Role of Social Media in Travel Planning and Tourism Destination Decision Making

Role of Social Media in Travel Planning and Tourism Destination Decision Making

James Malitoni Chilembwe, Frank Wadilika Gondwe
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1947-9.ch003
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Today, tourism firms use social media to communicate and inform their clients about tourism destination offerings. Trip planners are utilizing social media to make informed decision making about tourists' destinations. With information technology and social media, travelers can get updates on their booked flights and hotels at a tourist destination. The growth of social media usage in tourism industry influences most of the firms to start adopting using social media. This chapter, therefore, focuses on the role of social media in travel planning and tourism destination decision making. It evaluates five cases whereby clients' use travel planning decisions but also changes or curtail plans as a result of social media communication. The survey study uses a simple random sampling procedure and interviewed 792 travelers using a structured questionnaire in ten tourist destinations covering developed and developing countries. The key results revealed that 92% of travelers make a booking but also change or curtail travel planning decisions for holidays through social media alerts.
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Social media (SM) has become a popular platform for many travelers as well as people’s daily lives (Kim, Lee, Shin, & Yang, 2017). SM is used for general social networking, chatting, and information sharing (Chung & Koo, 2015), for business to grow the firm through product and services marketing (Chilembwe, Mweiwa, & Mankhomwa, 2018). Travel firms such as tour operators and travel agents have embraced information technology, mainly social media platforms, to market tourism destinations (Chilembwe et al., 2018). SM plays a significant role in travel planning and destination decision making, not only by travelers but also to the travel firms as they organize trips to various places of tourists’ interests. According to Lei, Nicolau, and Wang (2019), the advancement of the digital era in using social media channels has brought about new types of booking channels. It is called “SoLoMo” applications meaning; social, location, and mobile-based. Using mobile social channels, travelers can interact with the applications and have access to information they need more efficiently but also make their bookings in a simplified manner (Kim & Connolly, 2012; Thakran & Verma, 2013; Lei et al., 2019). Moreover, the SM accommodates several functions, for example; one-to-one interaction between a traveler and service provider as well as WeChat services. The chats are enabled using several options for communication such as social communities, emoji, video chat, and voice messages (Wang, Xiang, & Fesenmaier, 2016).

Besides using SM for travel planning, statistically, trends have shown that there are increased numbers of independent tourists who mainly rely on information technology to book their travel preferences. For example, Kim et al. (2017) indicate that more than half (53%) of the Chinese and United States of America (USA) travelers book their trips using digital facilities like mobile applications. More so, by January 2016, about 31% of the world population has had active social media accounts, they spend an average of over 2 hours a day using social media (Kim et al., 2017). Interestingly, the youths lead in the usage of smartphones and smartphone-embedded technologies which include social media as 89% find their access to social media thorough smartphone (Zhang, Omran, & Cobanoglu, 2017; Hawk, van den Eijnden, van Lissa, & ter Bogt, 2019). Active Facebook users alone as a social media reached 1.7 billion per month by mid-year 2016 of which 1.03 billion were recorded as average daily active users of Facebook using mobile devices alone (Kim et al., 2017). However, the number of social media active users daily, including those who use other devices like computers or combined with mobile devices is likely to be higher than 1.03 billion. Comparatively, as of January 2019, the social media statistics of consumer adoption and usage was found to be on the higher side. According to Chaffey (2019) report, the total world population was 7.676 billion (56%), unique mobile users 5.112 billion (67%), internet users 4.388 billion (57%), active media users 3.484 billion (45%), and mobile media users 3.256 billion representing 42%.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Travel Planning: The process of collecting all the relevant information and create a strategy regarding movement, lodging, sightseeing, and expenditure for the journey.

Tour Operator: A firm that arranges tourists’ holidays in terms of travel, accommodation, activities, and attractions.

Tourism Destination: A place or area that is dependent significantly on the attraction resources to generate its income.

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

Travel Agency: An intermediary firm that works on behalf of airline, accommodation, car hire, and cruise ship but can also sell its own holiday destinations

Social media: A digital platform used for networking, chatting, and information sharing.

Booking Channel: An online system or agent that facilitate the reservation of a flight, hotel or car hire.

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.

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