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How Instagram Is Changing Travel


When does a social media trend become more than just likes and shares you see on your phone screen? When it’s big enough to get you on a plane, and to boost tourism by the thousands.

That’s precisely what New Zealand’s South Island proved in 2015 when it invested in Instagram coverage and saw a huge jump in visitors. Never heard of Wanaka, the island’s small resort town with glacier-capped mountain peaks sprinkled around a glassy, serene lake? Neither had most overseas tourists before the area’s tourism board hired Instagram influencers to share wanderlust-inducing photos like these:

Wanaka saw a 14 percent rise in overseas visits last year, and the South Island average jumped to seven percent—double the year’s visitor growth on the North Island. While it can be tricky to pinpoint the root cause of a rise in tourism, it’s pretty clear that in this case, it has a lot to do with influencers with huge followings sharing the vivid beauty of the destination. We’ve been conditioned to live vicariously through Instagram—the most polished versions of reality—but when it comes to travel, those realities are often within reach.

Tourism boards that invest in social media as a form of advertising have told Skift which influencers they’d love to get on board—Pure Michigan named-dropped National Geographic, Explore Canada has eyed the outdoorsy storytelling expertise of VSCO, Visit Queensland had the good fortune of seeing its hashtags surface on tennis legend Roger Federer’s account, and Visit Philly goes after their now-famous locals, like YouTube star Quinta B. These users have millions of followers, so it’s clear why they’re considered a reliable source of tourism.

Here are some other envy-worthy examples:

You Tell Us: How does Instagram influence your travel plans? 

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Associate Editor Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel. Follow her adventures on Instagram @shanmcmahon.

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