Posted April 18, 2008

National Laboratory for Tourism and Ecommerce explores the influence of consumer-generated media on travelers

Forget the advice of travel agents. Now the tourist experience is shaped and motivated by consumer-generated media such as YouTube and Flickr.
You Tube screen capture

The School of Tourism and Hospitality Management's National Laboratory for Tourism and Ecommerce (NLTeC) found that YouTube videos serve as a source of travel information.

At least that’s what the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management’s National Laboratory for Tourism and Ecommerce (NLTeC) discovered while taking a deeper look into the tourism experience and how it is influenced by technology. This fall, NLTeC conducted a series of studies that explored how consumer-generated media such as blogs, wikis and image- and video-sharing websites influence the process of information searching and experience sharing for tourists.

“Based on our studies, 70 percent of travelers are using the internet for travel-related purposes, either booking flights and hotels or searching for information,” said Dan Fesenmaier, director of NLTeC. “Because consumer-generated media is changing the way people search for tourism information and communicate with others, it is essential to study.”


Overall, these studies concluded that the tourism experience actually starts with the anticipation of travel. In this phase, tourists begin to research their destination and plan their trip.

“Consumer-generated media serve as mechanisms for tourists trying to mediate the experience of other tourists,” said study facilitator Iis Tussyadiah. “When tourists post travel images or videos, other potential tourists can view these posts to get some information or fill in their expectations about the destination.”

In one particular study, which analyzed 130 videos about travel in New York City on YouTube, NLTeC analyzed the video content and how potential tourists responded to these videos through their posted comments.

Based on user comments, NLTeC found that YouTube videos serve as a source of travel information. “Tourists’ comments on personal travel videos build a community where people can share information with each other,” Tussyadiah said. “Potential tourists are able to post comments and questions, so other tourists can provide answers serving as a tour guide.”

Ultimately, such videos provided virtual access. Most of the users who had never traveled to New York said the videos stimulated their imagination and fed their dream to come to New York, while users who had already been there said the videos helped them recollect or re-experience their travel.

Another NLTeC study explored how consumer-generated media serve as advertising on the Internet. While tourists post travel videos or images as a means of self-expression and to share their experience, these videos and images motivate those who view them to visit the destination and engage in similar activities.

“Consumer-generated media can inspire and stimulate others who can relate to the personality of the person in the video or image to visit that particular destination,” Tussyadiah said. “This can be a more powerful motivator than the actual advertisements created by destination marketing organizations.”

Exploring the tourism experience and how it is influenced by technology doesn’t stop there. NLTeC is also conducting a study of search engines such as Yahoo! and Google to assess their performance in searching travel-related topics. Also, beginning in March, NLTec is conducting annual surveys for the next five years exploring the use of Internet by travelers in the United States, and the importance of technology in the decision-making process.

— Written by Margaret Mastrogiacomo

For the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management