How FOMO Drives Tourism
It’s 1:30 in the afternoon and you’re at your desk, working your way through the afternoon slump. Suddenly, your phone pings with an Instagram notification. There you see your best friend, lounging in a recliner on the shores of Punta Cana with a strawberry daiquiri in hand.
A familiar feeling sets in: FOMO. It’s short for the fear of missing out, and it might be at its worst when we see that our friends and loved ones are on vacation.
“Travel experience is intangible, hence highly dependent on sharing to signal its social value. That’s essentially why we’re always eager to show off our travel photos and souvenirs after trips,” says Daisy Liu, who recently received her doctoral degree from the School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management (STHM) at Temple University. “People have been sharing their travel experiences for ages, but the invention of social media has obviously taken this to a whole new level. What we want to understand is how the sharing of travel experiences on social media affects consumers’, especially millennial consumers’, intentions to go on a similar trip. Once that feeling of FOMO sets in, are you likely to book a trip, too?”
Together with Laurie Wu, an assistant professor in the school, as well as Robert Li, a professor and director of the U.S.-Asia Center for Tourism & Hospitality Research, Liu is exploring that question. Recently published in the Journal of Travel Research, "Social Media Envy: How Experience Sharing on Social Networking Sites Drives Millennials’ Aspirational Tourism Consumption" examines how travel envy affects millennials’ intentions to take a trip.
In the study, more than 300 millennials between the ages of 18 and 36 were shown potential travel-related social media posts from friends or colleagues. They were asked to imagine that they are busy at work, striving to meet several deadlines when they notice the post. Depending on the participant, the post was made by someone with similar or dissimilar interests, and the vacation depicted was either a luxurious or non-luxurious destination.
“As part of the study, we also had participants take a survey designed to measure their self-esteem. Past research has shown that those with low self-esteem are likely to seek acceptance through social comparisons,” Li says. “So we wanted to know how that might also affect travel envy.”
Overall, Liu, Wu and Li found a number of key takeaways in their research, with the most significant being that participants with low self-esteem were far more likely to visit a destination if the travel experience was shared by someone they perceive to be similar to them. According to the trio, past studies indicate that the millennial generation prefers experiences over material possessions and values authenticity, creativity and uniqueness. This latest study supports that notion.
The research also very much speaks to why micro-influencer (someone with a follower base numbering between 1,000 and 100,000) marketing has become so important, but it also goes beyond that. A micro-influencer is still someone that a prospective tourist does not personally know, whereas a social media friend is someone that they have a relationship with.
The study’s effects could be felt for years to come, especially with regard to destination marketing that targets millennials. Micro-influencer marketing has been proven to be effective but the best way to reach millennials might arguably be through their peers.
“This is why it’s so key for vacation destinations and visitor bureaus to continue to promote social sharing among visitors,” Wu said. “For instance, a few years ago, the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau encouraged visitors to share their stories on social media with the hashtag ‘#letHawaiiHappen.’ This generated nearly 100,000 Instagram posts in a year, and thanks to this study, we know that it likely generated several more tourist visits as well.”