According to the research from Barclays, more than 60% of the sector, which includes hotels, restaurants and travel operators, say that they only see ‘some’ or ‘limited’ opportunity in using social media tools to engage clients.
However, this conflicts with the level of business being won through social media: nearly a third (29%) of respondents directly attributed up to 25% of all their sales to social media, and a further 13% state that these platforms generate up to half of sales.
In addition, more than two thirds (68%) of those currently using social media report that they have had a ‘positive’ or ‘very positive’ experience, attracting new customers, and receiving positive recommendations.
Meanwhile, more than one in ten operators do not currently use social media, nor do they have any plans to do so, and state that this is because they do not see any value or return on investment.
The research of 126 UK operators also highlighted that 44% of hospitality businesses have a presence on sites such as Twitter and Facebook, but rarely use it.
Barclays head of hospitality and leisure Mike Saul said: "The industry is missing a trick. Social media has blurred the line between personal and corporate communities - something that has been encouraged by consumers who now expect to be able to interact in an immediate and very personal way.
"This can create a very powerful feedback loop – if operators can successfully tap into these networks, both good and bad reviews can be used to their advantage. If a flight or dinner reservation is delayed for example, it’s easy for consumers to vent their frustration to the online world – the trick is being able to respond helpfully, turning a negative experience into a positive one. Getting the strategy right is key."
Social media challenges
Concerns over the amount of time social media takes to manage, the risks of negative publicity, and the technical skills required are putting operators off using these networks and platforms, according to the research.
Although more than half (58%) of respondents believe the role of social media will increase in the sector over the next 12 months, responsibility for these channels is largely being placed on non-specialist in-house individuals (25%) or the general in-house marketing teams (24%) who do not necessarily have experience of handling these tools.
"Just having a presence on social media is not enough – there needs to be a strategy driving it. Consideration needs to be given to how the information generated through social media is used, and we’re already seeing canny operators merging such initiatives into their wider marketing campaigns," added Saul.
"However, the industry has a long way to go - social media has a lot of potential and ignoring it would be a mistake."