Social media use jumps in managed travel space: study

Travel managers see increasing value in social media platforms as a way to enhance a corporate travel programme, according to a report.

Published: 01 Jul 2011

Travel managers see increasing value in social media platforms as a way to enhance a corporate travel programme, according to a report.

For the past several years, industry insiders have been warning corporate travel managers that they ignore social media at their own risk. That warning seems to be resonating as increasing numbers of travel professionals say they see the value of social media sites as a way to enhance a corporate travel programme.

According to the results of a spring 2011 survey conducted by AirPlus International, 59 percent of those surveyed believe social media helps travel managers understand what is most important to travellers and anticipate their needs, a significant jump from the 41 percent who said the same in a similar AirPlus survey last year. However, that knowledge doesn’t always translate to concrete action in supplier choices: 42 percent said social media sites help travel managers select partners based on information shared by travellers, leaving a gap of 17 percent between understanding needs and using that information to determine partners, according to the latest edition of The Wire…from AirPlus.

There were also leaps in perceptions of benefits to travellers: two-thirds of those surveyed (66 percent) believe that social media sites increase traveller satisfaction through real-time knowledge sharing—up 18 percent from last year. And 40 percent believe such sites encourage and improve traveller camaraderie and morale, more than double the 19 percent who said the same last year.

Given the numerous ways that travel professionals believe such sites can enhance a corporate travel programme, it’s no surprise that the survey also showed a growth in the numbers of those who participate in social media platforms themselves. Whether for personal use, professional use or a combination of the two, 83 percent of respondents indicated they participate in social media sites this year, compared to 77 percent last year.

While 39 percent of the respondents did not know if their travellers’ use of social media sites for travel recommendations and services had changed within the past year, 40 percent say that usage has increased and 21 percent believe it has remained the same. Not one respondent thought usage among travellers had decreased, a mark of how commonplace social media has become.

When asked about specific social media platforms, respondents showed a clear preference for several social media sites, whose usage has increased in the past two years. LinkedIn users, for example, which held virtually steady in 2009 (58 percent) and 2010 (59 percent), jumped to 74 percent this year, while Facebook users grew more modestly, going from a low of 45 percent in 2009 to 55 percent last year to 62 percent this year. The numbers who claimed to use Twitter dropped slightly, from 31 percent last year to 28 percent this year, and MySpace has clearly lost favor, moving from 5 percent in 2009 to less than 1 percent this year.

The only other decrease was in the number of respondents who said they don’t participate in any social media platforms—28 percent in 2009 dropped to 23 percent in 2010, which further fell to 17 percent this year.

An increase to 31 percent of respondents who said they participate in industry blogs this year from only 20 percent last year indicates participants are also finding value in conversations with peers.

As a travel-specific platform, TripIt has shown an increase in use, with survey respondents who say they are users growing from 19 percent last year to 26 percent this year.

One potential yet to be explored among most participants is enterprise social tools, such as Yammer and Chatter. Both allow corporations to set up private networks for communication and collaboration within the company, as well as further drill down to create networks for smaller groups. Debuting on the survey this year with 9.2 percent of participants saying they participate in such tools, this is likely to be an area of continuing growth for corporate travel management as more options make their way to market.

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