From the LRITI Director, Affiliated Researchers, and Industry Leaders and Executives
Recently, Facebook announced the launch of Facebook Home. Facebook Home is designed to bring the social media experience to the smartphone users of Android operated phones. The Economist reports that “this matters because more and more folks are now accessing social networks from mobile devices rather than from desktop computers and because mobile advertising revenues are growing fast, albeit from a low base. Without a robust mobile presence, Facebook could see some of its users siphoned off by rivals born in the mobile era. And it could miss out on a potentially massive source of new revenue.”
So do visitors to Hilton Head Island, SC utilize social media and specifically Facebook? In fall 2012 University of South Carolina Beaufort’s (USCB) Lowcountry and Resort Islands Tourism Institute (LRITI) released the 2011-12 survey results examining the social media use of attendees at select Hilton Head Island festivals. Sixty-three (63%) percent of the visitors attending those festivals used social media to stay in contact with friends and family members and 69% of those visitors utilized Facebook as their primary medium. For the 2012-13 festivals, 66% of visitors attending festivals used social media whereas 64% used Facebook. In a separate 2012-13 survey sponsored by the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, 78% of 628 tourists visiting Hilton Head Island-Bluffton attractions indicated that they used social media to stay in contact with friends and family, and 64% of those visitors using social media utilized Facebook as the medium.
Well, do our visitors use mobile technology while traveling? And if so, what type of mobile technology do they use? For the 2012-13 Hilton Head Island festival research program, of the 1,127 total visitors surveyed at select events, 77% of the visitors indicated they use some form of mobile technology when traveling on vacation. Of those using mobile technology, 51% use an IPhone or Smartphone, 18% use laptops, and 13% use IPads or Tablets when gathering destination information where they’re vacationing.
So what does all this mean? First it shows that the Facebook Home strategy may just work, but only time will tell about its adoption by smartphone users. Secondly, the LRITI research shows that social media and specifically Facebook are used by visitors to Hilton Head Island, and while traveling our visitors use IPhones or Smartphones. In the end it does demonstrate the need for tourism businesses to be actively engaged with their consumers by using social media and specifically Facebook. As the peak season nears, operators should be ramping up their social media campaigns to gain greater visitor market share in the upcoming months.
Below are links to the CNET and The Economist articles on the Facebook Home announcement. Additionally, the links to the LRITI Virtual Guestbook and festival research results are below. For information regarding other reports contact email@example.com.
Back in November 2012, economist Dr. Roger Beck wrote a guest blog for USCB’s Lowcountry and Resort Islands Tourism Institute. His recommendation to the tourism industry based on the possible income effects of the fiscal cliff was “know your market.” However, recent reports indicate that the industry will be impacted regardless of the partial cliff resolutions put forth by Washington DC. The January 12, 2013 MyrtleBeachOnline.com article titled “Smaller Paychecks Likely to Affect Economic Growth in Myrtle Beach Area This Year” quoted economist Dr. Rob Salvino from Coastal Carolina University and wrote “Taking home fewer dollars will cause nearly everyone to pull back, including tourists -- whose visits and spending have been a bright spot during the economic downturn…. They are definitely going to have a direct hit to their discretionary income.”
Though the January 1st deadline fiscal cliff resolutions were partially met, it appears that the tourism industry will be impacted by the decisions made by US lawmakers. Bloomberg.com reported on January 10, 2013 that the Bloomberg “Consumer Comfort Index fell to minus 34.4 in the seven days ended Jan. 6 from minus 31.8 the prior period, the biggest one-week drop since August.” The three components that comprise the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index (personal finances, American’s views on the state of the economy, and buying climate index) all declined that period. Today’s January 14, 2013 Bloomberg.com article titled “Smaller Payday Trims Workers’ Splurges as U.S. Tax Breaks Expire” reports that researchers assert that the net pay reductions will impact consumer spending of “most of the 134 million Americans who are on corporate payrolls.”
So what does all this mean? Though the cliff has partially been averted, Dr. Beck’s recommendation is still highly valuable. Hospitality and tourism operators need to be fully aware of the visitors to our region, their points of origin, recreation interests, and retail demands. In fact, knowing that future travel can be impacted by consumer confidence and other leading economic indicators, the Lowcountry tourism industry has a window to modify marketing strategies, messaging tactics, and advertising to abate any future decline in business for the upcoming spring and summer tourist seasons.
USCB’s Lowcountry and Resort Islands Tourism Institute has conducted visitor point of origin analyses for both Hilton Head Island and the Town of Beaufort. The reports can be a great start toward understanding where our Lowcountry visitors reside. Additional reports at www.lriti.org might provide extra insight on what our visitors do while in the Lowcountry and their social media usage. Those reports can be very helpful to all tourism related businesses. Acting now to ensure the spring and summer tourism season is successful is extremely important to all tourism operators.
Below are links to the Dr. Beck’s LRITI guest blog, the MyrtleBeachOnline.com article, and the Bloomberg.com articles.
Robert Stenhammer has been a resort executive for over 15 years and holds an MBA in Hospitality and Tourism. He is the President of Hilton Head Accommodations, serves on the Board of Directors for the Hilton Head Island/Bluffton Chamber of Commerce and is Vice-Chairman of the Accommodation Tax Committee for the Town of Hilton Head Island. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His articles can also be read in the Island Packet. This LRITI blog was published with permission of the author.
According to the International Trade Administration 66 million international visitors will come to the United States in 2012, a 6 percent increase over 2011 numbers. Canada leads all countries visiting the U.S. accounting for 32% of those international visitors. International tourism generated $153 billion in receipts last year and a $43 billion dollar trade surplus for our nation. The momentum is expected to continue; the International Trade Administration is forecasting that international visitors will increase by 21% to over 80 million international visitors by 2017. The U.S. international travel and tourism industry is finally getting the recognition it deserves as an important component of American GDP, exports and employment.
The major growth we are seeing in international travel is no fluke. It is the direct result of some key initiatives that have been executed on in recent years. The 2010 U.S. Travel Promotion Act has increased the awareness of the importance of tourism to our economy and created a public-private marketing powerhouse in Brand USA and their “Discover America” campaign. The Visa Waiver Program has positively influenced travel by making it easier for residents of certain countries to gain entrance the U.S. The United States Departments of Commerce and the Interior presented the National Travel and Tourism strategy to the president in May of this year as a blueprint of making America the top tourist destination in the world.
International travel is big business in the U.S. and could be a key component of driving more visitors to the Lowcountry and increasing property values through real estate demand. According to a 2012 National Association of Realtors® Global Research Report, international buyers purchased $83 billion dollars of U.S. real estate last year. Sales to international buyers are up 24% on a year over year basis and 27 % of Realtors® reported working with an international client last year.
Of all the countries where travel and real estate buyers are coming to the U.S., the best opportunity for local Lowcountry travel and real estate demand today comes from our neighbors to the North. United States residential real estate sales to Canadians is our number one market accounting for 24% of international sales, up from only 11% in 2007.
If you live here, you can tell just by driving around that we are a very popular place for our Canadian friends to be. It’s no coincidence that the biggest event in South Carolina, the RBC Heritage presented by Boeing is sponsored by the Royal Bank of Canada. Canadian purchasers of real estate see great value in our location, temperate year-round climate, restaurants, activities and environment. The favorable real estate purchasing power and exchange rate accentuates the value that we offer international buyers. For the good of our tourism based economy and local property values, let’s do whatever we can do to attract and enhance the experience of international visitors to the Lowcountry.