Is Instagram Ruining Travel?

is social media ruining tourism and how we travel

Hey Owlets,

One of the things I’ve heard being complained about more and more in the media recently is “Instagram tourism” and to be honest it’s starting to annoy me. In case you don’t know what that is it’s when people choose to visit places specifically because they’re pretty, photogenic or unique either with the intension of sharing it on social media, or because they saw someone else share it on social media  and wanted to see it for themselves - basically if it’s travel related and it goes viral then it’s probably going to be the subject of an Instagram tourism rant at some point. Being that my job is to show you interesting and unique places to visit, I’m getting a little fed up of every major news outlet shouting that Instagram is ruining tourism. Instead, here’s my take on Instagram from an Instagram tourist’s point of view.

Imagine opening up your internet browser searching for your next holiday destination - you keep searching through package holiday websites, airline offerings and “amazing deals” but the same names keep coming up. If you travel, even just an average amount, you could probably rattle off a list of names of places that you’re repeatedly offered despite looking for something new - think Benidorm, Tenerife, Malaga or Cyprus. Been there, done that, and if you haven’t then probably everyone you know has. 

is social media ruining tourism and how we travel

Now open Instagram and search #travel and you’re suddenly inundated with places you can’t pronounce or countries you never thought to visit - it’s easy to understand why so many people are ready to book a holiday after scrolling through social media. Have you heard of Cappadocia in Turkey? If you answered yes I’m betting you probably saw a picture of it on Instagram at sunrise with hot air balloons everywhere. According to Gobe Magazine 48% of people head to Instagram to inspire their next destination - while tourists are getting inspiration from travel influencers I don’t think it’s fair to blame us for simply filling a gap that traditional tourism brands have left.

One of the things I see bloggers constantly getting the blame for is overtourism. Overtourism is the concept of a certain place receiving too many visitors, often making it uninhabitable for locals by way of making it too busy and stressful to live in and bumping up prices so locals can’t afford to live there. In 2018 I went to a talk by Amsterdam’s Tourism Office where they said they’ve entirely stopped promoting the city and are telling people to go elsewhere in the Netherlands - in the speech he actually said they “didn’t want to become Venice”, which is understandable.

is social media ruining tourism and how we travel

Amsterdam suffers particularly with two issues - the rise in availability of cheap airfares and the frequency of cruise ships visiting the city. In January 2019 the city introduced a tax on cruise passengers of €8 each payable by the cruise lines. There was discussion around whether this was to help the city raise funds to build better infrastructure or if it was to discourage cruise ships from calling at the city, but within a few weeks Cruise and Maritime Voyages had already announced axing almost 40 calls into the city, replacing it with nearby Rotterdam.

The problems that Amsterdam faces aren’t unique to the Dutch city - with cheap airfares and the image of cruise ships getting a makeover from grey hair only into a cool holiday option there are simply more people travelling more often. Yes, you do see Amsterdam on Instagram but if influencers aren’t being blamed for that mess, how can they be blamed for anything else when you can get cheap flights pretty much everywhere? I know the saying “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink” could apply here, but really a lot of prospective travellers often just look at what flights are cheapest then turn to the internet for suggestions of what to do there - if you’re looking for someone to blame shouldn’t it be the airlines?

is social media ruining tourism and how we travel

While most media outlets are busy bashing influencers as the sole cause of over-tourism I want to look at it a different way. If you’ve read my other articles had you heard of Timisoara in Romania before I posted about it? Had you thought about visiting Toulon in Southern France before I posted it on Instagram? These are both places that my readers told me they hadn’t heard of, but I’ve had so many comments telling me it’s added to their list of places they’d like to visit. In my mind, if bloggers have the power to influence where tourists choose to visit then aren’t we a solution to over-tourism rather than part of the problem? You might be sick of seeing yet another picture of Bali, but before us it was a mostly unknown place. If influencers choose alternative places to visit and promote instead of the typical Paris/Barcelona/Amsterdam then that takes visitors away from the overflowing cities and encourages them to visit somewhere that might not yet be on the map.

is social media ruining tourism and how we travel

Yes, influencers can be part of the problem but I’m not sure it’s fair to blame us for everything. Travel is cool now and not just because of Instagram. Start looking a little deeper in your feed, find yourself a cheap flight to an airport you’ve never heard of and go explore somewhere new; just remember to post it on Instagram when you get back so we can find somewhere new too. 

What do you think? Is Instagram ruining travel? Let me know in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Love and Feathers, 
 The Owlet 💜 
You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest

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