Table of Contents
Role of media and communication technologies in the travel industry
Role of Media and Communication Technologies for Tourists
Over the past years, the tourism industry had depended heavily on marketing using the power of the word of mouth. It used to be our family and friends, who would assist in the planning of our traveling, with the assistance of travel agencies, magazines and tourism guides. With the emergence of digital technologies in the present world however, the word of mouth has been prolonged to a limited group of people who are widely spread all over the world (Volek, 2011). Social Media, a greater outcome of digital technology is now being used to connect travelers to the recommendations and opinions of people all over the world (Volek, 2011).
The development of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), within the last two distinctly different decades, have greatly transformed the tourism sector in almost all parts of the world. Within its tactical level, ICT makes it possible for the e-Commerce to thrive and subsequently assist the tourism organizations to fully maximize their general efficiency as well as effectiveness while at the strategic level, ICT has helped in restricting the tourism and travel chain together with the relationships which are there between the individual tourism organizations and the relevant stakeholders to the sector (Schroeder&Pennington-Gray, 2015). The present cohort of travelers is in the usually inconsistent search for information during the whole period of their travels. Kiral’ova&PavHceka (2015) acknowledges that information is actually the main lifeblood of the tourism industry, and the application of ICT has usually played a very important role in the overall management of the tourism sector. It is actually from the development of Computer Reservation Systems (CRSs) sometime back in the late 1970s to the worldwide distribution systems experienced in 1980s and subsequently the invention of the Internet in the early 1990s that has made the tourism industry become highly confronted with a rise of developments that posed both the challenges as well as opportunities. The tourism industry became among the greatest leaders in the usage of the Internet as this new application could make it possible for them to make a communication more effectively and easily with their potential and existing customers (Campagna, Floris, Massa, Girsheva&Ivanov, 2015).
Statistics have shown that almost all the organizations within the tourism sector have since developed their website, as a majority of them have migrated from just ‘electronic brochure' to very interactive systems that did support reservations, search and subsequently virtual tours.
In the present time, the introduction of mobile computing systems, commonly known as smartphones, that include numerous technologies such as internet, photography, global positioning systems and communication, have enriched the entire social environment even a little bit further in that it empowers the users to have control on their individual travel experience anywhere, anytime (Campagna, Floris, Massa, Girsheva&Ivanov, 2015). The internet, as well as the presently used interactive methods of communication offered by social media, has greatly changed the real nature of tourism and travel communication as well as marketing.
It is an undisputed fact that tourism and travel organizations depend on the internet to help in facilitating their individual users' experience when approaching the destination within an online environment. On the same note, the tourism businesses are putting many efforts in creating of websites, a focal point through which they sell their services and products. Ukpabi&Karjaluoto (2017) mentioned in his article that the development of ICT has greatly changed the fundamental nature of tourism as a sector. This can be confirmed by the fact that the current tourism businesses tend to engage travelers with very rich contents and at the same time be interactive within the visually constructed media spaces. Without any single doubt, information technology will continue evolving and subsequently move the tourism industry to a notch higher.
Despite the great contribution of media and communication technologies in the tourism sector, not much study has been carried on the same topic (Koo, Gretzel, Hunter&Chung, 2015). Change in information technology impacts on the tourism sector and all stakeholders within the tourism sector need to understand this. This paper, therefore, presents a critical review of literature related to use of social media in the tourism sector, specifically, to investigate the important role of media and communication technologies for tourists/travelers and the travel industry; how changes in the former transform the dynamics of the latter (Web 2.0, empowerment, trustworthiness).
Role of media and communication technologies in the travel industry
The usage of social media tends to impact so greatly on all the relevant phases of the travel experience, comprising of the commonly understood in situ. A great number of users of social media from all over the World have gotten access to their respective social media accounts more frequently during their travels (Schroeder&Pennington-Gray, 2015). In a manner which is very consistent with numerous social media patterns, youthful tourists always connect with their respective social media account on a more frequent basis as they travel. Additional literature has even clarified further that male travelers tend to use digital media more often than females while traveling. The use of technology within the past travel might equally be impacted on by the availability of such technologies to be used at home, including the information such behaviors as one plans to travel (Campagna, Floris, Massa, Girsheva&Ivanov, 2015). While numerous studies have made great attempts of examining the application of social media during the period of travel, the influence of the usage of information technology on the perceptions of the tourists as well as their behaviors is yet to be fully explored. In addition to that, the impact of social media application within the past travels has not fully been examined (Campagna, Floris, Massa, Girsheva&Ivanov, 2015). Despite the existence of such gaps, however, it is widely understood that the past travel- associated actions can impact the search of information.
Organizations operating in the tourism industry have always taken advantage of an opportunity in current technology by scaling up the extent of their promotions of products and destinations on social media with the main aim is reaching out to as many potential customers as possible (Koo, Gretzel, Hunter&Chung, 2015). Some given number of tourism organizations like TripAdvisor, Expedia, Yelp and many others offers extensive information beginning from small shops, restaurants, and boutiques to greater sight viewing attractions for all the potential tourism destinations through the application of different social media tools (Volek, 2011).
With close to 200 million users of TripAdvisor until today, with close to one billion Facebook users, all posting various updates and sharing relevant images regarding travel destinations, Social Media has dominated tourism marketing. Travelers come up with images today regarding the tourism destination and establish the expectation they have grounded on word of mouth, previous experiences, common beliefs, advertising, and press reports before attempting to visit a destination (Koo, Gretzel, Hunter&Chung, 2015). Further, on to that, Social Media has also made it possible for the tourism companies to be responsible for whatever they promote via its different channels. Literature states that tourist and travelers are highly prompt and usually voice their individual opinions more actively through the tools of social media like Twitter, Facebook among other websites like Yelp.
Digital technology has generated a very great impact on the whole tourism industry. Consumers are always engaged with sites for social networking to organize for trips, make an evidence-based decision regarding their travels and share their individual experience of a given airline, restaurant or hotel (Altinay, Saner, Bahgelerli&Altinay, 2016). Trip Advisor, for instance, has experienced a greater reaching effect on the tourism industry. The site has more than 50 million visitors per month who are an inactive search of travel information and advice from sources which they trust.
This style of reaching out to the users to get information about the services offered by a given tourism company is recognized by the online community as very authentic and more credible and for majority of the restaurants, hotels and visitor attractions, if they fail to get listed within the first five spots, they are more likely to lose to the other competitors (Leung, Law, Van Hoof&Buhalis, 2013). With close to 200 million users and opinions posted on Trip Advisor currently, and close to one billion active Facebook users who post updates and share images, literature reports that social media has dominated the tourism industry (Leung, Law, Van Hoof&Buhalis, 2013). The case has not been very different between various Countries, a persisch correct in those countries whose economy majorly relies on the tourism industry.
The total number of travelers in the world who use digital media is increasing not only in Major Economies also in some other parts of the world. In the example of US for instance, as per the most recent report by Nezakati, et al. (2015), more than half of the 152 million adult leisure travelers already use digital media platforms either to check prices or ideal destinations of their travels. On the same note, a similar study conducted by Tripathi (2017) showed that almost 50% of the travelers from the United States are registered in more than one global social website. Further studies have subsequently established that more than 40% of the travelers to the United States have become social fans of traveling, signing up as followers of travel suppliers in the famous social websites. It is thus quite important to note that the current online social active population is so appealing to customers segment generating more than $100 billion for the American domestic tourism sector compared to $69.5 billion generated from those who are non-social media users (Hudson&Thal, 2013). Further literature reports that the social media phenomenon has transformed profoundly the communication and technological perspectives of the tourism industry in the world. Such literature argues that based on the fact that information is the main driver of the tourism industry, the wide usage and popularity of the social web technologies have proved to be having a great significant impact on both the demand and supply of tourism (Hudson&Thal, 2013).
Pollock (2013) argues that due to the introduction of applications of web 2.0 that makes it possible for one to freely broadcast their contents; advertising information is no longer presented by the tourism organizations as the travelers tend to have full control of information generation and transmission. In addition to that, the static type of information such as photos or text is no longer sufficient for the potential traveller to come up with since there exists numerous amount of information regarding various tourism destinations found within the web.
In addition to that, further literature demonstrates that social networks such as Facebook comprise of the most frequently applied media tools for promoting and at the same time developing services of different destinations and tourism suppliers, together with allowing the respective travelers to freely interact and thereby get trip bits of advice and support from each other (Baka, 2015). Social networks of the content including Youtube.com and flickr.com, on the other hand, have become a major media channel for creating and spreading propaganda and also for trialling of the tourism marketing campaigns as well as regularly receiving feedback from customers. Based on this kind of analysis, however, and the main advantages of technologies of social networks, it is quite evident that integration of social media into tourism industry can bring very crucial benefits for the marketing and promotion of the company, including increasing the loyalty of a given brand, credibility and information, building of relationship, monitoring and cost-effectiveness (Xiang&Gretzel, 2010).
The impacts that social media have on the purchase intention of travelers and behaviors of consumers are established in numerous academic literature. For instance, according to the study undertaken by Hudson&Thal (2013), one in every four travelers who access the social media online platform did agree that such type of information tends to impact on the decision of their purchase within the long-run. Another research conducted by van Nuenen (2016) had noted that more than 80% of travel review users reported that consumer-generated contents from social media impacted greatly on their final decision to purchase the services and products of such tourism agencies. Additional literature has equally put more emphasis on the increasing importance of social media on decision making among the travel consumers and subsequently their final intention to purchase with the respective tourism companies.
Considering the significance of social media thus, more studies have even suggested that the effects it has on travel purchase and behavior are quite similar to the extent to the influence that the traditional forms of sites for traveling and platforms might be having (Miguens, Baggio&Costa, 2008). Not forgetting the fact that a number of studies argue that social networks and consumer review sites are as highly reliable and credible source of travel information as those of the traditional era, it is only trust that remain one of the most important and debatable factors that influence the ultimate selection and decision of buying by the customer (Miguens, Baggio & Costa, 2008). The major issue revolving around social media effectiveness and usage during the time for planning for travel process is having some relations to the extent to which social network content is genuinely objective and hence has become trustworthy (Miguens, Baggio&Costa, 2008).
For example, according to Zeng&Gerritsen (2014) findings, only 20 percent of all the Mauritius social media users rely on social websites for travel and leisure advice while the traditional channels for information in the tourism industry, including family and friends, brochures and different media, are considered to be much more trustworthy than the real social media and social networks.
Reviewing the process of marketing among tourism firms, however, reveals a vital body of knowledge regarding the challenges faced while seeking to display digital information. According to Zeng&Gerritsen (2014), blogging processes create a community between customers and companies. As such, there are different views about customers and companies — concerning digital technologies for marketing processes. New techniques have been introduced to advertise tourism resulting in evolutionary marketing and service performance among companies (Zeng&Gerritsen, 2014).
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- Kolja Bockermann (Author), 2019, Sociology of Travel. How Media and Communications Impact Tourists, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/540167