Visual social network Instagram is a feast for the eyes – particularly for those who love traveling. The platform now has more than 1 billion active monthly users, who post more than 100 million photos each day. And a large percentage of those photos are travel-related.
Each day, users are treated to photos of dramatic landscapes, and they’re making a note of these destinations for future travel plans.
To get an idea of the impact of Instagram on the travel industry, look no further than Wanaka, New Zealand. The small alpine town launched a campaign to invite and host social media “influencers,” those who have thousands of Instagram followers. These influencers posted their adventures on Instagram. The town saw the fastest growth in tourism in history – 14%.
A survey from Schofields found that more than 40% of people under 33 are prioritizing “Instagrammability” when choosing a destination for their next trip. The picture-worthiness of the destination is more important than the cost and the food. Sightseeing opportunities actually ranked lowest on the priority list for millennials.
The only downfall? Overcrowding. Promotion of these tourist destinations is great for business but bad for the environment and travelers looking for a more peaceful trip.
Photographer Trey Ratcliff told National Geographic, “A lot of people are still very ego-driven. They want to portray that they are leading some kind of perfect life, which is quite silly really.”
The desire to get that perfect selfie can have tragic consequences. In 2015, a 24-year-old Australian lost her balance and fell to her death when trying to take a photo at Trolltunga. In 2014, a Polish couple climbed over the safety barrier at Portugal’s Cabo da Roca to take a selfie and fell to their deaths. Tourists are increasingly ignoring warning signs and safety barriers to get a photo.
Instagram is changing the way we travel – for better and worse. The problems associated with the trend are likely to get worse before they get better.
In fact, it’s now easier than ever to travel to the destinations that you see in Instagram posts. An app called easyJet allows users to upload a screenshot from Instagram, attempts to identify where the photo was snapped using image recognition technology by detecting key landmarks and reading the text in the post and book a flight to that destination right through the app. The technology is impressive, but not perfect. It’s possible for the feature to confuse a landmark and give data for a completely different destination.
Apps will make it easier for Instagrammers to reach these iconic destinations in their feeds. But travel experts are concerned that people are merely chasing “likes” and don’t actually do much of anything when they arrive at their destination. It appears they say, that travelers are only making the trek to these places to get a photo.