Social media and tourism awareness: a case of Homabay county, kenya
Agalo, Rose Achieng’
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Kenya’s Vision 2030 Economic Pillar, identifies tourism as one of the key six sectors in contributing to the 10% Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate per annum as from 2012. It is a major source of foreign exchange for the Country and plays a major role in employment in the private sector. This research aimed at exploring ways through which social media can enhance the visibility of Homabay County as a tourist destination. This is as a result of curiosity of existing information flow to potential tourists in Homabay County. Regardless of Kenya’s unique existence of tourist attractions spread throughout the Country, tourism activities in the Country have always been almost exclusively centered on two geographical regions: the coastal beaches and a handful of game reserves and national parks. This research therefore anticipated to enhance the visibility of Homabay County as a tourist destination through the use of social media which has a worldwide audience. The study was, guided by the following research objectives: To identify the social media platforms used in creating tourism awareness for Homabay County. To investigate how tourism destinations can exploit social media strategies in creating tourism awareness and to examine the salience of user generated content in influencing tourists’ decision-making behavior. The research employed mixed research design to establish how social media can be used to enhance the visibility of tourism in the County. Theoretical conceptualization was based on psychological ownership theory and perceived control which elaborated concepts for understanding travelers’ behavior and the use of user generated content by travelers. The study targeted tourism stakeholders in Homabay County and used questionnaires and interview schedules as data collection instruments. Thematic analysis was used by the researcher to analyse data from emerging themes and subthemes guided by the research questions.Analysis of data showed that tourism and hospitality service providers in Homabay County have not fully embraced the use of social media hence missing on opportunities presented by social media to enhance their visibility. The researcher therefore reccomended ways in which social media potential could be realised, adoption of social media strategies and development of policies by the County goverment to ensure a conducive operating enviroment for tourism.