What’s travel inspiration worth?
As you walk through even the most remote parts of the world, one thing becomes clear: there may not be any running water, or doors – but mobile phones are everywhere. Mobile phones put nearly everyone on earth, over 7.2 billion people in fact, just a tap away from opening a picture that changes their life, or at least their plans and dreams to getaway. In the pursuit of destination inspiration, few platforms are more effective in the most infantile stages of “ooh, that looks nice” than Instagram, and that’s changing travel – for better and worse.
A picture is not just worth 1,000 words. It can be worth $1,000,000,000’s of actual dollars. With a single snap, even someone with 5 followers can change the perception of a city, a bar, a country or part of the world, to people who will now perhaps wish to experience or see it for themselves, even if it’s only five people – it’s still people. A popular Instagram account capturing the perfect sunset can send thousands, even millions of travelers into preliminary booking mode. In countries such as Slovenia, where Lake Bled is the new affordable “it” alternative to Lake Como, tourism now accounts for over 100,000 jobs and 16% of the gross domestic product, and rising.
The nature of social media, and especially Instagram, is “social”. The essence of being social is sharing, and if an iconic traveler, or popular celebrity shares a single snap, it can create such massive attention that a place is forever changed. For example, (almost) everyone loves David Beckham, and when the great man posted a picture declaring Lucali of Brooklyn as the best pizza joint in New York City, the otherwise nondescript restaurant was flooded for months on end. Sure, it was probably great for business in the short term, but if the buzz drives away locals or longtime faithfuls, there’s a price to pay.
A fascinating divide between Instagrammers and the financial gatekeepers of the travel industry is the question of whether pretty pictures turn into actual dollars. The answer is of course “yes”, but at the moment, it’s virtually impossible to track and quantify to what extent. When a picture is posted of an incredible beach, airplane seat, drink or hotel, it’s rarely the exact moment someone is actually ready to whip out their credit card and book. More often than not, they see the picture, think “ooh, i’ll remember that, or pin it” but when they fire up their web browser some weeks later, there’s virtually no way of actually tracking the fact that this one picture from this one Instagram account is the reason you plan to visit Atlas Bar in Singapore.
Now – this is one where style must be backed up with substance, but a neat beach hut, clever ice cream shop or under the radar destination can instantly compete and win customers thanks to the magical connectivity of Instagram and social media et al. The Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York is a perfect example of social media all star meets truly exquisite product. Instagram shares of something called a “Cronut” captivated people from all around the world, and when they actually went in to sample the Croissant meets Donut, the reviews were rave worthy. This world of instant and most importantly “free” opportunity allows people in the rural outskirts of the world, like the riverbanks of Laos to connect with audiences, potentially in the millions and billions – if they’ve got the goods, or natural beauty.
How does Instagram affect your travel?
Featured image courtesy of the Intercontinental Vietnam Danang Sun.