It’s not exactly a big surprise, but ReadWriteWeb a popular technology blog, “officially” reported that social media was gaining serious ground in the race with travel experts as an “influencer” in the traveler’s planning process and decisions.
The article gained credibility when it was Retweeted by the big public relations news service, PR Newshound.
The perception that “peer recommendations have overtaken the knowledge of travel specialists when it comes to the make-or-break point for on-line purchases,” says ReadWriteWeb, is consistent with the trend across all categories of on-line commerce.
But it may be premature to say so.
If a traveler’s first time trip to Italy is simply wonderful and he/she fell in love at that small hotel in Naples, then the recommendation and content will reflect that.
If a travel professional has been to that same hotel several times (or one like it) and noted the deterioration of services, or the inferior quality of the amenities based on his or her other travel experiences, that content will likely be more useful.
The topic, and the realization that peer-to-peer reviews may eventually have more clout than the authority of professional travel reviewers, was a closely watched discussion at the World Travel Market in London.
Tnooz reported that travelers addicted to using social media when planing a trip used these tools:
• Trip Advisor (66%)
• Facebook (34%)
• YouTube (20%)
• Twitter (17%)
It also reported that a survey of about a 1,000 travelers revealed that one out of three used some sort of social media when planning a trip.
An impressive number, but that leaves some 64% of travelers who did not use some form of social media.
The conventional wisdom seems to suggest that while social media has not yet overtaken either the on line buying process or the opinions of travel professionals, it is poised to do so.
The caveat most travel professionals point out is the subjectivity of peer reviews and recommendations, and the questionable depth of travel experiences reflected in social media’s comments and content.
One university is studying the affect of social media on the “inspiration” stage of travel planning, claiming “inspiration” leads to bookings.
And another noted that extraordinary power of Trip Advisor where 35% of travelers changed their hotel bookings after reading a review or seeing a video on Trip Advisor.
Why, the writer wondered, aren’t hoteliers encouraging more reviews..and responding to them.