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Social media influence on destination choice: The influence of context.

Tourism Recreation Research, 45:2, 161-175


Aaron Tham, Judith Mair & Glen Croy


While social media receive considerable scholarly attention, studies reveal mixed outcomes in relation to its influence on tourists’ destination choices. There is nonetheless a persistent perception that social media has a fundamental influence on destination choice. However, those studies that do find a social media influence are in contexts where tourists are predisposed to be influenced (the contexts were selected due to social media presence or influence). These studies also have limitations in terms of social media types, tourists and destinations. This research responds to the challenges and explores social media influence across diverse destination choice contexts. Through face-to-face interviews conducted with 39 Australian tourist decision-makers, the findings reveal that social media influence is only apparent when specific context-conditions are co-present. Instead, most destination choice contexts are likely to result in low levels of social media influence. The findings advance theory by identifying three contextual dimensions for social media influence: level of social media engagement; destination novelty or familiarity; and complexity of the planning decision. This research importantly demonstrates the need to illuminate context when conceptualising social media influence on tourists’ destination choices. Practically, destinations should utilise social media to demonstrate ease of visit planning.

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