Survey: Family and friends beat social media, guidebooks, OTAs for travel advice

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 travelers’ 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.

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Dennis Schaal

About the Writer :: Dennis Schaal

Dennis Schaal was North American editor for Tnooz.



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  1. Carla Ciccotelli

    Interesting find…although I firmly believe that social media and user generated content is highly influential in the travel industry.

    For me, I always do research online before going on holiday to a particular city or destination and read user reviews to find the best restaurants, hotels, attractions etc. I do also ask my family and friends BUT unfortunately for me, I like to travel LOTS so not many have been to the places I want to go…So social media is a huge part of my travel planning process.

    Read another article recently about Social Media as a Travel Planning Tool which found that 64% said they use social media to make their travel plans and within the 25-34 year old participant group, the number is even higher; 76% look to popular social media sites to plan their next getaway….

  2. Sydney Shore

    I think, for all its intents and purposes people would first go to their family and friends for travel advice on places that they know they’d already visited, but what if they’re going to a foreign location that nobody in their immediate circle has ever been to? I’m not sure how broad that markers were for this survey, but personal information can only go so far, and the convenience of the Internet and social media is definitely something not to be easily dismissed.

  3. Stuart

    First question that springs to mind is I wonder what percentage of respondents were Twitter users in the first place. Obvious that friends and fam most trusted as they’re the ones most familiar with subject’s biases etc. Social media perhaps not so useful got picking an overall destination, but more useful when there on the ground.

  4. Sam Daams

    And erm, looks like WordPress removed my brackets and the word Facebook in this sentence “confident in ‘FACEBOOK’ for destination and travel supplier decisions”

  5. Sam Daams

    I *love* how it required a survey to show that folks still trust family and friends the most 🙂 In all reality though, a lot of what most people do on Facebook is conversing with family and friends. So although we might not be *very/extremely* “confident in for destination and travel supplier decisions”, we are confident on the information we get from our friends and family there. *That* is the power of FB!

    Twitter, yeah, most ‘regular’ folks don’t use it, and those that do use it actively know a lot better than to rely on the quality of the data. Good for bloggers/writers and freelancers though.

  6. Tweets that mention Survey: Family and friends beat social media, guidebooks, OTAs for travel advice | Tnooz --

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