Online Media & The Travelling Industry
What are your life goals? I’m sure travelling around the world would be included in your bucket list, and yes, it’s in mine too. I know that travelling would open up my visions, widen my perspective, and let me learn more about myself. However, have you ever wondered why it is so popular? One reason is because it still sounds feasible, it is something we think we can achieve.
Now let me ask you a question. If we turn back time, let’s say 25 years ago, do you still remember? If not here’s the video to refresh your memories.
Back to when it is so hard to get any information about a place. Back to when we don’t have the internet. Back to when we use travelling guide books to see how a place look like. Back when you had to run office to office for passports and call agencies to agencies to get a discount for those super expensive tickets. Does travelling around the world still sound as achievable?
After the beginning of the internet and Web2.0 which enable online interactions, the world’s use of social media has risen dramatically. According to Pew Research Center from the United States, in 2018, the use of social media sites like facebook, instagram, twitter and Pinterest gained a lot more users in the past 5 years, and many users of these social media websites go on these application several times a day. The internet and social media help facilitate trip plannings and let us find out more about our dream destinations. The increasing usage of social media is one of the key factors that influence us to travel more.
We can’t deny that the advancement of technology and the internet are the factors that influence our desire to travel both how we were urge to travel in the first place, and that it makes things much easier for us, the consumer, and also the people who work in the travelling industry.
First, let’s look at how the change of media and technology affect our media consumption and what it is to the producers.
Information is fast. In present day, we can access to information faster and easier through the power of the internet. The internet, the new media, and the convergence of technology bring the world to your hand. We can see what Grand Canyon looks like or even get a street view of some landmarks online and learn about the history of the place with just a tap. Moreover, the rise of social media let you see what others are doing, where they go, or what they eat. These are information you can get without asking, just open the website or the app you can get everything about everyone so easily.
How does the change of media and technology affect our media consumption and what it is to the producers?
In addition, since we can now access to online information anywhere and anytime, the amount of our media consumption also increases. People stays on their phone now longer than when they had a good old Nokia 3310. The more we consume, the less we concentrate. The attention span when we use smartphones is way shorter than when we read a book or watch movie in a theater because we can zap around between different apps in our phone.
Transmedia Storytelling and Ways of Marketing
In the view of producer, they have to adapt to the consumer’s behavior in different platforms. Therefore, many companies use ‘Transmedia Storytelling’ to get their information through to the consumers. Because one person doesn’t stay in only one platform and they don’t always have the same interests, they are everywhere and they are different from each other, so Transmedia storytelling is using different mediums depending on what fits each social media platform the best to get the most out of it. That’s why we see vlogs on YouTube and the pictures on Instagram and content that have more text and tend to be more elaborated when it comes to Facebook. The use of transmedia storytelling also help producers gain more customers because the creators can attract people with different lifestyles by making their brand feels relevant to the audience. This is why you might see posters of a beach as an airline ad during the winter at the bus station, influencers making travel vlogs sponsored by the same airline and when you actually get on the plane, they sells toys for children with airplane related content. It might be airline teddy bears or painting books with the airline to create brand awareness among children too.
As shown in the figure above, transmedia storytelling method builds the message in a way to make it fit into each other seamlessly.
How Much Do We Travel Compared to Before?
In 2002-2003 Web2.0 started to get coined and was mainly about people becoming more interactive for users and it started to become more of a two-way flow compared to before. In 2004 people has started to use internet even more, Traveloka started out, booking.com came in 2005 and travel sites just evolved.
By 2009-2010 Pinterest, Facebook and Tumblr was famous platforms people visited, blogs were something you read and influencers started to become a thing. By comparing this to the amount of international arrivals worldwide we can also see a increasing numbers during these years.
Expedia, Agoda, Airbnb, Traveloka
Putting it in the perspective of the travelling industry, the technological convergence let us do everything on one device. With our computer or laptop, we can book flights on websites like Expedia and compare hotel room prices on Agoda or even book some local’s apartment via Airbnb, and the fact that these websites also have their application smartphones increase the accessibility and availability, make it easier for the consumer to reach out to information they need. This is the work of the ‘semantic web’ which mesh the scattered big data together into a well organized and categorized information, so it can be accessed faster and easier. Further, digital marketing has become a key influencer in our daily lives with native advertising looking just like organic content that don’t interrupt you on the social media platforms.
Now let’s move on to how what we see on the internet influence our decision
Today, we are living in the age of postmodernism. The age where nothing has its own value, everything is open for interpretation, and it all depends on the eye of the beholder. Therefore, what is very valuable to one man’s eye may not be the same in others view.
This goes along as we are also living in the golden era of visuals. We are all attracted to aesthetics, what we define as beauty, and we all thrive for what is called the hyper reality, the picture perfect. The hyper reality is everywhere now, and sometimes we are not even aware of its existence. We get influenced by not only normal advertisement but we also see edited posts and content on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and YouTube displaying mostly a happy time with a lot to explore and enjoy on vacation.
One group of people other than the travelling related company who produce and inject the idea of ideal beauty into consumer’s mind are the influencers. The contents that we usually see by influencers on Instagram posts are very much like a hybridity of a normal ‘Insta influencer’s’ daily life with positive reviews and beautiful ‘picture perfect’ images that helps you or let you experience where they have been. This creates an image of an ideal lifestyle of ‘happiness’ and ‘wealth’ in the social media flow with us consumers being exposed to it all the times. These contents basically urge us to go visit places that we saw through the social media, so we can have that ideal lifestyle too.
After seeing all of the information and the picture perfect we want to see with our own eyes, the decision to make is ours. Where would we choose to go, when is the best time to go, and at what price would it be worthy. As a wise man once said “the battle is in the consumer’s mind.”
When the decisions have been made, we search for information to plan out our trips. We finds reviews of hotels that we are interested in or find out which restaurant has the best food in the area. There are many choices we can pick from including guide books, but the internet made everything so much easier. Now, with web2.0, the internet users can generate their own contents and write their own reviews of the places they have been to. In Thailand we have websites like Pantip to find review forums for anything we could possibly think of, from restaurants to hotels to travelling destinations.
The thing about these forums is that the information they provide are very much scattered and unstructured, so it is hard to find exactly what we need. The solution to this problem are review sites like trip advisors or yelp where reviews are written spontaneously, fresh from the customer’s experience. However, when looking for reviews for restaurants or hotels, consumers usually trust customers review more than the official sites, and we usually beware of those paid influencer reviews. Instead, we look for advocates, the real and honest reviews to help us plan out our trips.
Trip Advisor’s Yelp
Digital World and Future of the Traveling Industry
The travelling industry has been changing and adapting to the advancement of technology and the consumer’s use of media, and there are much more possibilities to come in the future. Planning a trip may be even easier and faster.
The upcoming technology that may enter the travelling business is virtual reality. Virtual day tour for people who can not take a lot of day offs or virtual hotel rooms to let us see what we will get paying big money. Further, VR could also help with children or first time travellers to guide them what they have to do before they go on vacation or practice finding terminals in big airports before they go on vacation.
Another possibility for the future in the travelling industry is AI and combined with the semantic web that will provide specialized budget packages and tours that will help you plan your vacation with lower price and cheaper tickets to different attractions where you can book in advance, so you don’t have to wait in line for hours. If we’re lucky we might even get an estimated number of how many people who will be at the place at the time.
Since we are all living in the era where we can access to information from anywhere at any time, we may be able to make more flexible and spontaneous trips having an app that helps you make a last minute travel plan and help you make decisions. Imagine being capable to plan your entire trip according to your lifestyle and liking, that would be so wonderful wouldn’t it? Of course nothing is for sure, but the digital era we live in is definitely one of possibilities.
By what we have discussed about in the post, we can easily imply that the travel industry has made a terrific job developing into an easier and efficient way for people to be able to travel and promote travelling thanks to the mass media and various sites. To explore new places, relax and get out of your own reality for a while is awesome. Just remember that there’s always a reality we don’t see on pictures, everything is not always good as it seems and don’t forget to clear your cookies before you book anything, it can save you lots of money.