Here's How Much Instagram Likes Influence Millennials' Choice Of Travel Destinations
Andrew Arnold , CONTRIBUTOR Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
Instagram has created a wave of social media-fueled tourism among the millennials.
According to a recent survey conducted by Schofields, more than 40% of those under 33 prioritize ‘Instagrammability’ when choosing their next holiday spot.
The picture-worthiness of a particular place beats other factors such as cost, local cuisine, and whether or not alcohol is freely available at a low cost. Interestingly enough, sightseeing opportunities scored as the lowest priority on the millennials’ list.
What’s driving the Instagramable travel trend?
Is this evidence of millennials’ shallowness? Not necessarily. The desire to please or impress peers didn’t begin with the advent of social media.
Another factor to consider is what likes actually mean. It’s not necessarily a popularity contest. For some, plenty of Instagram likes are an indication that a destination is simply visually pleasing and desirable. For example, if someone who isn’t a travel writer or professional photographer gets plenty of likes on their Instagram photos of a destination, that’s a pretty good indicator that they’re in a pretty spectacular spot.
Others likely see Instagram travel suggestions as being simply more genuine than commercial travel packets or guides. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. After all, the millennial generation is known for trusting peers more so than brands or celebrity endorsements.
When a local tourism board claims they’re the most desirable destination, that breeds skepticism. When other millennials make the claim, that holds more water.
The impact of Instagram on tourist destinations
Whatever millennials’ motivation is, Instagram is certainly having an impact on travel destinations. Today, what were once very remote destinations attracting only the most hardcore travelers are now being inundated with tourists. For many, the goal is to capture that perfect Instagram-worthy shot.
In some places, the sheer number of travelers has caused some negative effects. These destinations are now overcrowded. In some cases, so much so that local governments have had to take action. For example, in Santorini a daily limit was placed on the number of cruise ship tourists allowed to enter the island on a given day. Obviously crowding, the impact on local resources, and environmental concerns are very real.
On the other hand, the news isn’t all bad. Wanaka, a small town in New Zealand, began to actively pursue social media influencers. They achieved a 14% increase in tourism, and thanked Instagram for its role in that accomplishment.
How travel brands can use Instagram to attract millennials
The city of Wanaka achieved success by embracing, not resisting Instagram. That’s the first step for any brand that recognizes the role that Instagram plays in millennials’ travel choices. The next is to create a presence on the platform, start sharing engaging content, and build relationships with other Instagrammers.
Unfortunately, like Facebook, Instagram doesn’t automatically share every picture or video posted to all followers. One way to circumvent this, at least a bit, is to use Instagram stories. Using relevant hashtags as well as geotagging posts also helps to ensure that posts reach the desired audience.
Finally, it is important to keep in mind that while posting attractive content will certainly pique the interest of millennials, that only goes so far. Authenticity is key. Consumers will also read reviews and examine product and service offerings carefully. Again, visa and other local restrictions also determine where and how freely millennials can visit some destinations. All U.S. citizens for instance need a travel visa to visit Brazil. As a serious travel brand, you can’t mislead users about that.
Mostly, the key is creating a sincere presence on Instagram. To do that, it’s important to think like a traveler. What motivates people to like, share, or post their own content? What motivates them to use a branded hashtag?
Airbnb is one brand that has done an amazing job of generating a huge following and plenty of engagement on Instagram. They start by sharing compelling snaps of beautiful destinations ranging from beaches to the Alps. They also share guest’s photos and stories as well. This dovetails very nicely with the company’s carefully curated reputation for sincerity and creating great customer relationships.
Finally, production values matter. Instagrammers who have the largest followings, and earn the most engagement with their posts go above and beyond when it comes to the content they create and share. Pictures and videos are all carefully produced and edited to get the best end results. For brands, as is always the case on social media, the standards are set even higher.
The Instagram factor clearly plays a major role when it comes to the decisions that millennials make when choosing travel destinations. For some, the idea of receiving attention via likes and shares is the draw. For others, Instagram acts as a bit of a travel guide. They see beautiful destinations that have earned lots of attention, and they want to experience that themselves. Instagram credibility is also an influential factor. To make the most of this, travel related brands must create a presence on Instagram that is sincere and true to their brand. Then, they must engage their audience with high quality pictures and videos.