Social media and animals in tourism

The power of social media

Millions of travelers share their experiences trough social media. Data generated online can take various forms (e.g. comments, reviews, blog posts, tweets, pictures, videos and vlogs). This type of data is usually referred to as user-generated content or traveller-generated content.

If we consider the amount of user-generated content, social media becomes a valuable source of information for understanding consumer values. As a growing public discussion, animal welfare in tourism is well-represented in social media.

Photo: J.C. García-Rosell

Studying animal-based tourism in social media

Here, we aim to understand consumer values by looking into user-generated content related to animal-based tourism services in Lapland. To that end, we rely on visual (video, pictures) and textual (comments, reviews) content. We use data created in 2016-2018 and collected from Facebook, Instagram, TripAdvisor and YouTube. We use content analysis to analyze the data. The study was conducted by Dominika Klos, one of our students from the Master’s Degree Programme “Tourism, Culture and International Management” (TourCIM), PhD José-Carlos García-Rosell and PhD Minni Haanpää.

Photo: J.C. García-Rosell

TripAdvisor: a key discussion channel

We identified 208 reviews in TripAdvisor and 113 pictures and 30 videos in other social media channels. As a result, we can position TripAdvisor as one of the leading social media channels for discussions about animal-based tourism in Lapland. Tourists write the reviews to share their experience and often comment on the quality of life of working animals in Lapland.

Figure: Types of content

Animal welfare in the spotlight

Animal welfare was the largest topic of discussion identified in the study. We identified a total of 331 comments related to the welfare of animals such as sled dogs and reindeer. Nevertheless, we should stress that most comments focused on sled dogs. We found out that discussions on animal welfare focused on a wide range of issues related to the life and treatment of animals. For example, we identified discussions revolving around issues such as care, health, work, chains, animal facilities, ethics and the retirement of animals.

Figure: Animal welfare related issues

With our study, we show that tourists using animal-based tourism services pay a lot of attention to different aspects of animal welfare. Although we can see a general interest in how animals are treated, tourists were also concerned about their working conditions and their future retirement. Tourists, who were more concerned about animal welfare, contacted the companies directly. Indeed, they did careful online research before booking the service.

If you want to know more about the study, you are warmly welcome to read the full report HERE.

 

Text: José-Carlos García-Rosell

 

 

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