Instagram and its Influence on Travel

October 11, 2017

Instagram and Travel

Is Instagram a positive influence on travel and travellers? 

As with any social platform, Instagram provokes strong opinions.  We explore the pros and cons below.  Read on, look, think – and make your own mind up!

For:

  • Inspirational – Instagram is all about beauty, and as a visual platform, it showcases stunning destinations. This could encourage people to go, spend money, and add to the destination’s economy.
  • Democratic – anyone can build a following; all they need is an eye for a good image.
  • Creative – filters really became a ‘thing’ through Instagram, and the platform actively encourages image manipulation.
  • Insider access – we can have a window on the world’s more unusual corners, with Instagram allowing us to research destinations visually rather than through the written world.
  • Immediate – the app means you can go from snap to post within seconds.
  • Campaigning – the old adage ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ is true – so a good platform for highlighting a cause.
  • Marketing – tourism boards, DMOs and tour operators are able to connect with travel communities that are in the millions. See the Instagram business page for more information.

Instagram and Travel

Against:

  • Instagram TravelUnreal – with more than 30 filters available, Instagram means we see lots of stylised versions of the world around us.
  • Vain – more than any other platform Instagram has seen the camera on ourselves, but a very carefully curated version of the self…
  • Misleading – while travel journalism also covers what to avoid as well as how to get there, Instagram doesn’t. It paints a perfect picture, glossing over imperfections and challenges.
  • Boring – seen the shot of the back of a girl’s head with a natty hat on, or the hiker on a cliff’s edge, the flamingo inflatable?  There are so many ‘staple’ images on Instagram, they crop up again and again. And, as the text is mainly about generating likes, it can be more than a bit trite.
  • Cynical – professional Instagrammers make a living and build a lifestyle out of their imagery. They feature themselves in the images, but an abstract version of themselves, or a detail, knowing that we connect more when there’s a human presence, but allowing the viewer to project themselves into the scene. Shots like those below are the stock-in-trade of the experienced travel Instagrammer, boosting their likes, their followers and their ability to secure more and more exciting experiences gratis, from travel brands keen to ride the wave of their popularity.
  • Losing the moment – one of the weird effects of the trying to capture the moment for Instagram is that we actually forget to enjoy the moment. Worst case scenario of this is the Instagram-related deaths when, with a Darwinian twist, travellers have actually lost their lives trying to emulate the perfect shot on a cliff’s edge.

Instagram Travel

  • Over-tourism – too many tourists and the degradation of beautiful places is a hot topic. Instagram plays a role in this, with certain beauty spots seeing queues of tourists eager to take an iconic shot.
  • Untested – while many travel brands and destinations are making use of Instagram and engaging with ‘influencers’, there’s very little available data on the effect of visitor numbers. The most compelling case study that is cited is the rise in tourism arrivals to Wanaka in New Zealand after they invited a raft of influencers in 2015 – with figures up by 14% in 2016.

It’s not tricky to identify the negative sides to Instagram, but as a communications platform, it’s very much arrived, with over 400 million active users, 90% of whom are under 35.  Every interaction on Instagram is essentially data – and data that can be mined and analysed.  Brands that will do well on Instagram in the future will be the ones which know how to crunch through that data and how to engage, anticipating and creating travel desires we didn’t even know we had.