An ITB Asia survey has revealed that 98% of travel industry respondents said they would increase or maintain travel industry marketing spend in 2011. Some 56% said they would increase; 42% said they would maintain budget levels.
The findings were based on a survey of 212 travel industry professionals, most of whom attended the third ITB Asia B2B travel show in Singapore, 20-22 October.
The survey indicated that within the travel industry in Asia, social media is now deemed a crucial tool to attract new business and keep existing business. While nearly all travel company representatives who responded said that they planned to maintain or increase their social media marketing spend, the majority of companies expected to allocate less than 5% of total marketing budget to social media.
Just over 67% of the respondents reported that they used social media as a business communications tool. Some 63% of respondents said that social media was “most beneficial” for generating exposure for their business.
Social media is coming of age. “At last year’s Web In Travel, most people dismissed social media as hype but this year, there was real and serious discussion about its use in all forms of communication and marketing,” said Yeoh Siew Hoon, organizer of Web in Travel, the travel technology show which is part of ITB Asia.
In the survey, some 81% said that social media was either “very” or “fairly important” in attracting new business. Almost 74% said it was “very” or “fairly important” in maintaining existing business. However, there was uncertainty over social media’s direct impact on the financial bottom line. Over 47% said that it was too early to tell if social media is helping to increase profits or reduce costs.
Nevertheless, 34% of respondents said that social media activities had helped bottom line by either increasing profits or reducing costs.
Despite the financial claims, the survey revealed a much stronger belief in social media as a branding tool. “Enhancing the brand name” came out – by far – as the best reason to use social media. In second place was social media’s ability to create financial returns. Using social media to boost other digital and offline campaigns came third. Using social media as a crisis response tool was deemed its least important role by respondents.
The power of social media as a brand building tool was highlighted by respondent Mr Dao Viet Long, Sales Manager of Bhaya Cruises in Vietnam. He said, “Bhaya Cruises in Halong Bay, Vietnam, does very successful social media, especially Facebook. All promotion campaigns and news are posted on Facebook where we have attracted nearly five thousand friends. It returns lots of business. Thanks to Facebook and other social media tools, more and more people know about Bhaya Cruises.”
The ITB Asia social media survey found that a good review of a travel industry product or service is important. Almost 60% said that a favourable review created “some business”. Over 24% said it created “a lot” of business. Only 16% said that it had “no significant impact” or that they were unsure of impact.
However, a harmful review was something to be avoided.
Nearly 55% said that a negative review on a social media site would have “some negative impact”. Some 16% said “a lot” of negative impact. Fifteen percent said they were unsure. Over 14% were bold enough to say that a negative review had “no impact”.
The travel industry’s eagerness to get involved in social media, yet uncertainty over its usefulness, was summed up by one respondent who said: “Social media is yet another new component added to the spectrum of marketing tools available and necessary. There is no way to stay out of it, especially in regard to future customers. However, traditional tools will also have to be used for a long while. Marketing budgets will be even more fragmented from now on.”