Social media is playing a huge role in the U.S. travel industry, which is poised to reach $162 billion in 2012.

More than half of travelers have changed plans after researching trips on social media sites, and 50 percent of travel companies agreed that direct booking have been generated from social media.

When it comes to planning, 62 percent of travelers used the Internet to research their trip, 43 percent read reviews from other travelers, 31 percent watched travel-related videos, and 24 percent read travel-related blogs.

In terms of interacting with social media platforms while vacationing, 70 percent of travelers update their Facebook status and 46 percent check in to a location either on Foursquare or Facebook. This is where Facebook Offers and Foursquare Promoted Updates could really help you bring in new customers.

Many travelers document their vacation either through posting photos to a social network (76 percent), Liking Facebook Pages specific to a vacation (55 percent), posting hotel reviews (44 percent) and sharing restaurant reviews (40 percent).

Additionally, 85 percent of travelers use their smartphones while on vacation. Thirty percent have used mobile apps to find hotel deals and just below that, 29 percent have used mobile apps to find flight deals. For this reason, mobile ad targeting should be on your radar.

While it’s important to focus attention on your local target audience, that doesn’t mean you should ignore those outside of your city or state. Whether you’re a small business owner or part of a larger travel brand, social media is impacting your bottom line. In the infographic below, created by funsherpa, you can view additional statistics regarding the online travel industry.

[Via: funsherpa, Image credit: John Athayde]