of the tourists traveling to Malawi were influenced by what is being shared on social network sites, yet others do visit out of curiosity to discovering new things.
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Introduction

The sharing travel experiences is not a new concept (Havell & Ross, 1819). What appears to be new, is the increasing and modernised methods of distributing information to both existing and potential tourism consumers (Buhalis & Shaw, 2008; Tussyadiah & Zach, 2012; Wang et al., 2012; Xiang et al., 2014; Hjalager, 2015; Law & Wang, 2018). The digital devices and their applications have completely changed the travellers mind set because they are able to take photographs but also write instant online reviews and store share information to others through various social network sites (Tussyadiah & Fesenmier, 2009; Kim & Fesenmaier, 2017). Social network sites such as websites, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, blogs and Trip Advisor are utilised by travellers when sharing travel experiences through messages, videos and photos (Boyd & Ellison, 2008; Volo, 2010; Munar & Jacobsen, 2014; Kim & Fesenmaier, 2017).

Sharing travel experiences through social media provides several benefits to consumers. Dedeoğlu, Taheri, Okumus and Gannon (2020) provide a summary of benefits as (a) easier access to information, (b) provision of more substantial products and services information from different viewpoints, and (c) the provision of end-user evaluation. Equally, both existing and potential travel consumers may use social media to search for information on where to go, on where to find accommodation options, leisure activities like excursions and night life (Cox et al., 2009; Amaro et al., 2016). It is acknowledged that social media plays a significant role before travelling, during information search (Gretzel & Yoo, 2008). It is also crucial for the travellers to seek for destination information when embarking on the international destination trip for the first time (Simms, 2012; Amaro et al., 2016), of which, most of the information is found and shared on the social network sites for tourism organisations and previous travellers including travel bloggers (Lin & Chen, 2012; Ho, Lin, Yuan, & Chen, 2016; Sahin, Sener & Polat, 2018).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Social Network Site: A digital platform that links people and companies to connect, communicate, market products or service, and share daily or occasional life experiences.

Blog: A weblog of an online personal or company diary of travel experiences or encounters in one’s life time documented to share with others.

Online Review: An approach of evaluating the products or services provided by an organisation in a form of scale ratings or textual information.

Information Technology: A process of developing and maintaining computer systems, software, and networks for the processing and distributing of a company’s products, services and consumers travel experiences.

Tourism: The movement of people from place to place whose purpose is either pleasure or business for over short period of time.

Media Sharing: A system of distributing information through digital processes to keep in touch with the people in a society or community.

Traveller: A person who travels for any other reason, be it business or leisure.

Domestic Tourist: A person who travels to places of attractions or participate in tourism activity within a country of residence for at least a period of 24 hours but not more than 265 days.

International Tourist: A person who travel to another country for tourism purposes for a minimum of 24 hours and a maximum of 256 days.

Travel Experience: A compilation of all activities gone through from the beginning of a trip, during and after trip service offerings critical reflection.

Peer Influence: A form of consumer behaviour motivated or copied from others acting as role models.

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