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Social media use and impact during the holiday travel planning process


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This research paper was presented during the ENTER 2012 (Information & Communication Technologies in Tourism) conference in Helsingborg, Sweden. The accepted paper can be found in
The original publication is available at

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Social media use and impact during the holiday travel planning process

  1. 1. Social media use and impactduring the holiday travel planning process John Fotisa, Dimitrios Buhalisa, and Nicos Rossidesb aSchool of Tourism, Bournemouth University, U.K. {jfotis, dbuhalis} bMASMI Research Group ENTER 2012 Research Track 1
  2. 2. Agenda• Introduction• Literature review• Research Questions and hypotheses• Methodology• Findings• Conclusions, limitations and implications ENTER 2012 Research Track 2
  3. 3. Introduction• Social media (SM): Phenomenal rise in popularity among internet users: o Facebook: 800+ m users; 50%+ log in daily; 700+ billion minutes/month; 250+ m photos uploaded daily (Facebook, 2012) o Twitter: 175 m users; 250 m tweets daily (Twitter, 2011; 2012); o YouTube: 800 m unique users/month; 3+ billion videos viewed daily; 48hours of video uploaded / minute (YouTube, 2012); o 170+ m blogs worldwide (BlogPulse, 2011); 3m new blogs /month (Technorati, 2011) o TripAdvisor: 50+ m unique monthly visitors; 60+ m reviews (TripAdvisor 2012).• Tremendous impact on travel (Gretzel et al. 2008)• “are taking an important role in travellers’ information search and decision-making behaviours” (Yoo et al. 2011, p. 526). o 23% of US Internet users were “somewhat” or “significantly influenced” by SM for their travel / holiday related decisions (eMarketer, 2010) ENTER 2012 Research Track 3
  4. 4. Literature review• SM: “a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of User Generated Content” (Kaplan & Haenlein 2010, p.61).• Types of SM (Constantinides, 2009; Fischer & Reuber, 2011; Kaplan & Haenlein 2010 ; Kim, Jeong, & Lee, 2010; Mangold & Faulds, 2009): o Social networking websites (e.g. Facebook, Linkedin) o Blogs o Content communities (e.g. YouTube, Flickr, Scrib, Slideshare, Delicious) o Collaborative projects (e.g. Wikipedia, Wikitravel) o Microblogs (e.g. Twitter) o Consumer review & rating websites (e.g. TripAdvisor, Epinions) o Internet fora (e.g. ThornTree, Fodor’s Travel Talk) o Virtual social worlds (e.g. . Second Life), and virtual game worlds (e.g. World of Warcraft). X ENTER 2012 Research Track 4
  5. 5. Literature review• Holiday travel related purchases: Complex due to the composite and experiential nature of the holiday travel product, involve high risks and as a result require extensive information search (Sirakaya & Woodside, 2005). o Consumers rely on other travellers’ experiences as a mean to increase the exchange utility and decrease uncertainty (Kotler, Bowen, & Maken, 2010; Litvin, Goldsmith, & Pan, 2008; Yoo, Lee, & Gretzel, 2007). o Content of virtual communities perceived similar to recommendations provided by friends, family and “like-minded souls” (Fernback & Thompson, 1995; Wang, Yu, & Fesenmaier, 2002) o Vital information sources providing access to other travellers’ experiences (Chung & Buhalis, 2008; Yoo et al., 2011).• Web 2.0: Explosion of SM popularity; enable expression and sharing o Enable storytelling, a usual post-travel activity, on a ‘24/7’ basis to large audiences; provide a sense of belonging (Gretzel, Fesenmaier, & OLeary, 2006). ENTER 2012 Research Track 5
  6. 6. Related work• Gretzel, Yoo, & Purifoy (2007): Online reviews facilitate decision making: Increase travellers’ confidence; reduce risk; assist accommodation selection. Used throughout the travel planning process: o Before trip: As a source of ideas, as a mean to narrow down choices, and post accommodation choice in order to confirm the choice made; During trip; after the trip to compare and share experiences; but also as an ongoing process even if there is no trip ahead.• Vermeulen & Seegers (2009): During accommodation selection, consideration of a hotel is enhanced by exposure to both negative and positive consumer reviews.• Mack, Blose, & Pan (2008): traditional WOM is more trustworthy than blog posts. Yoo et al (2009) and Del Chiappa (2011): trustworthiness of tourism-related blogs is second only to consumers’ reviews and ratings found in online travel agents’ websites. ENTER 2012 Research Track 6
  7. 7. Related work• Yoo, Lee, Gretzel, & Fesenmaier (2009): User generated content is perceived as more credible when posted to official tourism bureau sites rather than in review sites, travel blogs social networking sites and content communities.• White (2010): Travel related photos in Facebook generate interest to viewers and can very easily become part of the viewer’s travel plans.Research gapThe majority of existing studies attempt to describe the role SM eitherfocusing on (a) Specific types of SM (e.g. Review sites, blogs); (b)Specific communities (e.g. TripAdvisor), or (c) At a specific stage of thetravel planning process. No adequate academic research on the roleand impact of SM as a whole throughout the holiday travel planningprocess. ENTER 2012 Research Track 7
  8. 8. Related workCox, Burgess, Sellitto, & Buultjens (2009)• SM are mostly used before the trip (primarily for accommodation selection, rather than during the evaluation of destination choices). During and after the trip their use was very limited (data collection 12/2007).• User generated content was perceived as less trustworthy than traditional sources of information (i.e. official tourism websites and travel agents).• Sampling issues (mailing list of an official tourism website), hypothetical and not actual travel behaviour. ENTER 2012 Research Track 8
  9. 9. Research questions and hypotheses• RQ1: To what extent and for what reasons are SM used during the holiday travel planning process? o H1: SM are predominantly used before the trip for information search purposes.• RQ2: Do SM influence holiday plans? o H2: The higher the perceived level of SM influence on holiday destination choice or accommodation choice, the more likely is that changes would be made to holiday plans.• RQ3: Are SM more trustworthy than traditional sources of holiday related information? o H3: Holiday travel related information provided in SM is more trustworthy than mass media advertising, travel agents and official tourism websites. ENTER 2012 Research Track 9
  10. 10. Methodology• Data Collection (October 2010): o Online questionnaire survey commercial online research panel o 900 panellists in 12 Former Soviet Union Republics (Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan) o Returned: 368 questionnaires (41%), used: 346 o Screening: Have taken at least 1 holiday trip during last 12 months o Intro statement: Examples of SM websites in six categories: Blogs, photo & video sharing websites, microblogs, wikis, social networking websites and travel review websites (Constantinides, 2009; Fischer & Reuber, 2011; Kim, Jeong, & Lee, 2010; Mangold & Faulds, 2009; Xiang & Gretzel 2010). ENTER 2012 Research Track 10
  11. 11. Methodology• A number of questions to enable them recall their last holiday trip• Measures: o 12 statements describing use of SM, 5 from Cox et al. (2009) o Perceived level of SM influence on destination and accommodation choice: 7 point scale (1=“Not Influential At All”; 7=“Very Influential” (Lo, Cheung, & Law, 2002). o Trustworthiness of holiday travel related information sources: 13 sources via 7 point Likert scale (1=“Strongly Disagree”; 7=“Strongly Agree” (Cox et al., 2009). ENTER 2012 Research Track 11
  12. 12. Research Findings• Profile of sample o Gender: 65.6% females; 34.4% males o Age: 18.2% <25; 38.4% 25-39; 30.9% 40-54; 12.5% 55+ o Education: 30.3% Completed secondary school; 69.7% University graduates o Country of residence: 64.2% Russia; 35.8% Other FSU Republics. Proportion approximates distribution of actual internet users between the two regions (InternetWorldStats, 2010). o Level of SM use: 49% visit SM websites several times a day; 36% almost every day, 9% only sometimes per week, and 3% very rarely. ENTER 2012 Research Track 12
  13. 13. Research FindingsA. SM usage levels and reasons for use POST-TRIP PRE-TRIP As per Cox et al. (2009) DURING TRIP H1: SM are predominantly used before the trip for information search purposes. H1 Rejected ENTER 2012 Research Track 13
  14. 14. Research FindingsA. SM usage levels and reasons for use No significant differences in usage levels among age groups, level of education, and region of residence, except: Pre-trip: To confirm that I made a good destination choice Male 24% χ2(1, Ν = 346) = 4.64, p = .03 Female 35% During trip: Post-trip: To provide comments and reviews about To share my experiences and photos with my my holiday experience friends and / or relatives Below 25 25.4% 23.8% 25-39 20.3% 36.1% 40-54 9.3 22.4% 55 and over 9.3 11.6% χ2(3, Ν = 346) = 10.62, p = .01 χ2(3, Ν = 346) = 12.28, p = .01 ENTER 2012 Research Track 14
  15. 15. Research FindingsB. Perceived level of SM influence on holiday plans Influence on Influence on Destination choice Accommodation choice Mean scores* (SD)All respondents 4.84 (1.63) 4.61 (1.81)Before your final decisions about your last holiday, didyou make any changes to your original holiday plansbecause of other travellers’ opinions, reviews, photos,videos, or other information that you found in SMwebsites? (n=273)I am not sure / cannot remember 2.2% 2.75 (1.50) 2.75 (2.36) if I made any changesI did not make any changes 33.7% 4.10 (1.80) 3.93 (1.91)I did make few changes 49.5% 5.25 (1.37) 5.02 (1.58) to my original holiday plansI did make significant changes 14.7% 5.35 (1.21) 5.00 (1.73) to my original holiday plansPearson Correlation test: 1 r(268) = .34, p <.001 r(268) = .27, p <.001 2(*) 7-point scale: 1=“Not influential at all” to 7=“Very Influential”1 2 As influence from SM on destination / accommodation choice increases the more likely is that there are changes in the holiday plans. H2: The higher the perceived level of SM influence on holiday destination choice or accommodation choice, the more likely is that changes would be made to holiday plans. H2 Accepted. Research Track ENTER 2012 15
  16. 16. Research FindingsC. Trustworthiness of travel related information sources I trust information about holidays provided by… (N=346) Mean* (SD) Friends and relatives 6.36 (1.14) Information provided by other travellers in various websites 5.15 (1.41) SM 4.61 (1.37) 6 3 Official tourism websites (state / government owned) 4.36 (1.57) Shows or documentaries in TV, in radio, or articles in newspapers and magazines 7 3.97 (1.45) 4 Travel agents 3.83 (1.36) 8 5 Advertisements in TV, radio, newspapers and magazines 3.56 (1.35) (*) 7-point Likert scale: 1=Strongly Disagree, 7 = Strongly Agree) 3 t(345) = -9.442, p = .000 4 t(345) = -18.019, p = .000 5 t(345) = -21.890, p = .000 6 t(345) = -3.024, p = .003 7 t(345) = -10.634, p = .000 8 t(345) = -14.453, p = .000 H3: Holiday travel related information provided in SM is more trustworthy than mass media advertising, travel agents and official tourism websites. H3 Accepted ENTER 2012 Research Track 16
  17. 17. Conclusions• SM are used during all stages of the holiday planning process (before, during and after holidays) however, to a different extent and for a different purpose.• In FSU Republics, SM are mostly used: After the trip for sharing experiences and photos, and during the trip to stay connected with friends. Possible reasons contributing: o Russians’ high level of engagement with social networking websites (comScore, 2010) o Very low individualist / very high collectivist nature of the Russian culture (Hofstede, Hofstede, & Minkov, 2010).• In relation to Cox et al. (2009): Differences in terms of SM use among national markets, supporting claim by Gretzel et al. (2008). Also indications for differences in trustworthiness of SM. o Such differences may not be present in closely related national cultures (e.g. Russians vs other F.S.U. Republics), but more evident between distant national cultures (e.g. Australians and Russians). ENTER 2012 Research Track 17
  18. 18. Conclusions• Strong correlation between social media level of influence on destination and accommodation choice, and the changes made in holiday plans before final decisions were taken. o As the perceived level of influence from social media on destination / accommodation choice increases, the more likely is that there were changes to holiday plans in terms of destination / accommodation selection.• Friends and relatives evidence the highest level of trustworthiness among the information sources examined, followed by information from other travellers in various websites. o In contrast to the findings of Cox et al. (2009), this study found that information from other travellers in various websites is trusted more than official tourism websites, and travel agents. ENTER 2012 Research Track 18
  19. 19. Managerial implications• SM are being used during all stages of the holiday travel planning process, however to a different extent and for a different scope.• In combination with Cox et al: o Preliminary indications: National source tourism markets behave differently in terms of scope of use, as well as in levels of trustworthiness among travel related information sources. Therefore: National source markets should be studied individually prior to the design and implementation of SM campaigns.• The “during the holidays” stage is a challenging domain: Lower SM use that the other stages. Creative strategies needed to stimulate increase use• No need for major differentiation in SM campaigns aiming at travellers in those two regions, since minor differences between Russia and the other F.S.U. Republics source markets in terms of the impact of SM on the holiday planning process: ENTER 2012 Research Track 19
  20. 20. Limitations• Findings apply only to the specific geographical context (F.S.U. Republics) and therefore cannot be generalised especially to other national markets with distant cultural characteristics• Not a random sample due to the self-response nature of the specific online panel survey;• No treatment for non-responsesFurther research• Equal research emphasis in all stages of the travel planning process.• Need of cross-cultural studies to substantiate claims about differences in SM use between national cultures. ENTER 2012 Research Track 20
  21. 21. Thank you School of Tourism Bournemouth University, UK Visit the BU eTourism ENTER 2012 Research Track 21