Malaysia - With an increase in digital use in the country and the Asia Pacific (APAC) region, a recent study concluded that social media has a deep influence in shaping travel decisions among Malaysians.
According to Text100's Digital Index: Travel and Tourism study, travellers from Asia Pacific countries are both the most enthusiastic about social media and the most attached to their mobile devices in the world.
The study also found that 89% of Asia Pacific travellers and 75% of Malaysian travellers use travel apps on their smartphones or tablets while on holiday for information about local attractions and finding their way around.
This "always-on" tendency, however, means that Asia Pacific travellers find it harder to switch off on holiday than any others. Compared to the global average of 22%, 34% of APAC travellers use their mobile devices to do work while on holiday.
When it comes to reviews and recommendations, 46% of Malaysian respondents regard Facebook as important to help inspire and reaffirm their travel decisions.
Compared with the global average of 26%, Malaysians display greater propensity to using Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms to get ideas and inspiration for travel destinations (51%), vacation activities (44%), attractions (44%), hotels (39%) and restaurants (36%).
According to Anne Costello, Text 100 regional director for APAC, although there is widespread enthusiasm for digital, travel and tourism operators need to integrate traditional and new communications channels to deliver content that is wanted.
"Standalone promotions and loyalty programs, for example, don't seem to be resonating with consumers any longer. These need to be part of an integrated communications approach," added Costello.
Many Asia Pacific consumers still base travel decisions on more traditional sources of influence with 48% stating traditional travel agents still help in planning their holidays.
In Malaysia however, peer experience and digital reviews take over travel agents while personal recommendations from friends and family came in top as the main source of information for initial travel decisions with 78% of respondents rating it as the top influencer.
Malaysians also consider travel columns (34%) and websites with holiday maker reviews (38%) more trustworthy than professional travel guides (22%).
More than 85% consider the independence of a review important, as they primarily assess reviews by looking at the existence of balanced comments, the source of reviews, as well as assessing the ensuing comments on the review itself.
When it comes to personally writing reviews, Malaysians are most likely to write reviews about both negative and positive experiences (61%) rather than purely positive (33%) and negative (3%) experiences.
Over half Malaysians (63%) would use their mobile devices to take photos and videos and 40% would go on social media networks when travelling, while 46% would likely create and share more if the content is something their friends and family would enjoy seeing.
An overwhelming 80% of respondents would be connected to social media if free WiFi is available on vacation.
While social media is a key influencer, Yeow Mei Ling (pictured), managing consultant, Text 100 Malaysia and APAC sales lead, believes that there are more valid touch points that marketers should be aware of and effective travel campaigns should be carried out based on market insights and incorporate an integrated channel strategy.
"Travellers are demanding more informative and advice-based content than ever before and delivering the most relevant content to them is vital," Yeow added.
The study, which suggests that Asia-Pacific consumers lead the way in using social media to inspire, purchase and share their travel experiences, is based on 4,600 respondents in 13 countries.