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Saturday February 16, 2013

Travel (Face)bookings

Malaysians rely strongly on social media to fine tune their travel decisions.

WHILE browsing through the Facebook pages of family and friends, you may feel a sudden urge to experience the places they have visited ... and soon, you find yourself engrossed in travel blogs. Worst, you book tickets!

But know this: you are not alone.

In the recent Text100’s Digital Index: Travel And Tourism study by Redshift Research, 46% of Malaysian respondents – compared to a global average of 26% – regard Facebook as important to help inspire and reaffirm travel decisions.

The same percentage of Malaysians would also share travel content that their family and friends might enjoy seeing. The likelihood of Malaysians valuing eco-tourism locations is high as well – much more than the rest of the world.

The survey polled 4,600 respondents in 13 countries, and was carried out last October through online interviews.

Although a substantial number of Malaysians would prefer travel blogs to fine-tune travel decisions, the reliance on social media is much stronger than the other 12 countries surveyed.

“As customers are increasingly short of time to carry out exhaustive research, we suspect recommendations from friends or from those within a specific circle may become a more important part of the online travel landscape,” said Robert Rosenstein, chief executive office of Agoda.com.

The importance placed on peer experience and digital reviews has surpassed that of traditional travel agents. A solid 78% of Malaysians are enthused by family and friends, and are inclined to trust travel columns and websites with holidaymaker reviews over professional travel guides.

While on vacation, 89% of Asia-Pacific travellers – of which 75% are from Malaysia – use travel apps on their smartphones or tablets primarily for information about local attractions and finding their way around. And 80% of Malaysians would be connected to social media if free WiFi is available.

And this “always connected” tendency stretches across the region as travellers from Asia-Pacific are the most enthusiastic about social media – according to the survey, they are the most attached to their mobile devices in the world. As a whole, 72% Asia-Pacific travellers used social media to inspire at least one element on their itinerary of recent travels, compared to 51% globally.

“The presence of the mobile device is quietly but dramatically changing how we behave when we travel,” said Anne Costello, Text100 Asia-Pacific’s regional director.

“As a result, these technology-savvy travellers feel the travel industry needs to do more to keep up with their fast-growing reliance on the mobile device and social media as part of the overall experience,” she said. – Karyn Anne

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