The influence of social media in promoting the tourism industry in Durban, South Africa
Social media is increasingly playing an important role in promoting tourism. The SAT Strategy (2013: 12) suggests that the opportunities in the tourism industry are so numerous but are not yet fully exploited where more marketing is needed to create more awareness. Leung, Law, Hoof, and Huhalis (2013: 5) add that travellers have widely adopted social media in order to search for information, organise, share and annotate their experiences and stories through micro blogs and blogs, online communities, media sharing sites, and other tools collaboratively. Tourism marketers are also considerably using social media to engage with actual and potential tourists throughout the decision making journey (Hudson and Thal 2013: 157). According to Hanekom (2015: 1) tourism is regarded as a critical component on the National Development Plan of South Africa because of its capacity to spur growth across the wider economy and create jobs. There is a need for ongoing efforts to promote the tourism industry for it to remain competitive and continue contributing to the welfare of the people. The aim of this study is to determine the influence of social media in promoting tourism business activities in Durban, South Africa. The primary objective of the research is to examine the value of social media in promoting tourism in Durban. Durban is regarded as the leading tourism destination in South Africa and is globally marketed by an official marketing unit known as Durban Tourism-a part of the eThekwini Municipality (Durban Tourism 2012.4). The study followed a quantitative research method in order to attain the set objectives of the study. Non-probability sampling technique was employed in recruiting the participants. Convenience and purposive sampling techniques were used to generate the sample population in this study. The target population for the study were all the tourists that visited the Durban tourist destinations. The researcher managed to secure a 90% response rate as 272 questionnaires out of 300 were collected. A structured self-administered questionnaire with 42 questions was used in the survey that was conducted to obtain primary data. The study used both descriptive and inferential statistics. Statistical Package for Social Scientists (SPSS) version 23.0 was used to analyse the data. The results suggest that social media is of strategic importance in promoting tourism in Durban. Theorists in the literature review highlight that the influence of social media is more pervasive and compelling than conventional mass media because of its ability to influence a larger number of people, the ability to deliver rich information, and the minimal effort required from individuals to make influence attempts (Guo (2014: 3). The majority of tourists indicated that they are active on social media platforms of which, WhatsApp and Facebook had the highest numbers of users. The study also revealed that social media is not an optional extra in the tourism industry and suggests that, tourism companies, like any other company, must participate on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and other social media sites in order to succeed in today’s highly competitive business environment (Kaplan and Haenlein 2010:62). The study recommended that tourism authorities must encourage South Africans to visit their own country, adopt and integrate new social media applications, use social media to create awareness of the positive transformations that have taken place in the city, and offer more secure online holiday-purchase provisions. The study recommends further research to be undertaken on the influence of specific social media sites to allow more understanding and use of appropriate social media platforms by marketing practitioners.