Is Instagram the New Tourism Marketing Tool?
Instagram, more so than any other social media platform, has created a wave of social media-driven tourism, particularly among millennials. Instagram is uniquely positioned to inspire and energize a new generation of travelers.
It’s the scrapbook and slideshow for the modern-day traveler but on a much grander scale since nearly one out of seven people in the world Today we’re going to look at what makes Instagram such an effective avenue for tourism marketing and how Instagram influencers are driving tourism in an entirely new direction, but first a little background.
- The Travel Industry + Instagram
- Instagram as the Number One Marketing Platform
- How Travelers Use Instagram
- The Instagram Effect in Countries Around the World
- The Importance of Being Instagrammable
- Top Travel Influencer
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With that delivered, let’s dive right into the article.
When Instagram was founded as a photo sharing site in 2010, it became an instant success, acquiring over one million members within the first two months. Now, less than 10 years later, that number has grown exponentially, reaching one billion users in May 2019. Along with Instagram came the new phenomenon of Instagram influencers—people who have a strong following on Instagram that have the power to influence purchasing habits. These could be celebrities, bloggers, personalities, activists—anyone with credibility and a fan base.
Over 70 percent of major brands dedicate a significant portion of their marketing budget to influencers. The connections that influencers have with their followers are more authentic than the connection a consumer has with a commercial or ad. Influencers have major sway when it comes to fashion, brand loyalty, political beliefs, products, and even travel.
The Travel Industry + Instagram
Travel and tourism is the fastest-growing sector in the world, outpacing health care, IT, and financial services. Revenues from the travel and tourism sector reached 8.8 trillion US dollars in 2018, growing almost four percent from the previous year. This accounts for 10.4 percent of all global economic activity and 319 million jobs worldwide.
Travel and tourism businesses as well as hospitality brands are increasingly looking to Instagram influencers to help promote their business interests. In 2018, over 2 billion dollars was spent on advertising with Instagrammers, and a significant portion of this money is dedicated to inspiring audiences worldwide to travel to new locations. The impact of this kind of marketing is evident in changing travel trends and markets.
Instagram as the Number One Marketing Platform
Instastories was introduced in August 2016, allowing users to post photo and video sequences that would disappear the next day. The popularity of Instagram Stories eclipsed Snapchat’s popularity within eight months of launching. By January 2019, there were 500 million daily active Stories users globally. Marketing experts in one survey identified Instagram posts as the most effective content format followed closely by Instagram stories in second place.
YouTube videos was a distant third. So travel and tourism marketers have been placing a heavy emphasis on Instagram advertising in order to reach important demographics and drive travel to their particular destination. The key to this, of course, is choosing the right influencers to promote their services, brand, or destination. These influencers are then often offered free hotel stays, vacation packages, or travel experiences in exchange for their promotion.
How Travelers Use Instagram
Travel inspiration can strike spontaneously on Instagram or be sought out from targeted searches. For those seeking out info on a certain city, landmark, or country, Instagram stories can be aggregated by location, and a user can also search for top hashtags or geotags for a certain destination.
Many travelers like to follow locals of the cities they are interested in visiting so they can get the inside scoop on the best restaurants and hangouts. Of course, the more engagement a post receives in the form of likes, comments, and tags, the more the content is promoted on the platform. As more people turn to Instagram for their travel planning, more and more cities and countries are recognizing the tremendous potential for marketing on the site and are eager to leverage the strong following of travel influencers.
The Instagram Effect in Countries Around the World
Various cities around the world have tourism boards that have reached out to influencers in order to boost tourism numbers, and this has proved to be an extremely effective strategy. For example, the resort town of Wanaka on New Zealand’s South Island is absolutely stunning, but few international tourists even knew it existed prior to 2015.
That’s when Wanaka’s tourism board hired a number of popular Instagram influencers to promote the picturesque town. It’s certainly no coincidence that Wanaka had a 14 percent increase in its number of overseas visitors in the year following the Instagram campaign.
Another location that has benefitted from strategic partnerships with top social media influencers is Dubai. The Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce recognizes the importance of maintaining a strong presence on Instagram and has created an official tourism account under the name Visit Dubai.
Visit Dubai has 1.4 million followers, but they also make a point to seek out popular Instagrammers to further boost their presence. Dubai’s tourism revenues have increased year after year in part because of this influence, and in 2018 Dubai welcomed 15.92 million visitors.
These are just two examples of locations that have seen a positive effect from Instagram influencers driving travel, but there are hundreds of others. The ones that benefit most, however, are the ones that offer the best photo opportunities.
The Importance of Being Instagrammable
In one survey of millennial travelers under age 33, 40 percent ranked how ‘Instagrammable’ the vacation will be as their most important factor when planning a trip. This percentage was almost twice as high as those who selected cost as the most important factor. And opportunities for sightseeing came in last in the survey with only 3.9 percent of respondents naming it as a top priority.
This reflects a greater trend in the younger generations making decisions in their lives based on how they will be portrayed on social media. A greater emphasis is put on the appearance than on the actual experience. Savvy marketers are able to use this to their advantage as they enlist top influencers to demonstrate just how Instagrammable their targeted destination is.
Travel influencers are known for taking pretty photos that inspire wanderlust in Instagrammers,
but the downside to this culture is that instead of fully enjoying a new experience or destination or taking a genuine picture, Instagrammers obsess over capturing the perfect photo to get the maximum number of likes. Also, influencers have been accused of creating a fake perception of travel that can’t be replicated by the average traveler. However, the most successful travel influencers have millions of followers that they continually engage with authentic, quality content rather than bombarding them with ads. Let’s look at one example.
Top Travel Influencer
One of the most popular travel influencers, as recognized by Forbes, is Russian photographer Murado Osmann, who has 4.1 million followers. His “Follow Me To” series featuring his wife has millions of views and has consistently inspired travelers from around the world for six years.
He has highlighted numerous locations, including Tower Bridge in London, a heart shaped pool on the coast of Mykonos, and a dolphin-filled cove off the island of Mauritius. Don’t know much about Mauritius? You’ll definitely want to check out our video of 15 things you didn’t know about Mauritius.
But now back to Murado. He definitely inspires travel envy, and unlike many travel influencers who have to pitch themselves to potential sponsors, Murado is flooded with requests from luxury travel brands and tourism boards representing cities around the world who want to capitalize on his strong following. However, Murado is careful about how he monetizes his page. He knows that the key to successful promotion is authenticity.
If Instagram users feel they are looking at a sales pitch, it’s a huge turnoff. However, if they see someone like Murado, who isn’t a traditional celebrity, traveling the world with his wife, they’re more likely to pay attention and be inspired. And in that process, a certain hotel or location or landmark might catch their eye, and that’s what marketers who collaborate with travel influencers are counting on.
In these days where social media is king, influencers are having a greater impact than ever in a wide range of areas. In the tourism sector, they are driving more people toward pretty locations that are deemed to be “Instagram-worthy.” There’s less emphasis on traveling based on interests, cultural pursuits, or attractions. Instead, many people are seeking out locations where they can capture the perfect picture to represent them living their best life.
While it’s fine to want likes and follows, if you have the opportunity to travel, make sure you are choosing a destination because you are genuinely interested, and instead of wasting your trip setting up the perfect shot, take a quick picture and then focus on living in the moment and enjoying the experience.
If you’d like to explore the idea of being an influencer instead of the influenced, check out the book Social Media Marketing Mastery 2019. This valuable book offers guidance in how to build your own brand and become an influencer on multiple platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.
Now that we’re wrapping up this story, we’d like to know: Do you ever check out Instagram for inspiration when planning a trip? Let us know in the comments.