Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, pictures of people on vacation are all over social media. Beautiful locations, scenic beaches, and more show up in news feeds with regularity, but this is just one way to use social media when traveling. Beyond just vacationers, the travel industry has also embraced the social media sites. Some sites cater exclusively to travelers, setting up sight-seeing partners or people looking to offset costs by traveling with others, but there is also a dark side to using social media for traveling.
According to the European Travel Commission, almost 20 percent of people consult social media to decide where they want to go on vacation. Not only do they use social media for deciding on location, vacationers are also searching social media sites to see what restaurants or sightseeing destinations their friends have been to. The European Travel Commission also found that Asian users use of social media for travel is almost double that of American or European users.
The sources people are using for research are disparate. Travelers rely on professional online reviews five to eight percent more than they rely on user forums, and that number drops drastically for those who use what their friends might like on Facebook. When it comes to dedicated trip sites like TripAdvisor, people are more likely to trust that information than others. Context becomes an important part of the equation. If a site has a reputation for being knowledgeable about traveling, and its commenters are seen as credible, those sites are trusted the most. Eighty percent of travelers read many reviews, and TripAdvisor is the most respected.
Other sites are closer to the more traditional social media models. These sites do different things to facilitate the travel process. Airbnb allows people to rent out their personal homes to travelers, though users should always be careful. There are increasing reports of people renting through Airbnb who end up squatting in rented places, making life difficult from the rightful owners of a house or apartment for months on end. Some sites connect travelers to one another. These sites allow for users to connect with people already living in the city. They can connect for meals or sightseeing or for a person who knows their way around a city. Users should be aware, though, that some of these people may not be exactly above-board. Jezebel has reported that some of the profile on these kinds of sites may be used for prostitution.
There are other things that individuals are advised to remember when using social media while traveling. While on vacation, holiday makers should never be too open on Facebook or Twitter. There have been police reports of criminals monitoring these social networks to see when people are away and breaking into their homes. While using social media for research could be beneficial, too much openness may lead to other problems.
The world continues to move online, and the travel industry is no different. While people still need to leave their houses to do the actual traveling, it has never been easier to plan a trip from the comfort of one’s own home.
By Bryan Levy