A new YPartnership-Harrison Group survey casts doubt on the influence of social media when it comes to American travelers’ selections of destinations and travel suppliers.
In fact, only 6% of respondents indicated that information or feedback from a social networking site was the primary basis for a decision about a destination to visit or a travel supplier to use for their leisure or business trip, the survey found.
The national survey, “2010 Portrait of American Travelers,” gauged the travel sentiments of more than 2,500 U.S. adults with annual households incomes of $50,000 or greater. To qualify, respondents had to have taken at least one business or leisure trip in the previous 12 months that took them at least 75 miles from home.
Peter Yesawich, the YPartnership chairman and CEO, attributed the low confidence in social media among respondents to the fact that survey participants viewed social media primarily as a vehicle to interact with friends and share information rather than a commercial-oriented forum.
Also, he adds, respondents held other media sources for travel advice in much higher regard than social media.
The following are the percentages of travelers indicating they were “very/extremely” confident in various media sources for destination and travel supplier decisions. Note that Facebook/Twitter (19%) and YouTube (14%) scored lowest among the various categories:
- Family/friend recommendations (81%)
- Travel guidebooks (57%)
- Online travel agents (54%)
- Online advisory sites (53%)
- Company/destination sites (46%)
- Travel agents (46%)
- Media coverage (43%)
- Brochures (39%)
- Blogs (33%)
- Travel advertising (27%)
- Facebook/Twitter (19%)
- YouTube (14%)
So, given the survey results, if you work for a hotel, airline, cruise line, a car rental company or a destination marketing organization and you finally have your social media team kicking into gear, does this mean you should send them all pink slips?
That undoubtedly would be short-sighted.
On the other hand, some travel companies who have held back in social media, arguing that Twitter is over-hyped, may take solace in the findings.
Some social media advocates undoubtedly will question whether the survey truly captured the influence — or lack thereof — of sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.
But, even Yesawich provides a note of caution to those who might use the survey results as a reason to abandon social media as a travel marketing tool.
“Whether and how the influence of social media on travelersâ€™ actual behavior grows may be an entirely different question two years from now given the rapidly evolving nature of the manner in which consumers are discovering and engaging with its content,” Yesawich writes.
In other words, stay tuned.