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Travellers from the Asia-Pacific region are leading the way when it comes to social media usage, with over 70% of APAC travellers saying they used the channel to gain inspiration for at least one element of a recent trip, compared to only 51% globally.
These figures come from recent research, the Digital Index: Travel and Tourism Study, which is based around the responses of 4,600 people from 13 different countries.
The report examines how digital technologies have contributed to fundamental changes in the tourism industry, and specifically highlights findings that demonstrate APAC respondents are ahead of average in terms of digital usage.
The social media influence
The use of social media across Asia-Pacific was far higher than any other area, indicating that travellers in the region are potentially more digitally-savvy than other parts of the world.
This appeared to be particularly true for respondents from China and India, where findings showed that individuals in these countries regularly use travel and internet reviews to make initial holiday decisions far more than any other country.
Findings also showed that 44% of APAC travellers use social media to help inform their decision of destination, compared with only 14% in EMEA and 18% in the USA.
Similarly, when it comes to searching for hotels, vacation activities and attractions APAC consumers are happy to turn to social media for inspiration and ideas with 36%, 35% and 34% of consumers respectively using these platforms.
This is in stark contrast to other regions where all percentage numbers were below 20%.
As expected, usage of social media was noticeably higher among travellers from the younger generations, with more than 70% of consumers ages 18-34 using social media when researching trips.
This figure is 20% higher than that of consumers aged 35-54 and almost 60% higher than consumers aged over 50.
The research also evidences that APAC consumers are big fans of apps, with 89% saying they use travel-related apps on their smartphones and tablets when holidaying.
Offline still resonates
One of the most interesting findings from the report was that while the finer details of a trip (where to stay, what to do, etc) are heavily influenced by social media, initial holiday planning and destination choice is most often influenced by offline sources.
Nearly two-thirds (63%) of respondents globally said that travel recommendations from friends and family were critical when it came to making their decision, 42% get inspiration from television programmes and 39% still use a traditional travel agent to plan their holiday, showing that offline operators still have an important place in the travel industry.
Because of these figures, APAC Regional Director at Text100, Anne Costello, stresses that travel companies should not invest all of their resources into turning digital, but rather use certain aspects of digital to better service consumers:
Widespread Asia-Pacific enthusiasm for social media is definitely not a signal for the travel industry to invest solely in digital.
Travel and tourism operators need to integrate their traditional and new communications channels, but more importantly they need to focus on delivering content which their customers actually want to receive.
Standalone promotions and loyalty programs, for example, don’t seem to be resonating with consumers any longer; they need to be part of an integrated communications approach.
Importance of multichannel marketing
It's no secret that the impact of various online platforms and social media is huge and incontestable - and those within the travel and tourism industries need to continue to trying to work within these complexities.
Currently, Costello believes the travel industry could do more to benefit from an integrated communications approach. And, she explains, consumers now expect it:
Travel and tourism operators need to be thinking more about what their customers expect out of their holidays, where they turn to for relevant information, and how they connect with their friends and family as the number one source of influence on travel decisions.
Integrated communications strategies are a must, but they need to be preceded by a nuanced understanding of the customer – not the other way around.
As the fastest adopters of digital technology when it comes to travel, Asia-Pacific consumers are experiencing more benefits and challenges alike than the rest of the world.
As a result, these tech-savvy travellers feel the travel industry needs to do more to keep up with their fast-growing reliance on the mobile device and social media as part of the overall travel experience.