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The Social Media Usage in Travel & Tourism: The Case of Durham City (Term Paper Sample)

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The task was Social Media Usage in Travel and Tourism: The Case of Durham City. This sample is the actual paper submitted

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Social Media Usage in Travel and Tourism
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Social Media Usage in Travel and Tourism: The Case of Durham City
Introduction
It is with no doubt that the modern society is exhibiting a remarkable development in the mobile technologies and the evolution of the social media. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube have emerged as websites to have a huge influence to the modern business especially in the travel and tourism industry. It has become commonplace for the travel agents to advertise or market big announcements about their offers and travel destinations on the online sites as opposed to the traditional print media. Travel has become too social to the extent that online review sites such as TripAdvisor, Foursquare or Google have introduced functionalities that allow users to connect, say, TripAdvisor and Facebook accounts (Asur & Huberman, 2010). This enables others to see their travel activities and reviews. Gone are the days when people used to rely on the referrals and word of mouth for them to make travel decisions.
With the advent of the internet, ‘electronic’ word of mouth has become the characteristic of social media-savvy travellers, who traverse the online sites in search of the best destinations regardless of the demographic or cultural differences of locations. This paper seeks to evaluate the extent to which social media and the mobile technology applications are being used in the travel and tourism industry. The paper uses the case study of Durham City, England to understand how travellers chose their destinations within the city. The primary data collected through the interviews of a number of travelers forms a substantial part of the evaluation as the results provide insights on how travelers utilize social media sites. A comprehensive review of the literature on the use of social media in the travel and tourism sector is likely to reveal the factors that influence information acquisition by travelers before making a trip. It also highlights the possible implications for the travel agents, tourism marketers, and online booking sites with regards to the marketing strategies that need to be employed.
Literature review
Given the fact that ‘social media’ is relatively a new term in the study of modern human interactions, the review of the various academic literature reveals that there is still no agreed meaning of term that can be utilized in all instances. Some of the terms that have already been used explain the meaning of social media include; social software (Richer and Koch 2009), user-generated media (Shao, 2009) and social websites (Kim, Jeong, and Lee, 2010). Other are user-generated content websites (Dotan and Zaphiris, 2010) and Web 2.0 (Constantinides, 2009). However, one fact that stands out is that the concept of social media has been widely accepted across the board and, therefore, academicians know exactly what they are pursuing. In a more general definition given by Kaplan and Haenlein (2010, p. 61), social media can be defined as a conglomeration of various internet-based applications built on the principles and technology of Web 2.0, which easily enables a person to create and exchange User-Generated Content (UGC). Safko and Brake (2009) expounds on this definition by adding that other than the media, social media also may refer to the practices, activities, and the behaviors of people from different online communities who gather with the sole aim of sharing information, knowledge and views by use of conversations.
Most often, the term social media has exclusively been associated with social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, among others. However, the truth is that those sites only represent a subset of social media. For the purpose of this study, this paper will be restricted to such sites because it is what travellers utilize the most before, during and after their travel. Social networking sites have one characteristic in common in that they allow users to create profiles on which they can "post”, "tag”, "share”, or "blog”. The profiles normally connect with other profiles so that all users can view the activity of one another on the site (Akehurst, 2009). The content generated by these social media platforms may be used by the consumers to understand better the products, brands, or services they are about to use. In contrast, marketers and suppliers, the content generated by consumers are restricted to be shared among themselves. Thus, the creation of a ‘collective intelligence’ may prompt marketers or travel agents to understand the dynamics of the consumer tastes and preferences in order to create services that meet their satisfaction.
Social networking sites
It is undoubtedly clear that social networking sites like Facebook have digitalized the human interactions in the modern world. As people try on a daily basis to get more friends and make new groups, the social connections have been maintained thereby leading to a decrease in the face to face communication (Mack, Blose, & Pan, 2008). The owners of these sites have also identified the need to keep changing the design and introducing new functionalities as different purposes arise. Initially, Facebook was a social platform strictly for the students of a certain university. However, as years went by, it grew extraordinarily to become the leading social networking site in the world where people of all ages, classes, nationalities or gender can communicate and interact freely on a daily basis. Facebook has more than 950 million active users worldwide (Callegaro & DiSogra, 2008). According to Facebook.com, there are more than 2.7 billion shares and more than 3 billion likes daily which users make on their profiles. This is in addition to the 300 million photos they upload on a daily basis.
In the tourism sector, TripAdvisor is the world’s largest travel review site (Web 2.0 site) that travellers across the world use on daily basis. The site serves nearly 75 million people per month, particularly those seeking to get more information on their desired destinations and, therefore, make adequate travel plans (Del Chiappa, 2011). Additionally, the website has more than 70 million real travel reviews and opinions that the potential travellers can use as a source of trusted advice on travelling. Travel agents, resorts, hotels and other tourism stakeholders utilize this information in improving the services and observing the general trend of their visitors. (TripAdvisor.com). TripAdvisor is connected with Facebook through an application known as Tripfriend where travellers or tourists can get the kind of information they need from their close acquaintances about the selected destinations they intend to visit or tour (Dholakia & Durham, 2010).
Blogs or Weblogs
Blogs sometimes referred to as Weblogs, are a type of websites that are sustained by the periodic posts made in an online journal format. The entries are normally displayed in reverse chronological order. Travel blogs are characterized by texts, images, and links to other different media that relate to travel and tourism (Technorati, 2010). Some of the popular blogs in the tourism industry include Travelplanet, IgoUgo and Realtravel. According to Gretzel and Yoo (2008), it is absurd for any modern day travel to embark on his/her trip without seeking travel advice and suggestions from blogs. They add that visiting a number of travel blogs not only to provide ideas for making trip decisions but also to increase the willingness to visit the same destination once again.
Some recent studies support the idea that online travel blogs have a huge impact on the travel decision making the behavior of people. For instance, the latest study by Universal McCann in 2010 found out that more people are using blogs to scrutinize carefully their destinations and the experience they are likely to get regardless of the cost (Fischer & Reuber, 2011). The survey reveals that nearly a third of the people who intend to travel read blogs as their main source of trustworthy information. Moreover, destination management organizations, as well as other tourist businesses, rely on the online blogs to get the feedback from their guests on the experience and services rendered for future improvements.
Impact of social media usage on consumer behavior
In the tourism industry, the consumer behavior has always relied on the developments in the information technology and the internet. For instance, Web 2.0 has tremendously changed how we prospective consumers make their travelling decisions and the kinds of travel-related products they purchase. Ranging from the information search to the final product consumption, social media has become an indispensable part of tourism and travel business (Göritz, 2007). Thus, for marketers, social media has become the most dependable evaluation platform where they can analyze the consumer experiences and make adjustments where necessary. One of the features of social media that make this possible is the ability of the customers to talk to each other and, therefore, spread the information through the word-of-mouth (WOM). This is the electronic word of mouth that spreads faster than the traditional WOM. Some of the services that may be slightly hard to rely on the WOM are the high-risk products like leisure travel (IPK, 2010). They tend to be intangible in nature thus making it hard to make pre-purchase assumptions. Just like in the traditional WOM, it is nearly impossible for the businesses to control the nature of the conversations happening on their products. Electronic word-of-mouth can be at times detrimental to the business as compared to the traditional as customers who feel dissatisfied tells no just tens of people but ...
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