Much has been written about the importance and potential that social media represents for businesses, brands and organisations in the tourism industry. However, ASTA’s recent Technology and Web Usage survey indicates that although many tourism service providers embrace social media fully, travel agencies let that opportunity pass by quietly. According to the study, almost two in five travel agents don’t see these platforms as valuable, or are convinced that their value is not proven. In contrast, less than one in five travel agents are convinced that social media is an essential channel (Skift).
REVENUE POTENTIAL OF SOCIAL MEDIA
The reasons for the relatively high scepticism by travel agents towards the perceived value and usefulness of social media might be rooted within the goals that they usually try to achieve. Social media still often viewed as a direct customer acquisition channel, rather than a strategic tool to initiate, develop and maintain long-term customer relationships. In this regard, it was found that travel agents hesitate to invest in social media platforms, due to the low potential for generating direct revenue. In fact, nine out of ten agencies that use social media, report sourcing less than five client leads a month over the past three years.
In an age, where dynamic packaging, online travel agencies and increasingly tourism service providers intensify the competition in the market considerably; travel agencies need to carve out their special niche. Although the direct revenue potential through social channels is relatively low, it offers an opportunity for building and maintaining meaningful client relationships. Building those relationships and gaining consumers confidence for offering superior travel advice will increasingly be one of the key factors for achieving competitive advantages over online players. When used in a smart way, social media allows travel agencies to build consumers’ trust, by reinforcing their perceived integrity and competence. Therefore, agencies should go beyond viewing social as a potential revenue channel and start adapting it as a targeted communication tool.
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