Industries in Depth

#Travelgoals: why Instagram is key to understanding millennial tourism

Horseshoe Bend, Page, United States

A picture is worth a thousand words to the young globe-trotters of today. Destinations need to get wise if they're to survive. Image: Drif Riadh/Unsplash

Tiffany Misrahi
Vice-President of Policy, World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC)
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While LinkedIn continues to be the go-to service to share professional experiences, millennials have turned to Instagram to create their social brand and narrative. Curating one’s profile is an art – one that many invest significant time in, whether it involves scouting for locations, picture editing or coming up with a cool caption before posting.

If Instagramming is their brand, then geo-tagging is their postcard.

Millennials count on the fact that a picture is worth a thousand words, using posts to tell their stories and share their experiences. They know that being well-travelled is an enviable quality, and use social media to enrich and plan their adventures, fully aware that they are being followed by online audiences.

In this day and age, “likes” are the hard currency of social approval and status, with “influence” set to become increasingly easy to monetize in the next decade. And unlike Facebook, where people tend to upload an album at the end of their trip, Instagram offers the instant gratification of sharing a picture moments after taking it.

The new generation is fuelled by wanderlust and prioritizes personally enriching experiences over material possessions – a trend that is set to continue. In a survey by Boston Consulting Group, 70% of millennials expressed a desire to visit every continent, versus 48% non-millennials.

Image: Amadeus

With 95 million pictures and videos shared daily by over 800 million active users – 55% of whom are aged between 18 and 29 – Instagram is a major source of inspiration, influencing millennials’ travel decisions and even acting as their travel guide. Rightly or wrongly, users believe that pictures on Instagram provide a more authentic insight into a destination than a tourist brochure.

A recent survey revealed that more than 40% of those under 33 consider “Instagrammability” when selecting their next holiday destination. Restaurants, bars and hotels, such Sketch in London or the the Riddler in San Francisco, have made it on the list of must-see stops largely thanks to their visual appeal.

What this means is that destinations today need to think about how to accommodate Instagram in their marketing strategy. Already in 2015, the small town of Wanaka in New Zealand started inviting social media “influencers” to post about their experiences there. The result: the fastest tourism growth in the country, with a 14% increase.

TravelBird has ranked the “most Instagrammed tourist attractions” in the world, on the basis of hashtags. Here are the top 10:

Image: TravelBird

But what happens if a particular spot ends up on everyone’s bucket list? Destinations need to be smart, and strategically consider how they can generate growth and new jobs through travel and tourism, while still preserving their natural and cultural heritage.

Tourists need to be smart, too. There have been countless accidents by individuals taking significant risks and performing dangerous stunts to take the perfect picture. People need to travel mindfully.

Through the sharing of experiences, communities have begun to emerge. Beyond sharing their personal stories, Instagram communities also have the potential to draw wider attention to important social and environmental challenges as they arise, in turn creating communities of purpose.

As you think about your next trip, will you turn to Instagram for inspiration?

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