As travel industry professionals we are all acutely aware of the techniques used to lure in the unwary travel consumer. But now with the acceptance of consumer generated content (CGC) and social networks such as Facebook and YouTube, obvious marketing copy may become increasingly redundant.
With many facets of human life, trust is the powerful emotion by which we base our decisions. We order a drink at a bar and we trust that it will be mixed correctly. We read an online press release because we trust that the author has qualified knowledge. Trust is the emotion we look to continually satisfy, and buying travel is no exception.
Classically, travel purchasing decisions were based on brochures and travel agent advice - in both instances professional sales speak. Now with the rising number of peer group reviews and content from sites like Tripadvisor, a travel marketer's spin is more easily exposed than ever before.
The winds of change are now favouring the consumer, as recent EyeforTravel research of young UK professionals revealed. 72% said that their online travel choices had been influenced by other consumer reviews, and 63.8% occasionally use CGC in their buying cycle.
This statistic is backed by a recent boo.com survey, which found that one in every six Brits will post a review following a holiday.
Quite simply, people believe people who are like themselves. People want to hear the opinions and unbiased critiques of like-minded individuals (classic word of mouth). This is the trust component of the decision process being satisfied.
With social networks and consumer content being so readily accessible, satisfying trust is the new industry standard - not marketers spin. The implications of which are enormous now that over 60% of European online consumers take part in social computing activities such as blogging, reading and writing reviews, or taking part in social networking sites.
Embracing both these new marketing trends should be an obvious strategic progression. It's clear that we are not in the midst of an elaborate fad. With the huge access to travel consumer reviews, profiles, preferences and behaviours, social networks and CGC cannot be ignored. The trust factor offered by ones peers is a hugely powerful sales tool, posing the ultimate question, are social networks set to become the travel booking engines of the future?