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Social Media in Travel: Traffic & Activity
Analysts: Douglas Quinby
Report | Published: April 2010

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  • Summary
  • Contents
  • Methodology

Publication Summary

The social Web has shifted the online experience from searching and consuming, to creating, connecting and exchanging. Yesterday's more passive consumers and Web surfers are today's content generators, collaborators and commentators. This fundamental change in how consumers are using the Web is having an enormous impact on online travel. Traveler reviews, photos, trip planning and sharing, and blogging are all influencing how travelers connect to and interact with suppliers, products and services. Phocuswright's Social Media in Travel: Traffic & Activity is a detailed examination of the role of online social media in travel. This report, conducted in partnership with Circos, Compete and Travelport, examines the impact of social media on major online travel categories, and outlines the implications for travel companies that wish to tap the potential of this highly dynamic form of traveler behavior. Phocuswright's Social Media in Travel: Traffic & Activity includes:

  • Extensive examination of travelers' use of social networks for travel-related purposes, including:
    • The relationship between social network use and travel shopping behavior
    • Segmentation analysis of behavior of online travelers who are also social network and Twitter users
  • Analysis of the "social travel category," organized around traveler review sites, hotel review pages of online travel agencies, travel blogs and social travel guides (community-based trip inspiration and planning)
  • Traffic, referral and conversion analysis of over 50 "social travel category" Web sites in relation to the online travel agency, airline and hotel Web site categories for 2008-2009
  • Referral and conversion analysis from general social networks (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) to hotel sites, OTAs and airline sites
  • Analysis of nearly 1.9 million traveler reviews posted on social travel category sites for 2008-2009, including:
    • Where travelers are posting reviews and how this has changed over 2008-2009 (monthly basis)
    • Which social travel categories and sites are capturing the most user-generated content, and how has this changed
    • Sentiment analysis: how traveler review sentiment has changed during the recession
Despite widespread contraction in the travel industry in 2009, monthly visitors to social travel Web sites rose 34% between 1H08 and 2H09. Knowing how travelers leverage the social Web is an increasingly important key to success for those that need to better understand their customers and improve their ability to connect with them online. Phocuswright's Social Media in Travel: Traffic & Activity gives travel companies the knowledge and analysis they need to take advantage of this extraordinary opportunity. Phocuswright's Social Media in Travel: Traffic & Activity is the first release in Phocuswright's Social Media in Travel series. Additional reports, articles and spotlights will further explore the dynamic relationship between social media and online travel.

Table of Contents

36 Pages

Introduction: The Social Web
Travel and the Social Web
Key Findings
Social Travel Overview
Sizing Social Travel
Social Travel Subcategories
General Social Media Use
Social Travel Activity & Sentiment
Activity Sizing: OTAs & Traveler Review Sites
Social Travel Sentiment
Referral Analysis
Same-Month Referrals and Conversion
Immediate Referrals and Conversion
General Social Networks: Referrals
Facebook Conversion Analysis


How Things Have Changed: The 10 Most Visited Web Sites in 2004 and 2009

Influential Features in Leisure Travel Planning

Online Travelers Who Have Participated in Social Media in the Past 12 Months, 2009

Average Unique Monthly Visitors by Online Travel Category and Annual Change, 1H08-2H09

Average Unique Visitor Annual Change by Quarter for Social Travel, OTA, Airline and Hotel Categories, 2009

Average Unique Monthly Visitors by Social Travel Subcategory, 1H08-2H09

Average Unique Visitor Change by Quarter for Social Travel Subcategories, 2009

Average Unique Monthly Visitors for Traveler Review Web Sites, 2009

Average Monthly Visitors to TripAdvisor's Flight Metasearch and Hotel Review and Year-Over-Year Growth, 3Q09-4Q09

Guest Review Ratings in the Hotels.com Shopping Path

Average Unique Monthly Visitors for Social Travel Guides, 2009

Average Unique Monthly Visitors for Travel Blogs, Quarterly for 2008-2009

Online Travelers' Use of Blogs

Average Percentage of Online Travel Category Visitors Who Also Visited a General Social Network in the Same Month, 1H08-2H09

Log-On Frequency for Online Social Networks

Travel-Related Use of Online Social Networks by Online Travelers Who Participate in Them

Online Traveler Segments Who Have Posted a Review of Any Type of Product or Service Online

Online Travelers by Age Who Joined/Participated in a Social Network

Total Volume of Social Travel Hotel Reviews/Mentions and Room Demand, 2008-2009

Total Volume of Hotel Reviews/Mentions by Social Travel Categories, 2008-2009

Volume of Reviews: Traveler Review Site Category Detail, 2008-2009

Year-Over-Year Growth of Hotel Room Nights Sold and Posted Hotel Reviews by OTA, 2009

Year-Over-Year Growth in Volume of Posted Hotel Reviews by OTA, 2009

Share of All Posted Hotel Reviews on OTAs by OTA, 2009

Monthly Online Hotel Sentiment Index and Average Daily Rate, 2008-2009

Monthly OHSI of Hotel Reviews on Four Largest Review Sites, 2008-2009

Average Annual Percentage of Online Travel Category Visitors Who Previously Visited Traveler Review Site Category in the Same Month, 1H08-2H09

Average Annual Percentage of Hotel Supplier Site Visitors Who Previously Visited a Social Travel Category Site in the Same Month, 2008 and 2009

Average Percentage of Online Travel Category Bookers Who Previously Visited a Traveler Review Site in the Same Month, 1H08-2H09

Average Monthly Immediate Referrals to OTAs and Hotel and Airline Web Sites from Traveler Review Sites, 1H08-2H09

Immediate Referral Conversion Volume and Rate from Traveler Review Sites to Hotel Web Sites and OTAs, 2008-2009

Average Monthly Immediate Referrals to Hotel Web Sites from Traveler Review Sites and Social Travel Guides, 1H08-2H09

Average Monthly Immediate Referrals to OTAs and Hotel Web Sites from Traveler Review Sites and General Social Networks, 2008-2009

Monthly Immediate Referrals to OTAs and Hotel Web Sites from Facebook and MySpace, 2008-2009

Monthly Immediate Referral Booker Volume and Conversion Rate from Traveler Review Sites and Facebook to Hotel Web Sites, 2008-2009

Monthly Immediate Referral Conversion Rate for All Referrals, Google and Facebook to Hotel Web Sites, 2008-2009


Phocuswright, Circos and Compete organized more than 50 travel-related social media sites into social travel categories and conducted two types of analysis:

  1. Referral and conversion traffic from the social travel categories to other key online travel categories with Web traffic analytics data supplied by Compete. "Referral" traffic here refers to all downstream traffic where a visitor is tracked as moving from one Web site to another, and not necessarily a referral (paid or otherwise).
  2. Semantic analysis of the user-generated content on the sites in the social travel categories using Circos' proprietary sentiment analysis methodology.
This scope of this study is the U.S. travel market. Web traffic data is based on U.S. online adults, and semantic analysis of hotel reviews is based on hotel properties located in the U.S. This study analyzed data for the full calendar years 2008 and 2009. The data covered in the study was harmonized to ensure comparability between the traffic analysis and semantic analysis. The traffic and semantic data sets were confined to the same 65 hotel supplier brands, the same online travel agencies and the same 16 airlines. Social Travel Categories This study organizes travel-related social media into the following categories:
  1. Traveler review sites: Web sites that focus on traveler reviews, such as IgoUgo, MyTravelGuide, Real Travel, TravelPost and TripAdvisor.
  2. Online travel agency (OTA) hotel reviews: Traveler hotel review sections of the major OTAs. Included sites are CheapTickets, Expedia, Hotels.com, Orbitz, Priceline, and Travelocity. (Hotwire does not solicit customer reviews but aggregates review content from other sites, so it has been excluded.)
  3. Travel blogs: Blogs are organized into two subcategories:
    • Blog networks or platforms that enable travelers to create their own travel blogs. The two networks included are Travelpod.com and Travelblog.org.
    • Individual travel blogs: This category includes 15 of the largest individual travel blogs, such as Gadling, Travellerspoint, Elliot.org and the blogs of Frommers and Lonely Planet.
  4. Social travel guides: Web sites focused on building community and user-generated content around travel. This category includes sites such as Yahoo! Travel's Trip Planner (travel.yahoo.com/trip), Where I've Been, TravelMuse, WAYN, TravBuddy and TripSay.
The Web is becoming increasingly socialized. As Web sites across the online travel spectrum incorporate more features to build community and grow user-generated content, the distinctions between conventional online travel categories - and certainly between the social travel categories defined for this study - are almost certain to blur. As Phocuswright continues to examine the impact of social media in travel, these categories will be re-evaluated and adjusted to reflect changing market dynamics. Phocuswright and Compete also examined referral and conversion traffic to online travel from four general social networks: Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and Twitter.