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Tourism and social networking, Part 2
Zinc study tracks "vacation planning 2.0"

Vacation planners rely heavily on the advice and recommendations of friends, family and colleagues - and, increasingly, their social network connections. Even at the information-gathering stage, in which it does not (yet) have as much influence as websites or traditional media channels, social media can still play an important role for tourism operators and marketers in reaching more potential customers.

Marketing issues such as these are addressed in the tourism component of The Bridge, Zinc Research's annual omnibus survey of Canadian online user segments. This article, based in part on a recent presentation delivered by Zinc president Brian F. Singh at a Travel Alberta conference, uses data drawn from the most recent survey (December 2010).

Attention, vacation information shoppers...
Canadians typically do a lot of planning for their vacations, both to choose their destination and to scope out their options in terms of accommodations, dining, activities, etc. In the Bridge survey, respondents reported using a mean average of five different information sources to help them find what they were looking for. A total of 26 information sources were rated, as shown in the chart below; highlights include the following:
  • Search is supreme: Not surprisingly, search engine research tops the list (used by 47% of respondents).
  • Websites deliver steady traffic: Next to search engines, it follows that the websites they point to would have the next-highest ratings, ranging from commercial sites (32%) to destination sites (37%) and accommodation websites (38%).
  • Pass it on: word of mouth travels fast and far: 37% of survey respondents seek out vacation ideas and advice from their friends, family and other colleagues.
  • Old school media alive and kicking: Tried-and-true vehicles such as brochures and travel guides (each at 31%), travel agencies (28%) and newspaper travel sections (24%) remain popular even among heavy Internet users.
  • Social media trails the pack but it's coming on fast: Social media platforms do not score highly as a source of vacation information but, from a tourism operator's standpoint, even here their numbers are not insignificant. Marketers can potentially reach as many people (16% of respondents) via YouTube, for example, as they would with far-more costly TV ads.


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Social media channels can significantly affect vacation planning decisions, and that's just the beginning. Other articles in this series look at the impacts and opportunities posed by social media both during and after the vacation experience. For more on the tourism series, and to see articles dealing with other social networking trends and impacts, click here.

For further information on this and other omnibus research initiatives, contact Zinc Research president Brian F. Singh.