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Social media has become an inherent part of travel. It is a means to share experiences with each other and has long been co-opted by enterprises that want to market their travel-related goods or services. Hotels, airlines, attractions, eateries, and tour guides are just some of the services that make use of social media to connect with their audience and bring in new tourists.
More than that, the simple presence of social media itself and the propensity to scroll through other people’s trip vlogs and posts has impacted the way we spend on travel. As of 2021, Statista reveals that the global tourism industry hit around 5.8 billion dollars even with the economic challenges that came with the pandemic. Let’s take a look at the role of social media both on wide-reaching and individual levels.
The Influence of Socials and Aspirational Feeds
Social media’s tendency to draw people in and impact their decisions and feelings is already baked into its name. These platforms carry the enticement of selective social interaction and the engagement of media. People follow accounts they are interested in and end up curating a timeline full of aspirational content.
The biggest “offender” when it comes to using social media posting to encourage certain purchasing behaviors from users are influencers. A post on spending habits and social media by Upgraded Points notes how 70 percent of teenagers trust influencers more than they trust traditional celebrities. The impact doesn’t just affect teens and kids, though.
Influencers bank on their relatability, coming off more like a friend that you can trust compared to a big brand using ads or a celebrity doing a paid endorsement. Even though influencers do get paid to create seeded content and the biggest ones even live lush lifestyles, users are still more likely to trust their opinions because of the parasocial relationship that social media builds up.
Even if users are keener when spotting brand-driven content from influencers, the constant exposure to the feed makes users feel compelled to get out there and do more “social media-worthy” life activities.
This doesn’t just cover splurging on a trip to France, either. People end up buying more things while traveling because of posts they see on social media. We’ve covered some of the ‘Best Gift Ideas for Men’, and while those items are all useful and cool, they also make many appearances on travel posts that make them more appealing to like-minded travelers who want the same experience.
Social media not only inspires and encourages those that consume their feed to follow suit. It also spurns on the “flex” culture that many individuals fall into. As people want to be able to post something cool to get likes, they will be more likely to spend on huge travel purchases and other expenses. A piece from Inside Retail talks about the trend of spending just to boast online, with a survey of 3,064 people in their 20s and 30s revealing around 52.6 percent of respondents think flex consumption is positive because it is important to their self-satisfaction.
Recommendations, Trust, and Deal Culture
It’s not all seedy influencers and flexing on socials, either. Many times, social media encourages more travel spending because it creates a platform where people can find trusted recommendations and great deals. Finding that one good deal on a limited post can be the clincher that makes you decide to finally book that flight.
On the flip side, social media-wary individuals also use the platform as a means to know which sources to avoid. If they see a certain user or brand interacting with a page they deem untrustworthy, this can be enough reason to move on to the next resource. In fact, a report by UNICEF shows that around half of 15 to 24-year-olds use social media and even rely on it, but still don’t consider it trustworthy.
Finally, social media also goes beyond dictating how much we’re willing to spend on travel. It can directly influence what we’re specifically going to spend on. Many users can base their travel plans on stories posted by friends and family, on top of the long list of influencer videos that cover both dream trips and total nightmares. This variety of content directly influences what a potential traveler is going to spend on to ensure their own trip goes smoothly.
It even covers the brand of goods one might opt for. The ‘Travel Essentials List’ we posted covers must-haves like a portable charger, comfy clothes, skincare products, and secure refillable water bottles, among others. Often, social media users will pick a brand that has been present in plenty of posts that feel ‘organic’.