Potentially, how important is the role of social media (Facebook, twitter etc.) in tourist consumption? By Farhaan Syed Mansoor
To be able to understand the question and derive at an answer, one needs to divulge deep into defining the concepts of ‘tourist consumption’ and ‘social media. One has to also comprehend the continual changes in the demands of tourism consumers and the subsequent innovative promos, terms and notions in tourism that need to be propagated. One will also need to understand, the widespread dialogue over the web through the social media. This has prompted agencies to come up with novel ways to promote their business enterprises and regions. Thus the births of terms like medical tourism, educational tourism, and creative tourism. These circumstances have made the tourism industry immensely dependent on social media for survival. I shall then lay out different forms, categories and strategies of social media and their measured influence and impact on tourism. The use of the word ‘potentially’ conveys the great importance of the role of social media in tourist consumption. Although the word potential depicts a positive surge sometimes it can represent a negative trait. Thus we will see that social media has become an indispensable tool for success of tourism. What is tourism consumption? I was enticed by the definition of tourism consumption in the ‘Journal of Travel Research ‘by Arch G. Woodside and Chris Dubelaar. They say, 'A tourism consumption system (TCS) is defined as the set of related travel thoughts, decisions, and behaviors by a discretionary traveler prior to, during, and following a trip. ‘Humans tend to have lingering thoughts that eventually turn into opinions. Opinions pave way for the behavioral pattern that will ultimately affect the decisions. Pleasant thoughts will lead to favorable opinions that in turn extract a good behavior and eventually generate positive decisions. It is here at this point the challenging shift in TCS has begun to occur. What is the shift in TSC? In the past, people choose a vacation destination based on the literature or the photographs in a brochure or magazine or sometimes based on the geographical or historical importance of that place. Beside the theoretical knowledge of the facts, their minds were open and receptive to the anticipation and the actual experience. The expectations were reasonable. They were more than happy to have actually been there and seen the place of their choice in person. They too carried home a sweet or a sour experience at the airport, aircraft, hotel or the trauma of infrastructure challenges. But then it would get carried forward to their family and friends or to their colleagues at the most. Today the digital technology has raised the bar for the tourism agencies close to infinity. Cinematic locations and micropixelled images on LED and plasma screens have raised the expectations of the consumer. If the colours of the oceans and the sky do not match the ingrained image in the eyes and minds of the consumer at the selected location, the tourist promotion campaign is doomed. Thanks to the prevalent social media and its instant vast coverage, one person’s TCS can become the make or break tool for the tourism enterprise. The journey and the favorable or fateful interactions of an individual traveler has the potential to build or break the reputation of airlines, hotels and resorts, tourism ministries of nations and governments of a country. What are the challenges to create a tourism market? Since people have the option to see some of the best geographical locales sitting in the comfort of an air-conditioned theatre or on the life size digital screen in their home they are rarely excited by the colourful adventurous tourism advertisements. Let us not forget we are dealing with a generation that buys Wii fit to stay fit!! Therefore the need to think outside the conventional box arises here. The dearth...
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