The bigger picture: How Instagram is changing the way we travel

A woman takes a photo of Lake Kawaguchiko against Mount Fuji. Pic: Piyawan Charoenlimkul/Shutterstock

GLOSSY brochures from travel giants have inspired vacation planning for years, but that appears to be changing. In the digital era, people are looking elsewhere for inspiration and for a different type of vacation experience.

Instagram, with its strong community of personal users, brands, and influencers, has become a hub for vibrant, high-quality images and information on all aspects of travel.

The thriving platform is now one of the biggest sources of travel inspiration, surpassing TV and magazines, according to a report by Blitz. It found that 84 percent of millennials and 73 percent of non-millennials were now far more likely to plan a trip based on someone else’s photos or social updates than other media.

Members of the network agree it is becoming increasingly influential. Sharon Lewin, a landscape and travel photographer who has been using Instagram for three years, told Travel Wire Asia: “Instagram plays a massive role in influencing people’s decisions to travel to particular destinations. The more you see beautiful photos from a destination, the more you probably want to visit it”.

So travelers, it seems, could be using the platform as both a source of inspiration and a resource to plan their vacations, much like a digital travel agent.

With more people turning to Instagram to help them research their trips, choose destinations and share their experiences, we took a look at the trends it could be driving.

Experiential travel

While not a new trend, experiential travel is becoming more popular as people strive to achieve their bucket list goals and search out enriching, authentic experiences.  These trips often embrace the local culture and see holidaymakers explore further afield beyond the tourist attractions to undeveloped areas and those of natural beauty.

As travelers visually document their experiences and share them to social networks, the images invariably inspire others to emulate or achieve better in their own trips and vacations.

Dubbed the “Instagram Effect”, user TrekkSoft suggests that it may well be responsible for the rise of experiential travel and will no doubt secure its future popularity as well.

Lauren Bath, a professional Instagrammer and travel photographer, said: “I have noticed a big trend in the amount of travelers who want to get great photos, so I think that any destination with amazing landscapes will prove popular in the years to come.”

Adventure travel

A photo posted by Cole Rise (@colerise) on

Adventure tourism is a fast growing travel niche and one that is becoming increasingly accessible as ordinary people strive to achieve amazing things and then share their experiences with others on social media.

The exploration of wild, exotic and even remote locations, for many, goes hand-in-hand with extreme sports and activities like mountaineering, snowboarding, and paragliding.

On Instagram, there are more than 235 thousand tags for #adventuretravel. A quick scroll through the feed shows that adrenaline-fuelled challenges, battling the elements, and a chance to get close to nature are all hugely popular with Instagramers.

Professional travel photographer and Instagram filter creator, Cole Rise, who has been using the platform since beta, adds his insight: “If every photo tells a story, adventure travel certainly tells an interesting one. Transporting people away from their ‘Mondays’ and showing them a faraway place, a different culture… the further from the norm the better.”

The trend looks to set to gain momentum with ABTA predicting that more holidaymakers will incorporate micro-adventures in their vacations this year.

Independent travel

More people are expressing a desire to explore alternatives to traditional vacation packages, opting instead for the freedom and flexibility of independent and even solo travel. Increasingly, many are keen to make the most of low cost flights and explore the growing diversity of accommodation options.

This shift is reflected on Instagram as the homestay network Airbnb is now one of the most influential accounts. Their feed which inspires “indie travelers” with images of treehouse hideaways, yurts, Airstreams and other unconventional rentals has attracted more than 1.5 million subscribers.

Travel photographer Johan Lolos who has been using Instagram professionally for two years, said: “I’ve noticed that people respond very well to anything related to road trips and a lifestyle that provides a great feeling of freedom.”

The trend for independent travel will likely continue especially among millennials, according to poll data from Topdeck Travel. They found that 71 percent of people surveyed intended to book flights, tours, and accommodation themselves on their next vacation, rather than go through a travel agent.

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