Impact of social media on buying behaviour of consumers in the hospitality and tourism industry

Published: 2023/07/06 Number of words: 1687


The Digital expansion has brought immense growth in internet and social media users.  Before the emergence of the internet, consumers had limited resources to gather information before travelling as brochures, travel agents and word of mouth. The improvement in economic conditions has led to a significant rise in the usage of technological devices which also increases access to the internet and social media. So, social media has a direct impact on the consumers buying behaviour and decision-making process. Over the past few years, social media has become a vital medium for communication and interaction with prospective consumers. The tourism and hospitality industry have adopted digital marketing strategies by which businesses have increased their social media presence. Social media has brought revolutionary changes in posting and sharing travel and tourism-related information, opinion, and experience (Xiang and Gretzel, 2010).

The content shared on social media from travellers provides convincing information related to destinations and hospitality services. Social media is an effective tool to build brand loyalty within the community, develop a relationship with consumers, and create an online distribution channel (Chan & Guillet, 2011). Although social media has benefits, it also has some adverse effects as it questions the reliability of the information shared on the internet. This paper will examine the role of social media in influencing consumers travel and hospitality related decision making and social media impact on the decision-making process. It will further discuss the pros and cons associated with social media in the context of travel and hospitality.

The role of social media in the tourism and hospitality industry:

Social media consist of various internet tools that enable users to generate, exchange and modify content continuously (Noone, Mcguire, and Rohlfs, 2011). Social media network is an online platform that allows users to network, communicate, and collaborate by sharing content with others. Social media is a two-way electronic communication channel where users create and share information via pictures, text, audio, and video. Similarly, Businesses use social media widely for marketing, advertisement, and engagement purposes with their current and potential consumers. Today both businesses and consumers excessively use Facebook, Twitter, TripAdvisor, YouTube, flicker, Snapchat, and Instagram. For businesses, the primary purpose of using social media is to promote and create awareness about hotel and tourism services and consumers use to share their travel experiences, engage with others, to get information about local attractions, restaurants, etc. Consumer assesses how businesses present themselves on social media, customer reviews, ratings, engage with people who have shared their experiences as a part of their decision-making process. Hence, in the process of crucial information search and decision stages, social media re-shape how consumers seek, detect, read, trust and exchange information online (Sigala et al. 2012).

Moreover, social media allows two-way communication that helps in getting immediate feedback and reviews from consumers. Also, blogging with video content is becoming a popular and attractive networking tool to share information. Travel and hotel Businesses use blogs to feature their exclusive products, services, and testimonials. Overall, social media has raised the effectiveness of marketing strategies by reaching a global audience. Since, social media is easy to access, effortless, and convenient, the tourism and hospitality industry has gained more opportunities with the help of social media. Social media has raised the effectiveness of marketing strategies by reaching a global audience.

Impact of social media on the decision-making process:

The pre-travel decision-making process involves four-element starts with considering, evaluating, buying, and enjoying. The purchase of travel or hospitality products starts by considering particular options from interest ones. Therefore, online reviews and feedback have a significant impact on consumers decisions at the initial consideration stage. In the evaluation stage, the potential consumer seeks information from different sources by prioritising requirements. In this stage, consumers start to search and process details from various sources to fulfil their purchasing needs and evaluate several alternatives based on their obtained details before the buying decision (Ayeh et al., 2012). Thus, online information plays a vital role in this stage as it can influence the final decision. In addition, social media have increased purchasing power of consumers by creating better opportunities to explore. From a traveller perspective, social media brings attention to components as popular places, restaurants, and hotels. Thus, social media apps are mainly used in the evaluation phase of travel planning to help decide suitable accommodation, attractions, destinations, activities, and travel modes.

Additionally, tourism and hospitality industry entrepreneurs have identified the shift in buying behaviour of consumers and adopted social media as a part of their digital marketing strategy instead of relying only on traditional marketing. Such companies actively emphasise efforts on creating innovative campaigns to raise brand awareness, brand promotion, which helps to get attention from a large audience. Hence, social media reduces the communication barriers between consumers, companies, and suppliers. In addition, social media generates collaboration opportunities between social media influencers and businesses. Thus, when an influencer shares their experiences online and attracts more consumers it benefits both the influencer and the business. Potential consumers use social media applications to ask questions, read comments from other consumers, compare different services and places before taking their final purchase decisions. Overall, social media have been portrayed as significant platforms for information exchange and interaction between businesses and consumers and among users, as well as wider mediators, controllers, and non-profit organisational stakeholders (Xiang and Gretzel 2010; Sigala et al. 2012).

Pros and cons of using social media on decision making:

The social media analytics system allows businesses and users to track their performance and analyse facts such as the number of followers, likes on content, share, views on their video, and positive and negative feedback. Indeed, consumers trust the information on social media from other travellers more than travel agents, companies websites and other advertisements. So, consumers carefully analyse social media content then transform it into their decision-making process that reduces risk factors associated with the decisions. Furthermore, content on social media is the latest while information through traditional sources might be outdated at the phase of decision making. Similarly, travellers use social media to share their actual experiences, thereby that boosts consumer decision making power.

On the other hand, the particular hurdle experiencing in implementing social media marketing are lack of interaction between customers and social media, lack of commitment, access problems, unresponsiveness to guests, inability to use social media, inaccurate content, lack of communication between different levels (Chan & Guillet, 2011). Furthermore, it is tough to maintain trustworthiness and authenticity with all the information available on social media. Also, due to rise in the number of options and research platform makes the decision-making process complex, time-consuming, and confusing. Meanwhile, negative comments or review, low rating, poor pictures from previous travellers makes consumer uncertain about their decision. Hence, negative feedback also affects the brand’s reputation and overall sales.


In conclusion, social media is a platform where people share their pre-travel, ongoing travel, and post-travel experience. However, social media plays a vital role in increasing engagement with consumers and influencing their decision making. Tourism and hospitality products are intangible and, so it makes buying decisions emotional and hard to imitate. Hence, it is also difficult to evaluate services without experiencing them personally. Thus, social media is an effective platform for communication and an integral part of traveller’s decision making through the experience of others. Considering innovative social media marketing strategies will help businesses to build their brand name. In this context, information obtained from social media and utilising them in purchase decisions indicated the level of influence through social media in tourism and hospitality services. Overall, social media has increased individual’s knowledge of the tourism and hospitality industry. Due to that, there is a rise in the buying power of consumers. At present, the tourism and hospitality industry is highly affected by social media, and its impact on consumer decision making also helps industry professionals to understand consumer’s demands. Thus, considering social media as a fast-growing platform for communication, it is vital to maintain positive content that can benefit both the industry and consumers.


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