Word of Mouth Still Rules for Hyper-Informed Travelers

Head of Research and Insights
Published 7/17/18
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Research highlights how traditional word of mouth still comes first in both trust and frequency of use for US travelers

In our recent blog, “The Hyper-Informed Traveler, a Decade of Growth,” we highlighted the growing fragmentation and complexity of media use by US leisure travelers. The travel media landscape of 2018 presents a bewildering range of media, content and channels used by travelers in researching travel and planning their next trip. 

But outside of media, one channel remains dominant in shaping travelers’ perceptions and decisions–traditional word of mouth. Travelers talking to family and friends about their experiences remains the most important source of information by some distance. When Destinations Analysts plots all media by frequency of use and level of trust, no other source of information compares. The graph below from Destination Analysts highlights the dominance of Word of Mouth. The left or Y-axis plots the Level of Trust held in media sources by US travelers and the bottom or X-axis tracks the frequency of use.  The size of the data points signifies the importance of the media source. 

An analysis of media trust and frequency of use by Destination Analysts’ of US travelers feedback from the quarterly The State of the American Traveler. 

Word of mouth has of course always been the most important communication channel in the travel and tourism industry and despite the tremendous growth of digital and online media of all types, this research summary from our partners at Destination Analysts is a timely reminder of its constant importance. 

This analysis stresses the importance of destinations and their tourism industry partners dealing first with what has been called “Job Number One”, the quality of the visitor experience.  This means a focus on critical business areas such as customer service training for staff, supporting local residents to offer a warm welcome to visitors and consistent delivery of essential services such as cleaning or reinvestment in your travel product (i.e.: upgrading the soft furnishings of a hotel). These areas of success in tourism receive a lot less attention but given the important role of word of mouth, they must always be first on the check list for destinations and tourism marketers.