Anyone with a few Facebook friends knows what a magnet the site is for vacation photos, updates gushing about newly discovered restaurants and gripes about poor service. It turns out that all of that sharing is much more than gloating—it is becoming a trusted trove of tips for other travelers, according to recent research by trip-insurance provider Mondial Assistance.
When it comes to deciding where to go and what to do, 60 percent of consumers rely on online word of mouth from travel review and social media sites, say results from Mondial’s Access America Vacation Confidence Index. Not surprisingly, the young and affluent are the most likely to look to the social web before booking. Three in four travelers under 35 use social media in their trip planning, compared to 44 percent in the over-55 demographic. And 79 percent of travelers with household income above $75,000 factor in online reviews, while just 46 percent of travelers making less than $25,000 do the same.
Lack of accountability on the web remains a turn-off for some, especially travelers over 35—just 54 percent say they trust other travelers’ reviews. And even among the under-35 set, there is room for improvement—70 percent say they find others’ online reviews trustworthy.
As for who is sharing about their travel experiences online, the Mondial survey says that about one in four travelers do so, with 18 percent favoring social networks and 8 percent posting on travel-review sites. And again, affluence and age are strong indicators of someone’s likelihood to take to the web when they take off on a trip. Thirty-five percent of under-35 travelers share their travel experiences online, compared to 20 percent of those 35 and older, while those with a household income over $75,000 are more than twice as likely to share as those making under $25,000 (36 percent vs. 15 percent).