Social Media’s Influence on Travel

When you are planning a trip, what do you do first? Research a city? Talk to friends or family for suggestions? Set a budget? Look at airfare? I am guessing at some point of your planning process, you look to online reviews and maybe you even post a Facebook status asking your network of friends for recommendations. Whether it is a Trip Advisor review of a hotel, an Instagram photo of a beautiful beach, or choosing Airbnb over a traditional hotel, our traveling habits are becoming increasingly influenced by social media and online reviews. Consumers can document every detail of their trip and share their experience with the world – the fun, incredible parts of a trip as well as the horrible parts.

 According to a survey by Braun Research, 97 percent of millennials are now using social networks while traveling and 84 percent of Facebook users admitted in a PRSA Travel & Tourism poll that viewing their friends’ post actually influenced their own future travel plans. The transparency social media provides can have positive and negative results for a travel related company. Additionally, such companies can leverage their own presence on social media to connect with potential customers.


How Social Media Changes the Game of Travel for Consumers:

Companies have to work harder now to please their guests. Sites such as Yelp or Trip Advisor provide access to millions of reviews. Users can post pictures of hotel rooms, amenities, and food. Consumers value the reviews and input of others. A picture of an average room at a hotel may deceivingly portray a spacious and open room, but a Yelp review will tell consumers what it actually is like. The same goes for airlines. Every few weeks there seems to be a viral Facebook story that has been shared by thousands of people either praising an airline or complaining about a terrible experience with an airline.

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Companies have no control over what their customers post on social media. Take for example the Carnival Cruise fiasco of 2013 when passengers were stranded at sea for five days without working toilets. Of course news outlets will pick the story up – but hearing the real time narrative from passengers aboard carries much more weight. Watching news coverage might persuade customers to look at a different cruise line for their next vacation, but a detailed depiction of life on the stranded cruise ship can ruin Carnival Cruise’s reputation (and quite possibly the cruise industry in general) in some consumers’ books forever.



Interestingly, consumer generated content has even prompted a response from hotels, airlines, and restaurants in some cases. Instead of complaining to a customer service representative, consumers take to social media to rant about their experience. Delta will reply to a person’s tweet apologizing for delays, errors, and bad experiences in general. Other companies will try to offer discounts or refunds as a way to show users they have addressed the problem. This ultimately shows that companies value their perception on social media so greatly, they are willing to sort through and respond to even the smallest complaints.



Lastly, sites like Airbnb are changing the way people travel. Instead of booking a room in a hotel, consumers can book a room, an entire apartment, or an entire house in many areas of the world. Users can choose from all types of accommodations and narrow results by price, location, dates, and rating. Travelers can post their review of the accommodation. Airbnb offers diverse locations – some of which hotels could never offer like a tree house in Africa. Celebrities even use Airbnb. If you can afford $10,000/nightly rate, you can stay in the same New York City Penthouse as Kim Kardashian.



How Social Media Changes the Game of Travel for Companies:

Although certain developments, such as the rise of Airbnb, have hurt traditional travel, the mass adoption of social media do carry many benefits for companies involved in travel and tourism. Companies can engage with customers on social media by promoting deals, sharing photos and stories from users, and publishing travel tips and ideas. Instagram is a great tool companies can utilize to showcase destinations.

Furthermore, companies can utilize targeted advertising to reach their ideal audience on social media platforms. Airlines often track users searches and then buy targeted ads promoting deals to a particular destination that appear on person’s Facebook Timeline. Advertisements like this appear on my Timeline all the time. Sometimes they even have the lowest price for a particular flight I recently searched.


Personally, I like to read multiple reviews when it comes to booking a trip. I have definitely been persuaded by user’s reviews – sometimes it is the selling point for me and other times I continue to look elsewhere. I value the transparency reviews provide. However, I have never written a review myself. I always talk to family and friends about my experience so maybe one day I will be inclined to publicly praise or criticize a company.



  1. katieInc_ · ·

    Great post! I presented last week on how the social media is impacting consumer travel decisions, so I find this topic so interesting. I think the data you were able to gather on the impact of Facebook and other social media platforms on the travel industry validates this topic. It’s not just a “hunch” that social media is impacting the travel industry — it’s a proven fact.
    I loved your example about the Carnival cruise. I think social media is not only providing more relatable information to prospective travelers, but it is empowering travelers with stronger voices and making companies like Carnival pay closer attention to them.

  2. Nice post! Social media has definitely had an impact on travel. For me personally, before every trip I always have to research places to go on Trip Advisor and places to eat on Yelp. And, before booking hotels I always check the reviews on Trip Advisor first (since you can’t really trust the hotel’s website. Those photos always look better than they actually are). And, like you mentioned, customers can easily go on social media to slam the hotel (or airline) that wronged them. Social media has made travel much better for us, but definitely has created more work for these companies.

  3. emmaharney21 · ·

    Great post! I thought you made a lot of fantastic points. This posts reminds me of a discussion we had in class about virtual reality and how that may affect the travel industry. We talked about how it may change the necessity to travel for work or even leisure. With VR, meetings or family dinners could appear to be in the same room while people are across the globe. What are your thoughts on this?

  4. vicmoriartybc · ·

    As someone who enjoys both traveling and social media, I really liked this post! I think another feature of travel sites like TripAdvisor is that they often provide fun digital incentives for users to fill out reviews. For example, when I was studying abroad last semester, I would fill out a review for a hostel or destination on TripAdvisor, and then be able to place a dot on a map of the world to indicate that I had been there. By the end of the semester, my map had dots all over it. You can also work your way up through different “levels” of reviewing based on how many reviews you write, which makes it into kind of like a game. These are really fun features that make the websites more interactive and better for users!

  5. Ha. I was thinking that @ktoc3 was going to be interested in this post, and she was the first commenter! Personally, I find the Twitter customer service for the airlines to be particularly good (in some cases). I would much rather interact through that channel than either on a website or by phone.

  6. As someone in the midst of preparing for study abroad, your blog makes me think of all the online reviews and friends online that I’ve talked to in organizing my travel plans. I remember back when I was young, my family would just go straight to travel agencies to ask about flights and travel deals; it’s crazy to think that with the power of the Internet, online ads, and most importantly, reviews, that middle man is not necessarily needed to facilitate travel transactions. What are your thoughts on how social media has affected the role of travel agencies in the travel industry?

  7. Great post! Another great consumer and company benefit here is the socializing of deals. Flash airline sales are a great way to get to a place cheap and for airlines to fill unused seats. While you used to have to see an ad to know about sales, these are now often being re-tweeted and posted by friends within your own circles.

  8. cmackeenbc · ·

    It is cool how consumers can get real-time updates on travel experiences unfolding across the globe. Though this is a pain for companies that fail to please their customers, the real-time aspect of social media platforms are conversely so useful to these same companies, as they can resolve issues far more quickly than by phone or email. They are additionally forced to respond this quickly in order to control their reputation–again, a huge benefit for consumers. I know I personally use both Instagram and Twitter for travel. Instagram functions as a pre-travel research database, as I can visually explore the places I am considering going to before arriving there. Twitter, on the other hand, is more of a mid-travel or post-travel tool, as it is often the quickest way to communicate with travel companies when there is or has been an issue. Great post!

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