Social media in travel ‘not as important as hoped’, international study finds

Social media and ‘social search’ do not yet play much role in decision-making by holidaymakers, according to new research.

A study of online travel bookers in major markets, to be published next month, concludes social media “is less important than so far believed”.

The findings will be released at the World Tourism Forum (WTF) Lucerne in April.

Those conclusions were supported yesterday by a senior figure at travel comparison site Kayak, speaking at German trade show ITB in Berlin.

Kayak vice-president of package travel for Europe Jan-Frederik Valentin said: “I doubt social search is yet as important as some want it to be.”

Valentin told a major ITB seminar on social media: “I don’t doubt people read reviews before they book, but I doubt it is playing a role in search. We still have a long way to go in that.”

Facebook head of travel Lee McCabe agreed, but said: “People need a filter. Friends can be a filter.”

The WTF study, conducted by researchers at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, sought to answer the question ‘How much value should companies place on a social-media presence?’

It surveyed 1,000 online travel bookers in each of three major travel markets: the UK, Germany and the US.

The results among UK online bookers suggest “a clearly structured website” is the top priority, followed by an offer of suitable travel dates. A social media presence was not rated important.

German online bookers had the same top-two priorities, but with dates more important than the website. US bookers saw “renown and reputation” of a travel company as most important.

Only 15% of online bookers in the UK and 20% in Germany saw social media as important.

Despite the findings, Lucerne University e-tourism specialist Andreas Liebrich said: “Social-media minded customers are more active online clients and more likely to compare offers and bargains.”

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