Social media has changed almost every single industry thanks to its highly interactive features, but the travel industry is another story. It's been revolutionized by social media because it really delivers the "in-person" experience thanks to selfie photos, check-ins and status updates. Perhaps even more importantly, customer service and specifically, customer complaints have really taken the travel industry to a new level.
Some complaints have actually gone viral prompting a response from such companies as hotels, airlines and restaurants. It seems that travelers have found a loophole when it comes to customer service. Rather than waiting hours on the phone for communication, they can simply take their frustration to the company's social media page and publicly challenge the company to address their complaint.
Case Studies in Social Media Affecting Travel
Customer complaints are the most obvious point of interest, as a customer's complaint can go viral quickly, as was what happened with singer Dave Carroll and Sons of Maxwell, who were so frustrated by United Airlines' unfair policies towards protecting valuable luggage that they created a music video of complaint entitled "United Breaks Guitars." In a short time, the video went viral, earning over three million hits and earning Dave Carroll mainstream attention all over the world.
However, the changes are not only in negative reporting. With easy snapshots via digital devices, it's easier than ever before to trade photos, communicate directly with businesses, and find great deals in real time without having to make intricate plans beforehand. The medium allows family members and friends to connect on a global level and the ability for travelers to share their thoughts, feelings and even the very images that make a wonderful vacation.
Sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp allow vacationers to read reviews of companies, and oftentimes companies directly respond to reviews. The "always-on" feature of social media allows instant replies for vacationers and travel companies. Businesses can now improve their online profile through social media without the need for highly expensive advertising campaigns. Online advertising via geo targeting gets results and associates the company with the vacation experience itself.
Travelers can also meet up with new friends via Facebook group and other meet-up plans and plan itineraries together. In short, it's all about sharing-sharing with not only friends and family but future travelers, as vacationers provide insights into their unique experiences.
According to some surveys, 97 percent of millennials are now using social networks while traveling, while over 50 percent are eager to meet other people staying at their hotel. Meanwhile, 84 percent of Facebook users admitted in a PRSA Travel & Tourism poll that viewing their friends' post actually influenced their own future travel plans. It's certainly a friendly and outgoing trend and it's something that only benefits the travel industry as a whole.
This trend has certainly taken its toll on the travel agent or real estate agent, who formerly had to plan itineraries and walk their clients through the experience. Now with this new sense of transparency, consumers have gained the power back and are becoming more resourceful in booking their own destinations for greater savings.
Therefore, travel agents are forced to become more social media friendly and even more well connected to offer superior rates than can be found booking trips site to site.
The owner of Heartland Rentals, based in Gatlinburg Tennessee, explains the virtues of social media. "Social media allows a dialog between travel company and visitor that was previously not available. As a traveler, you can share experiences and ask questions. It helps others to know what other people are doing and what attractions are the must-see destinations of a location."
Other travel companies seem to agree with that sentiment; owner of a similar cabin company, Diamond Rentals, states that social media has changed traveling by diversifying the once complacent travel and real estate industry. "It's not just a matter of having one social media page, but being flexible, and having a strong networked presence. Many clients actually start by finding inspiration on Pinterest, then find deals on Twitter, then they share photos on Facebook and InstaGram. They use everything from apps to sites to social media platforms to create their own deal."
Summing up the change, the owner states what the travel industry is quickly learning. "We meet clients where they're at. They're gathering together on social media and so that's where our attention goes as well."
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