There are few things that have been hit harder by the social media wave than the travel industry. In fact, most people these days can hardly remember what it was like before the days of the Internet.
The internet has become more than just a complementary tool, it is now an essential component to every vacation or adventure. A vast majority of travellers rely on the internet to make their travel plans, and about half read reviews of the places they’re going to online. Interestingly, only about 16% seem to actually post any of the reviews, giving credence to the 1-9-90 rule, which states that a small minority of web users are responsible for the creation of a vast majority of the content on the web. Thus, large portions of curious travellers are reliant on the expertise and drive of a few select travellers who deign to post their views. Thus, interestingly enough, the travel industry is another example of the gift economy in action.
The reason why so many travellers use the internet to access more information about their destination, plan their holidays and tell others about their trips abroad is the improved reliability of online information over the last decade or so. But another significant factor is the rise of the smart phone, which has unshackled the web from its desktop prison and given it a new lease of freedom in the pockets of explorers around the globe. Thus, anyone can just whip out smartphone to access their GPS, or find last minute deals on flights or hotel room (which indeed 30% do) and stay connected with their peers who might themselves be exploring another corner of the planet.
Travel companies haven’t been oblivious to these trends. According to one survey, nearly all travel companies have a Facebook account, and 75% have Twitter profiles. Social media is a ‘top 8’ driver of traffic for a majority of travel sites.
Travel companies have taken to the promise of the internet like a migrating duck to a Canadian lake. As their relationship becomes more and more symbiotic, the returns to the average traveller on the ground can only become greater. This is the age of the connected traveller. Ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough, that he can’t ‘check in’ from.