Instagrammable Tourism: Is Instagram ruining the travel industry?

posted on 31st Jan 2019

How do you choose the destination of your next holiday? Are you talking to friends? Looking at pictures on travel websites? You’re probably scrolling through your Instagram feed seeing your friends and influencers posting gorgeous selfies on a white sand beach, margarita in hand wearing a cute, trendy hat and sunglasses. Let’s be real. It’s giving you serious FOMO.

Turns out more than 40% of millennials prioritize ‘Instagrammability’ when choosing their next holiday spot. That’s right, you read that correctly. The perfect selfie beats costs and availability of alcohol, experiencing local cuisine and sightseeing. Yup, people care more about the likes and shares an image gets more than being at the location itself. What have we become? And more importantly, why has this happened? It could be because Instagram users see travel content as more genuine or trustworthy than a brochure or a travel website. Millennials are known to trust peers more than brands. Or is it the narcissism they say millennials have and selfies enable?

This Instagram surge is having a range of effects on destinations that are not structurally capable for larger numbers of people. Cinque Terre’s #NoFilter beauty has landed itself on many bucket lists. But an area with only 4,000 residents sees 2.4 million tourists a year majority of which are only day tours. Local governments are stepping in to control crowds looking to snap a picture of “off-the-beaten-track” destinations. After reaching a record number of 10,000 travellers a day, Santorini had to cap the number of cruise ship travellers to 8,000 a day

In addition to making for a worse traveller experience, destinations are worried about the environmental effect mass tourism has on these delicate ecosystems. Leonardo Dicaprio’s 2000 film ‘The Beach’ made Thailand’s Maya Bay famous but now is closed indefinitely to try to salvage the area’s coral reef. The picturesque beach would hit over 6,000 visitors a day to swim in the crystal blue water and snap a few pictures.

But it’s not all bad. Instagram is a powerful tool for destinations looking to bring in more attention and tourists. Like Wanaka, a small town in New Zealand, that attributes its growth to one thing – looking good on Instagram. The island saw a 14% increase in tourism after actively pursuing social media influencers, hosting Insta-meets and hosting influencers from around the world.

Tourism also helped Iceland after the financial crisis in 2008. Now, tourism is the second most important industry, bringing in 2.3 million visitors a  year – a 30% increase from 2016. But even with a better economy, officials are still worried about the impact tourism has on its ecosystem – asking tourists to skip the more popular destinations to avoid destruction and to leave off the geotag on their social media posts.

Brands are also tapping into travel trends to promote their own brands and piggyback on the cool girl(boy) lifestyle. Brands like Revolve, Benefit, and Boohoo are taking groups of Instagram influencers on holidays to benefit from their followings. Influencers are not only promoting products by simply wearing and tagging the brands, but also creating an experience around the product. Genius! I’ve seen on my own Instagram feed influencers becoming ‘ambassadors’ for various travel businesses. These trips are then paid for by brands that ask to have their products in pictures they take and post on Instagram- a bathing suit there, a pair of sunglasses here and a free trip to Monaco!

Then there are companies really capitalizing on Instagrammable content. Shoot My Travel is a company that connects local photographers to travellers in over 387 destinations. The company presents itself as “experiencing a city through the lens of a local photographer,” and it’s not a bad idea. I definitely know a few people who would do this… myself included.

Social media is very effective at influencing people to buy a plane ticket and visit somewhere new. I admit that I’ve been inspired a few times by my Instagram feed. And I hope everyone has an opportunity to travel and experience new things. But I challenge you to be mindful about where you’re going and the effect a cute selfie can have on some of the most beautiful places in the world.

 

Katelynn Spaid, Social Media Coordinator 

Katelynn Spaid moved to Dublin from Austin, Texas in March 2017 to work as the Social Media Coordinator for Neworld. She received her degree from Texas Tech University in Public Relations and has extensive experience in social media management, content marketing and sales. At Neworld, she has developed an appreciation for branding and its relationship with design effectiveness. She admires the creativity and enthusiasm of her colleagues and is happy to be a part of the show by promoting and celebrating their work.