VisitBritain logoA report published by VisitBritain, the national tourism agency, shows the powerful influence social media has in positioning Britain as a destination of choice for international visitors.

VisitBritain’s research report ‘The role of social media in the context of holidays’ which focused on visitor markets in the USA, Germany, India and South Korea found that overall 89% of those surveyed had used social media at some stage of their holiday.

India took the number one spot with 98% of the market having used social media during their holiday planning and once returning home; 95% in South Korea; 84% in the USA and 77% in Germany.

Almost 70% of all respondents said content posted online by friends made them want to visit a destination. The influence of photos was highest in India where 81% agreed that seeing their friends’ travel photos made them want to visit the same place – followed closely by South Korea (76%) and the USA (68%).

When it comes to choosing Britain as a holiday destination, the research found that social media plays a key role in the decision-making process with Facebook the main go-to source for respondents in all stages of the holiday-making process – particularly when deciding to visit Britain (44%). Meanwhile Twitter was most commonly used for seeking suggestions and advice while on holiday and Instagram was used most by people wanting to plan their trip or share their experiences – though to a lesser extent than the other platforms.

The UK Government’s Minister for Tourism Tracey Crouch said, “There is so much to see and do in the UK and this report confirms that social media remains the fastest and most effective way for the industry to showcase ourselves as a top destination to the world.”

Encouraging visitors to share their own holiday experiences online is already a key way that VisitBritain is inspiring more people to come to Britain. The national tourism agency is a frontrunner in the digital space, ranking first among key competitors in number of Twitter followers (300k) and third for Facebook fans (3 million) and Weibo followers (510,000).

VisitBritain Marketing Director Joss Croft said “This research reinforces to all of us working in the travel industry the powerful role that social media now plays in offering unparalleled opportunities to engage directly with potential visitors in a timely way, with the right messages, demonstrating an understanding of their world and motivations for travel.

“That’s why it’s an integral part of the tourism marketing that VisitBritain undertakes, moving Britain from being a place to travel to at some stage to a ‘must go now’ destination, inspiring more visitors to travel here and explore all our nations and regions.”

In late October VisitBritain launched its latest Culture is GREAT campaign in China which invites Chinese visitors to share memorable moments they have had while on holiday in Britain. Known in China as ‘Enjoy the GREAT fun times in Britain,’ the £1.3 million social media campaign invites Chinese visitors to create, share and upload images of their own experiences. These images are then shared globally by VisitBritain to inspire fellow travellers to come and experience all that is GREAT about Britain.

The campaign builds on VisitBritain’s GREAT China Naming campaign earlier this year, where Chinese people were invited to suggest new names for British landmarks. More than 300 million people saw this campaign across VisitBritain’s global social media channels and it won three Cannes Lion d’or awards, amongst others.

Both campaigns tie in well with another key finding of VisitBritain’s research which shows that people are most eager to share their own content if there is a high chance it will be recognised and promoted.

VisitBritain’s digital strategy in India reflects this with cross-platform campaigns including a current promotion with Turkish Airlines and Dharma Productions to promote the new Bollywood film ‘Shaandaar’ and the locations in north England where the film was shot. To date, the campaign has gained more than 6,000 Indian fans on VisitBritain’s global Facebook page.

VisitBritain’s research also found that while images were a highly motivating factor both for those who were considering a holiday to Britain and those who have previously been, it suggests that the type of image was important. Images should feel “real” and “authentic” – and ideally not be photoshopped. They should also “spark imagination,” “promise a genuine experience,” and include a “real traveller’s perspective” where possible.

Ultimately, the research found that social media should connect with a user, demonstrate an understanding of their world and be in the native language of the target market. Seventy-five per cent of all those surveyed said that social media should be both informative and entertaining.

Other findings

  • The report found that those in South Korea and Germany preferred social media content in their native language (78% and 61% respectively). It was only among those in India (where English is more widely spoken) that English social media content was preferred (by 61%).
  • Higher proportions of respondents from the USA, South Korea and Germany said that seeing their friends talking about their holidays as opposed to social media posts from official/professional sites would inspire them to visit a place, while in India almost equal proportions said content from friends and official posts made them want to visit a place.
  • Professional content on social media was also seen as important, and indeed expected, and more than 80% of respondents felt it was important for organisations such as VisitBritain to have a presence on social media, showing a complimentary role for holiday-maker and professional content.
  • In India, South Korea and the USA advice from tourists who had recently visited Britain outshone that provided by experts. However Germany had the highest proportion of respondents who thought advice from holiday-makers and experts were almost as good as each other.
  • In all four markets there was a strong swing towards recent holiday-makers as a source of reviews to encourage visiting – as opposed to reviews by experts.
  • Access to Wi-Fi was important and places to stay, see and eat which offered free Wi-Fi were more likely to be selected ahead of places that did not.
  • Smartphones were the most common device used to access social media on holiday; but with high levels of use on other devices, suggesting that social media content should be optimised to preform across all platforms.
  • Overall, 76% of those surveyed had read a review site when thinking about taking a holiday; but only 19% had written a review on a site.

VisitBritain has a guide for how travel trade and industry can engage with social media channels on its website, see https://www.visitbritain.org/guide-social-media-channels

Inbound tourism, Britain’s third largest service export and one of its fastest growing, was worth more than £26 billion to the UK economy in 2013.