The proposed study is devoted to the investigation of social media and its impact on the tourism sector by using China as the framework for research. The paper is focused on the analysis of the current state of this technology, its growing importance, and the role of such applications as WeChat or Weibo in promoting tours or other services offered by travel agencies. The work contains the introduction, literature review section that creates the theoretical background for the analysis, the methodology part explaining the used approach, findings and conclusion sections presenting data and summarising it. The study employs a quantitative research paradigm to collect data about the investigated aspects and process it by using SPSS and ANOVA tools. The acquired information helps to conclude that social media facilitates the evolution of social media in China, which means that there is a positive correlation between these two issues.
Numerous technological advances and the evolution of science that can be seen today contribute to the digitalisation of the world and the growing importance of the Internet and social media, which is used as the major tool for communication, sharing experience, and debates. The power of this phenomenon is evidenced by the fact that multiple social platforms are used in the business for promotion, cooperation with customers, and improvement of client service. The given research project is devoted to the investigation of the impact of social media on the tourism industry in China. The change in the attitude towards travelling and tourism and its growing importance for Chinese people along with the fast rise of social media platforms such as Weibo or WeChat evidences the scope of the selected issue. For this reason, the study aims at the in-depth investigation of the correlation between these two aspects by analysing users’ experiences and attitudes.
Background of the Research
The extensive use of digital devices that guarantee access to the internet is one of the integral parts of the modern world. The increased capability of existing technologies and the appearance of multiple options make them attractive to broad categories of people and impact all spheres of human activity. Today, the online presence is a critical success factor for the majority of companies that depend on the level of clients’ interest in their products. For instance, in China, there are about 649 million people who have access to the web and contribute to its further spread and empowerment (McCarthy, 2018). The given numbers show that technologies cultivated a positive environment for the introduction of the Internet-oriented methods of communication and management.
At the same time, social media transforms into one of the most influential tools that can be employed by various businesses. Shi (2015) states that the majority of modern companies, regardless of their size, can benefit from the employment of this tool as it helps them to affect customers directly. The continually increasing number of users, along with the tendency towards the facilitation of many forms of social commerce, stipulates the appearance of new trends that should be considered (Rowley and Keegan, 2019). For the tourism sector, it means that a high number of individuals start using social media for their travel decision-making as it provides access to almost limitless information related to this sphere. People can look for the most popular tours and other users’ comments about them (Aleti, Ilicic and Harrigan, 2018). Moreover, they share both positive and negative experiences about a particular journey and conclude about advantages and disadvantages (Fei, 2016). Finally, people might directly communicate with managers to find the best available options. In such a way, social media becomes a potent tool that shapes the work of the sector.
As for the selected region, In China, the strong governmental monitoring of social media and the existence of few foreign actors in the market precondition its own peculiarities of the given sphere (TECH, 2017). However, companies and tourist agencies recognise the power of social media as there are multiple campaigns aimed at the popularisation of specific tours and their promotion. Recent studies show that platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, or WeChat contribute to the growing popularity of tourism sector and attract new individuals from various regions of the world (TECH, 2017). For this reason, considering the unique peculiarities of the business environment in the state and its high economic potential, it becomes critical to understand the existence of the correlation between two these aspects.
Justification of the Research
The selected line of the research can be justified by several relevant aspects. First of all, social media is the dominant force in the contemporary digitalised society as it offers limitless access to information, opportunities for interaction, communication, and experience sharing (Rainie and Wellman, 2012). Users start to make decisions regarding the facts acquired in groups or provided by their friends, who also use similar platforms (Liu, Wu and Li, 2019). This change in customer behaviour affects all spheres of business and should be considered by companies to preserve their positions (Zhou, Zhang and Zimmerman, 2013). Thus, the tourism industry remains dependent on preferences, attitudes, and positive feedback, which makes social media a critically important tool for this sphere.
The choice of China as the region for the investigation is explained by the fact that it experiences stable and fast economic growth. At the same time, the government tries to promote the positive image of the state and attract tourists to generate income (Fei, 2016). The country is also characterised by the developed social commerce patterns, which means that social media shapes its business sector and is accepted as a reliable tool. For this reason, the impact of social media is analysed using China as the background for the research.
Purpose of the Research, Objectives
Regarding the selected topic, and aspects mentioned above, the pivotal aim of the research is the comprehensive investigation of the impact social media has on the promotion of the tourism industry using China as the background for the study. The given aim also presupposes the formulation of the following objectives:
- To evaluate social media, its power, and its impact on people’s decision making
- To analyse the modern tourism industry with its peculiarities and trends
- To investigate the correlation between social media and tourism sector in China and outline positive effects
- To conclude about the impact of social media on the tourism industry
- To offer a forecast resting on the current situation about the further development of two spheres
The given goals will contribute to the in-depth and comprehensive analysis of social media and tourism, which is critically important for the project.
Altogether, the study proves the critical importance of social media for people in China and this tool’s ability to impact decision-making regarding the tourism sphere. The literature review conducted in terms of the project shows that authors are united in the opinion that social commerce becomes one of the most promising methods to popularise some products and achieve the high level of clients’ interest (Ma, Hardy and Ooi, 2019). For China, the increase in the popularity of WeChat and Weibo cultivates the environment beneficial for the development of the tourism sector and its empowerment. For this reason, it is possible to conclude about the existence of the positive correlation between the evolution of social media and the tourism industry.
At the same time, information collected from the sources above demonstrates that the change in the level of income and the rise of the middle-class in China creates the basis for the better functioning of travel agencies (SCMP Editorial, 2019). People become more interested in discovering new places and acquiring an unusual experience. For this reason, there are conditions positive for the growth of the sector and its becoming an important source of income for the whole country. Researchers also recognise the strong impact of social media on the evolution of the discussed market segment as it combines such elements as the credibility of the information, entertaining motifs, and multiple options for discussion (Ma, Hardy and Ooi, 2019). For this reason, the study proves the existence of the relationship between social media and the tourism sector.
The study also incorporated data collected from 300 participants, 145 male and 155 female ones. Results of the survey distributed among the participants prove the hypotheses offered in the project and the basic assumptions. Thus, the majority of testees state that entertaining, relationship seeking, and relationship maintaining motifs are the main factors that make them use social media and engage in the exchange in information by using this platform. At the same time, a bigger part of individuals is sure that information provided by social media is more credible and reliable if to compare with usual advertisements or promotional campaigns as it comes from other customers who are not interested in increasing sales of particular products. These findings outline the role social media plays in popularising various travel agencies and tours offered by them.
In the course of the investigation, it is also concluded that social media acts as a facilitator that provides companies working in the sphere of tourism with opportunities to generate additional income by engaging new individuals with the help of platforms such as WeChat, or Weibo. Research shows that a substantial part of travellers selects tours using the background knowledge that was generated due to the discussions on the Internet (Ma, Hardy and Ooi, 2019). For this reason, social media is a key factor in successful promoting certain journeys or services that might be attractive to a specific group of clients.
In the future, it is possible to predict the preservation of the tendency and the gradually increasing importance of social media for the business in China. Because the majority of respondents outlines its increased trustworthiness and ability to provide needed information, its significance for different spheres of business will continue to grow. Moreover, the changes in the demography that are observed in China today contribute to the rise in the middle class and the appearance of new users who have access to the Internet, which is vital for the preservation of existing tendencies. For this reason, the project predicts the further evolution of social media as a potent business tool.
The scope of the discussed topic means that there are also multiple directions of the future research that can be conducted to improve the understanding of the issue and its role in the economy of China and other states. Thus, the increasing importance of social media and its positive correlation with the tourist sector mean that industries that are associated with these two spheres can also experience multiple effects. These include the airline sector, food and beverages industry, clothes, attractions, and other areas. For this reason, for future projects, it is essential to analyse processes that can be related to these spheres that are boosted by the fast evolution of the tourism sector. Accepting the fact that social media acts as the facilitator of the modern business world, it is also possible to investigate how options offered by it, such as online booking, or preorder, affect the sphere of aviation and other industries vital for the economy of China.
Altogether, the current research proves the idea that social media is one of the fundamental factors promoting the evolution of the tourism sector in China. It is preconditioned by multiple factors, such as the overall popularity of travels and the idea of discovering other places and acquiring new experiences; the change in the demographics and the appearance of the wealthy middle class; the affordability of devices that guarantee access to the Internet. The existence of a beneficial environment triggered the fast growth of the discussed industry and the emergence of new offerings along with the ways to popularise them using WeChat and Weibo. The success of these methods is evidenced by the stably high level of income and the change in attitude to such platforms demonstrated by the participants of the research. In such a way, it is possible to conclude about the existence of a direct correlation between social media and the tourism industry in the modern digitalised world.
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