Your AAA Network

The Instagram Itch

Social media's ability to inspire FOMO is transforming how, where – and even why – we travel.

Table Mountain Aerial Cableway inCape Town, South Africa.

(Photo: Chiara Salvadori / Moment / getty images)

Walt Disney World. The Eiffel Tower. Long Beach, Calif. What do all of these destinations have in common? Other than being quite dreamlike, they’re some of the most Instagrammed places in the world, with their hashtags reaching into the millions.

Today many travelers are heading to social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, searching through gorgeous sunset shots, seas of smiling faces and destination hashtags for travel inspo.

The trend only shows signs of growing: 51% of millennials say social media posts have influenced their own travel planning choices, according to a 2018 Allianz Global Assistance survey, while 3 in 10 Americans admit their travel planning choices are somewhat or very influenced by social media posts.

The #Maui hashtag has 6 million Instagram posts.

(Photo:Matt Anderson Photography / Moment / getty images)

Insta-Tourism

The travel industry is taking notice. Tourism boards, travel companies and destinations are capitalizing on the business opportunity with marketing programs aimed at catching some of the social buzz.

More than 7 million people follow Walt Disney World on Instagram. Search for the hashtag #WaltDisneyWorld and you’ll find more than 5.3 million posts. Disney works with social media influencers regularly, but points out that the influencer must align with their brand and have an authentic voice.

Walt Disney World has more than 7 million followers on Instagram.

(Photo:wdwnews)

“Our theme parks have been featured as one of the top ‘most-Instagrammed’ locations in the world for several years,” said Disney. “The incredible attention to detail created by Walt Disney Imagineers as well as the immersive nature of our theme parks and destinations inspire great photo-worthy moments for our guests.”

As travelers have become more socially savvy, marketers have had to change their ways. Consumers are looking for brands they can relate to in a personal way.

“The age of social media has changed the way we see destinations, highlighting local areas that are sometimes overlooked by tourism boards,” said Erika Richter, communications director at the American Society of Travel Advisors. “We’ve seen this with popular destinations like Bali, Indonesia, and Havana, Cuba, that have been fixtures on popular travel accounts filled with young travelers living their best lives.”

An aerial view of verdant rice terraces, Tegallalang, Bali.

(Photo:Evgeny Vasenev / Aurora Photos / getty images)

A vintage Ford convertible in Havana, Cuba.

(Photo:Grafissimo / E+ / getty images)

Insta-Spaces

Many companies around the world are creating photo-worthy Insta-spaces to encourage visitors to post on their social media with a branded hashtag. Think massive flower walls, beautiful art installations and foods that practically beg to be photographed (we’re looking at you, handmade doughnuts), most of which come with a relevant hashtag.

Companies like Doughnut Plant are creating photoworthy Insta-spaces.

(Photo:Qualls Benson for The Market Line)

Long Beach, Calif., during the golden hour.

(Photo:Claude LeTien / Moment / getty images)

Loren Simpson, digital communications director at the Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau, has seen the idea of Insta-spaces reflected in the design aesthetic of local hotels, attractions and businesses and works with them to increase their social media presence.

“We host contests, and constantly post photos on Instagram from events, tagging our members’ social media handles, which in turn assists in increasing their social media footprint,” she said.

Insta-Tours

Tour companies are becoming savvy as well, using social media to create more bookings. GetYourGuide, an international tour guide company, has seen a vast interest in its “Instagram tours” of beautiful places around the world like Bali, South Africa, Hawaii, Jaipur, Athens and Rome.

City Palace in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India.

(Photo:Tanarch / iStock / getty images)

The Roman Colosseum in the evening.

(Photo:Harald Nachtmann / Moment / getty images)

“We develop these tours with Instagram in mind,” said Rachel Coleman, social media lead at GetYourGuide. “The idea is that you have a local guide take you around to the most photogenic spots in a region so you can get your photos and a history lesson at the same time.”

Simply add a fact from your tour and/or a catchy pun, and you have your next Instagram post.

Rodrigo Rizzi, general manager at JW Marriott El Convento Cusco in Peru, has seen an increase in bookings at the hotel because of the unique activities it markets to prospective guests with its Instagram hashtag, #JWMarriottCusco.

It’s a free way to advertise that the boutique hotel offers visits with Panchita, a baby alpaca, ceviche cooking classes and a tour of a local market with its chef.

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