Adding the Experience Back into Instagrammable Destinations

From a hotel in Maldives that offers an Instagram butler to a mural in L.A. where you need at least 20,000 followers to pose for a photo, Instagram’s power on destinations has been felt and reflected in visitation numbers, occupancy rates and ADR.

During the early years of the photo and video-sharing social media platform, 90 percent of users were under 35. But over time, these age demographics have widened. Today, you’ll find Generation Z uploading videos of everyday life at school, as well as Baby Boomer travelers sharing photos from their hiking getaway in Maine.

Instagram Age Demographics

Source: Statista, July 2018

With the platform’s wide age demographics, it has the ability to captivate a large audience and influence their travel decisions based on a destination’s “Instagrammability.”

While Instagrammability may be a new word for your advertising dictionary, it is a trend that is gaining traction. Travelers, adventurers and vacation seekers are choosing destinations based on how these locations will fit within their feeds. In other words, they are assessing whether they can capture an Instagram-worthy shot before they book their trip.

A recent survey revealed that most Millennials travel to a destination based on its Instagrammability. With this as the number one deciding factor, it begs the question—what happened to visiting a destination for the experience?

Promoting your destination’s picture-perfect natural beauty, landmarks, and attractions and bringing in visitors go hand in hand, but the experience—chatting with the locals, exploring different cuisines, immersing yourself in a new culture—must be added back into the journey. It’s the gap that needs to be filled.

If your destination can master selling the experience while showcasing its Instagrammability, you might even create another social media phenomenon.

The Instagrammable Destination Effect

With Instagram’s one billion monthly active users, its role in the travel journey can’t be ignored. But the platform has slowly chipped away at the thrill of experiencing a destination and instead created a thirst for Instagrammers to show a perfectly curated reel of their life’s highlights.

The desire to capture these photos has even led to deaths—a 24-year-old Australian tripped and fell to her death while trying to recreate an Instagram-famous photo on Trolltunga, a cliff in Norway. It’s also created an environment where visitors ignore rules and sometimes disregard other cultures—like at the Temple of the Sacred Tooth in Sri Lanka where locals ask visitors not to pose with the Buddha inside, but these requests are often shoved to the side.

Instagrammer at Trolltunga

Hiker poses on the Trolltunga cliff in Norway.

“Our goal is to take this negativity surrounding Instagrammable destinations and spin it to our advantage. We need to remind visitors why they’re there in the first place so they can get more depth from their trips,” comments Stewart Hill, VP of strategic planning at evok advertising.

Bringing the Focus on Experience Back to the Destination

Rather than dwelling on how some visitors make travel plans solely for their Instagrammability—and forget the experiences had along the way—destinations can use this social media phenomenon to their advantage.

Destinations can bring the focus on experience back to the destination. The end result of a vacation or trip is not the post—it’s the experience.

“It should be 90% experience and 10% what I can tell my friends,” Stewart continues. “It’s not just about going to the Trevi Fountain in Rome for a photo to show off. It’s about feeling its significance when you see it and absorbing the history and culture behind it.”

While you can’t force visitors to put down their phones, live in the moment and learn about a destination, there are a few measures you can take to promote it.

Tell Travelers Why Your Destination Is Famous

Your destination might be Instagram famous, but share with your visitors why it’s historically famous and what it’s known for today. Whether you’re the oldest city in the U.S., like St. Augustine, Florida, or you’re the Peanut Capital of the World, like Dothan, Georgia, share the history, the stories and the secrets about your destination with your visitors.

“You should be saying to your visitors, ‘Come to our destination and then show people another reason why they should come here,’” Stewart shares.

Take Action: Share stories and videos on your website or even invest in walking tours with highly knowledgeable local guides. Remember, your storytelling should be educational but also entertaining and engaging.

Invite Visitors to Explore Beyond Instagram-Famous Spots

Many destinations have one unique selling point (USP) they push, like the oldest racing track in the nation in Sebring, Florida, or the only place in the world to swim with manatees. If you’re unsure about your USP, dig into hashtags for your destination. These will reveal what travelers think is unique about you, and it’s where visitors search for ideas to capture the best Instagram photos.

But your destination is more than your Instagram-worthy USP. While you should promote your USP, make sure you also show how your other landmarks, attractions and activities are Instagrammable.

Take Action: Create an interactive map for visitors to download or an app with augmented reality that highlights your destination’s top landmarks, attractions and views.

Show Visitors How to Live in the Moment

Staying present and truly experiencing the curiosity, excitement and history a destination offers isn’t something you can just ask from your visitors. You have to invite them to do it. Tourist offerings are unique to each and every destination. It will take some creativity and brainstorming from your team to find out what works for you.

Take Action: Build a massive chalkboard or create an interactive board next to a landmark where visitors can write or share stories about what they thought or how they felt.

How to Promote Your Destination as Instagrammable

Once you’ve mastered the art of allowing visitors to fully experience your destination—while capturing photos in between—you can start promoting your own Instagrammable photos.

How to Position Your Destination as an Instagrammable Hotspot

What Instagrammability Means for Destinations

With Instagrammers snapping, adding filters and sharing photos from your destination, travelers hold the power to make or break a destination. Striking a balance between showcasing the experiences your destination offers and its Instagrammability can influence travelers all around the world to visit. Shift the power back into your hands.

Remember, your destination isn’t just about its filtered photos, it’s about the experience.

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