Tourism, Social media & Sharing economy

ITB World Travel Trends 2015/2016 has been just published and reports the conclusions of 23rd World Travel Forum of PISA (ITALY) held in October 2015 where about 50 international experts of tourism join for discussing the main issues of tourism with the cooperation of European Travel Commission. I suppose the main outcomes of the conference can be interesting for the followers of the posts of OUTgoing POLAND. and I will publish some abstract of the conclusions (if you are interested in the complete report click here)

The posts aren’t specifically devoted to Polish Tourism (with some very interesting exception) but it’s easy to recognize phenomena affecting also the Polish tourist demand.

Social media now influence nearly one fourth of all international trips, especially travellers’ choice of destination and accommodation, according to new figures presented at the 23rd World Travel Monitor® Forum. But the role of the ‘sharing economy’ in tourism remains controversial. 

Social media are becoming more and more important in the tourism business but their influence on travellers varies significantly depending on what kind of information and opinions they contain. The number of active Facebook users has now reached an estimated 1.5 billion people around the world while other social platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, WhatsApp and TripAdvisor are continuing to grow steadily in many countries. Accordingly, social media are also very popular with international travellers, and about 70% of them are active social media users.

For international travellers the internet is by far the most important source of information, with about 75% using online information as part of their trip planning compared to about one third for travel agencies and about one fourth using information from friends. About 30% of these ‘online’ international travellers actively use social media when researching about their trip, only slightly behind the numbers using websites of destinations and accommodation (about one third) and notably more than those using, for example, airline or tour operator websites, according to World Travel Monitor® figures. (Note: the World Travel Monitor® data covers neutral social media but not online booking platforms that include user reviews.)

More and more international travellers are also actively posting their holiday experiences on social media, with the percentage now having risen to nearly 50%, according to World Travel Monitor® figures. Most post on review sites while some post on blogs.

“Overall, we can say that review sites and travel blogs/forums are the most influential social media in terms of influencing travel planning and bookings, especially for destinations and accommodation, while social networks are relatively unimportant,” Howacker concluded. Meanwhile, the tourism industry continues to have divided views about the impact of the so-called ‘sharing economy’ on its business and about accommodation portal Airbnb in particular. Airbnb now offers about 1.2 million accommodations in 34,000 cities worldwide while rival Wimdu has about 300,000 accommodations in 19,000 cities. In transportation, ‘disrupters’ such as Uber or BlaBlaCar have driven off with large shares of the taxi and ride-sharing sectors.

These firms have grown fast but still represent only a small part of the tourism business. For example, the so-called ‘para-hotellerie’ sector has increased its share of worldwide accommodation by more than 40% since 2007 to reach a share of about 40% of international outbound trips last year, according to World Travel Monitor® figures. However, about half of these were holiday homes and most of the rest comprised long-standing ‘alternatives’ such as bed & breakfast, camping, boats and hostels. ‘Sharing’ accommodation, such as through Airbnb, Wimdu or other such providers, still only amounted to a small share of the global total in 2014.

Nevertheless, experts believe that the sector will continue to gain market share through its combination of low prices and social accommodation (as well as social interaction) even though sharing firms face many legal disputes around the world. “The sharing economy’s growth might be reduced by legislation but it’s unlikely to be stopped and very unlikely to be reversed,” commented consultant Alan Roe. By matching unused or spare assets to potential demand, the sharing economy is easy to use, effective and attractive, he commented. At present, sharing tourism appeals more to younger persons but in time could spread to older travellers as well. In particular, low prices are a key selling point. The average cost of a Wimdu property, for example, is just 35 euros per person per night, Roe said. The top five ‘sharing accommodation’ destinations for international travellers are the UK, Spain, France, Denmark and Italy, where there is plenty of private accommodation on offer in major cities, he pointed out.

Tourism experts participating in the Pisa forum had differing views whether private accommodation portals represented a danger to the traditional tourism industry or an opportunity. On the positive side, some pointed out that such portals could provide additional capacity in cities at peak times such as during major trade fairs or large events, thus ensuring that more visitors could come to the destination. On the other hand, others warned that large-scale renting out of city centre accommodation reduced the overall amount of accommodation available for residents and tended to drive up general rental prices.

Author: Gilberto Zangari

Feel free to report the previous post but please quotes: OUTgoing POLAND, The Polish Tourist Workshop

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