Social Media in Travel and Tourism, 2021 Update – Thematic Research

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of customer engagement on social media. 60% of millennials now deem social media an acceptable way of contacting businesses. As such, customer engagement on social media has become a focal point for many travel and tourism companies. Where social media was once exclusively PR and marketing, it is now part of operational strategy with many organizations employing specific specialist teams to manage customer interaction.

This thematic research report takes an in-depth look at the role of social media within the travel and tourism sector. The report looks at trends within tourism that are related to social media offering an array of case studies offering a deep dive into how companies are utilizing this theme and the outcome. This is followed by an analysis on the impacts of social media, then offering recommendations for companies that are looking to utilize this technology.

"Social media engagement from travel and tourism companies is no longer a secondary form of communication; it is a necessity. Social media continues to be used as an effective marketing tool for tourism businesses and has evolved significantly in recent years due to the rapid growth of influencers across multiple platforms. However, we also see a shift towards social media included in an enterprise's strategic operation to support its customers from a service perspective. Organizations that fall behind this trend are at risk of isolating their consumers during a critical time as the COVID-19 pandemic starts to ease". – Craig Bradley, Travel & Tourism Associate Analyst, GlobalData.


This thematic report provides an overview of social media’s role within the travel sector today and how it will continue its involvement.

The key trends within this theme are split between enterprise trends and tourist trends that are recognizable today.

Several case studies are included to analyze the multiple ways travel companies, and DMO’s have identified social media opportunities within the market.

Our unique thematic analysis then looks at recommendations for travel and tourism organizations providing a deep dive into the leaders and laggards within the social media spectrum, complete with industry examples and analysis.

Key Highlights

Despite the popularity of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in addition to the growing popularity of social media disruptor TikTok, Instagram is now a key player for marketing travel companies. Content creators can post videos, advertising content and posts at any time. The photo-sharing platform enables companies to engage and target specific customers base through different online communities.

Social media platform Instagram has been partially blamed for overtourism in many destinations. Many photos appearing on Instagram have helped drive new tourists to previously little-known destinations, resulting in a rapid influx of tourists, putting a strain on infrastructure, and causing social tensions with local communities.

As the popularity of social networks has increased and the presence of travel companies rises, consumers are demanding more immediate forms of communication. Engagement with businesses on social media has increased during the pandemic, with many people unable to raise issues in person, resorting to more immediate forms of communication they can do at home. Research shows that social media consumption increased by 72% during the pandemic, highlighting the level of usage.

Social media has become such an integral part of tourism companies’ strategic operations that specific roles and teams are employed to manage interaction on these sites. Typical roles include social media executives, customer support agents, marketing, and PR. KLM and WestJet revolutionized this for the airline industry. Both airlines currently employ a 24/7 dedicated social media team that actively engages with customers providing updates, documentation and answering customer inquiries.

Marketers and social media managers within tourism need to understand that viral content cannot be forced and is often a case of being in the right place at the right time. Ultimately, the audience decides whether the content gets shared or not, which is why it is organic. It poses a significant challenge for marketers who do not specialize in social media, and tourism companies should exercise caution when considering creating a viral marketing campaign. Therefore, it is in the best interest of many organizations to consult with a specialist social media marketing company to get the best results.

Reasons to buy

Understand the current social media trends within the travel landscape today and how these will escalate in the near future.

Assess how companies and DMOs are utilizing social media to aid brand awareness, drive tourism and engage with consumers.

Acknowledge the potential pitfalls of using social media by understanding how each platform can be used, the sensitivity of content and the difficulties in generating a viral campaign.

Discover recommendations that will help your service get the most out of social media.

GlobalData’s thematic research ecosystem is a single, integrated global research platform that provides an easy-to-use framework for tracking all themes across all companies in all sectors. It has a proven track record of identifying the important themes early, enabling companies to make the right investments ahead of the competition, and secure that all-important competitive advantage.

All across the travel and tourism supply chain, including DMO’s now have an opportunity to capitalize on social media, and there are notable examples of this. Therefore, all should buy this report to fully understand how this theme will continue to be a key theme in the future travel landscape.

Companies mentioned

Accor Hotels, Airbnb, Booking Holdings, Britannia Hotels, Egyptian Ministry of Tourism, Expedia Group, Iceland Travel, Intrepid Travel, Japan National Tourism Organization, Jet2holidays, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Lonely Planet, Marriott International, Melia Hotels International, National Geographic, Norwegian Cruise Line, Ryanair, Teletext Holidays, The Travel Franchise Group, Travel Alberta, Travel Counsellors, TravelPulse, Travel Weekly, TripAdvisor, Visit Dubai, Visit Seoul, Visit Vietnam Walt Disney, WestJet, WOW Air

Table of Contents

Executive summary


Thematic briefing


Case studies in travel and tourism

Impact of social media on travel & tourism

Mergers and acquisitions


Value chain


Sector scorecard

Travel intermediaries sector scorecard


Further reading

| Our thematic research methodology

| About GlobalData

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