The Use of Social Media in Tourism: A Literature Review

Xiaoqing Chen, Zhang HaiHong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Social media has become one of the "mega trends" that has significantly impacted the tourism system in digital-era. Consequently, the role and use of social media in tourist decision making and in tourism operations and management have been widely discussed in tourism and hospitality research. From a supplier perspective, this new media has also been explored in studies of tourism promotion and of best practices. A common finding is that interacting with consumers and leveraging social media for marketing tourism products have been proven to be an excellent strategy. This study presents an up-to-date and comprehensive review and analyzes the research publications on social media at home and abroad, mainly in tourism and hospitality fields. Based on a comprehensive literature review, this paper provides an overall picture of the research achievement with regard to the use of social media in tourism, and shows how tourists and practitioners use social media in tourism participation. The content analysis indicates that social media is fundamentally changing the way travellers and tourists search, find, read and trust, as well as collaboratively produce information about tourism suppliers and tourism destinations. Social media is also challenging existing customer service, marketing and promotional processes within the tourism sector, and providing new ways for tourism organisations to reengineer and implement their business models and operations, such as new services development, marketing, networking and knowledge management. More importantly, this paper compares the differences in the use of social media in tourism between Chinese and foreign scholars' research. Although the number of social media studies in the field of tourism has increased greatly and the research areas have been broadened, such research is still in its infancy. Additionally, although the studies on the use of social media in tourism by Chinese scholars outdone those conducted by their western peers, either in the number of publications, broadness of research topics, or coverage of research regions, especial for research methods, few quantitative studies have been undertaken in China when comparing to studies done by westerns scholars. This study also contributes to the academia and industry by identifying some research voids in extant research and providing an agenda for future research, suggesting that social media studies may focus on the following four main directions: community engagement, comprehensive marketing strategies, differentiated destination management, and the legal and ethical issues arising from using social media in tourism. Social media in tourism research will have to deal with the issues associated with local communities such as socio-economic and cultural impacts (either positive or negative) of social media on local residents. Concerning the methods used at present, quantitative analysis needs to be encouraged to explore the measurable impacts of social media on tourism development. From the perspective of research methodology, unconventional publication sources, social media sources particularly in this case, must be strategically included in research data collection and analysis.
Original languageChinese
Pages (from-to)35-43
Number of pages9
JournalTourism Tribune
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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