Social media are playing an increasingly important role as information sources for travelers. The goal of this study is to investigate the extent to which social media appear in search engine results in the context of travel-related searches. The study employed a research design that simulates a traveler’s use of a search engine for travel planning by using a set of pre-defined keywords in combination with nine U.S. tourist destination names. The analysis of the search results showed that social media constitute a substantial part of the search results, indicating that search engines likely direct travelers to social media sites. This study confirms the growing importance of social media in the online tourism domain. It also provides evidence for challenges faced by traditional providers of travel-related information. Implications for tourism marketers in terms of online marketing strategies are discussed.
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