The Role of Social Media in the Travel Industry

By: Brittany James

In the age of the internet, all things travel related come from a screen instead of the pages in a magazine. The use of social media has transformed the travel industry. Instead of traditional vacation advertisements in travel magazines and pamphlets, advertising and public relations specialists are turning their attention to social media. Nowadays, 75 percent of leisure travelers use online travel agencies (Ku, 2018).

The overwhelming amount of research that travelers are doing before taking a trip means that companies need to be credible and have a good brand image. In 2018, more than 140 million U.S. adults did extensive research online before a trip (Ku, 2018). The value of a positive brand image is extremely important. One of the best ways for travel companies to promote their services is by staying active on social media. A study shows that nearly 87% of millennials utilize social media platforms when researching destinations and making travel plans (How Social Media Has Transformed Tourism, 2020).  

The use of social media for travel marketing comes as no surprise, since many platforms revolve around sharing experiences. We’ve all seen the incredibly beautiful travel posts on social media platforms, whether it’s by a travel blogger or a family member. When we see those pictures of beautiful scenery or unique cultures, we are inspired to travel there ourselves.  According to a study, 30% to 40% of travelers under the age of 30, make their travel plans based on how Instagram-able the potential destination is (How Social Media Has Transformed Tourism, 2020).  Advertising and public relations specialists utilize social media to target the wanderlust inside their target audiences through beautiful and interesting imagery.   

In addition to having an active presence on social media, through campaigns and posted content, user-generated content has a significant role in bringing in more travelers. In a study, 84% of millennials cited user generated content as having more influence than paid ads on their travel decisions (How Social Media Has Transformed Tourism, 2020). This is an extremely important fact for travel companies. Positive customer reviews make a new client more likely to buy into your company. While social media is a perfect platform for customers to share their positive experiences with a travel company it can also be a company’s downfall. If there is enough negative buzz surrounding a company, then the even most inspiring visuals can fail to bring in new customers.

A great example of a successful travel company that adapted and excelled in the digital aspect of public relations is Airbnb. They developed an easy way for all users to communicate and share listings across all social media platforms. Airbnb was a pioneer in engaging customers with interactive promotions that even skeptics had to try (Torossian, 2020). 

In my own personal experience, I have been to 20 different countries, without ever stepping inside a travel agency. I started all my independent travels by stumbling across an online travel company that utilized their social media along with promotional videos by travel bloggers. Between the amazing content from influencers and the loads of positive feedback I found on the company on social media, I was completely comfortable taking a chance to fly to a foreign country alone at 18.  

Works Cited

How Social Media Has Transformed Tourism: Apollo Digital Agency. (2020, January 29). Retrieved September 25, 2020, from

Ku, D. (2018, October 18). Why Social Media Matters In The Travel Industry. Retrieved September 25, 2020, from

Torossian, R. (2020, March 2). Airbnb: Transforming Travel Industry using Digital PR. Retrieved September 25, 2020, from

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