Social media is all about different types of interactions. We use it to share our experiences; search for inspiration; and find human connection. We revel in posting about our lives and, in turn, we enjoy seeing how others’ posts influence how we choose to spend our own. Instagram, for one, is a great opportunity for human expression; yet, like many social media platforms, its selectiveness comes with an innate risk of artifice, which can dehumanise and isolate.
A recent report from Schofields Insurance asked over 1,000 millennials were asked what was important to them when planning their holidays – revealing that, for many, an Instagrammable destination was a top priority. According to National Geographic photographer Chris Burkard (@chrisbukard, who boasts three million Instagram followers), “you’re less than 10 clicks away from seeing an image of somewhere on Instagram that makes you purchase a ticket to go there; I’ve met people who have travelled to places because of my photographs.”
It’s no surprise that social media platforms have become a game-changer for the tourism industry. Travel images exuding natural beauty – combined with guests’ desire for experiential trips – sit perfectly in Instagram’s visual landscape.
Using photography to support those in need is by far the greatest use of the medium. If you aren’t aware, Kauai is suffering catastrophic floods. Many homes lost with months of work to rebuild. I pulled together a print gallery on my website with my favorite Kauai images to support the relief efforts. 100% of proceeds will go to those affected for the next month. If you are interesting in supporting & purchasing a print you can visit my bio link or go here: www.chrisburkard.com/Shop/HAWAII/ . * also I am currently looking for suggestions on where to donate. Thanks for your help.
Yet the carefully documented and beautifully curated images can be so aesthetically pleasing, so perfect and illusory, that they detract from the real-life, immersive experience on offer. A recent article from the Guardian claims that Instagram is “sucking the life and soul out of the travel industry” through overly filtered images, same-same selfies in tick-box locations, and endorsements from influencers who are paid to post – making the gorgeous imagery seem as flat and fabricated as a computer screensaver. If a travel brand’s feed lacks an original, human aspect to them, where does that leave their credibility? How do potential guests know that they’ll have a truly authentic experience from their picture-perfect depictions of their offerings? Now, more than ever, travel brands need to think more wisely about how they want to tell their story with their online presence to ensure consumers connect with them as a brand.
Today, travellers are looking for something tangible to cut through the veneer of social media. Travel brands must offer authenticity in the stories they tell on their feeds –they need something that stands out from the Insta- crowd, and gives potential guests a real reason to come and visit.
Burkard feels that Instagram can be a mouthpiece for highlighting significant social and environmental issues, which can create a more purposeful reason to travel to a destination – especially if it encourages interest in particular causes. “The only way we’re going to get people to care about these places is if we get them there”, says Burkard. By using his awe-inspiring Instagram account to publicise travel brands who revolve their online stories around sustainable and environmental issues on their feeds, he lures people to the destinations he shines light on – having the dual effect of giving guests a valid and worthwhile reason to their destinations and showing a human side to their feed.
1Hotels’ Instagram feed (@1hotels) does this well: you need look no further than their bio to discover they’re a mission-driven luxury brand where nature comes first. Images show the expected slivers of turquoise swimming pools and white-on-white bedrooms; yet these are interspersed with more meaningful posts, which are designed to make the guest think about the changes 1Hotels has made to safeguard the future – things like a close-up of a reclaimed wooden key card, a greenery-clad New York hotel facade, and extraordinary, nature-filled interiors. They tell a story of sophisticated living for travellers that is not at the cost of the environment.
“Once you come to Namibia you will fall in love forever. It’s so different. You will fall in love from the first minute you start exploring our camps. I have guests returning time and again to Namibia. They keep coming back.” Wilderness Guide Abner Simeon chats to us about guiding and his love for Namibia… Follow the link in our bio to read more. Photograph: Kate Collins #wearewilderness #wildernesssafaris #ourjourneyschangelives #hoanibskeletoncoastcamp #hoanib #peopleofwilderness #skeletoncoast
Another brand who knows how to Instagram with a cause is Wilderness Safaris. A visit to their Instagram account (@wearewilderness) allows consumers to jump into the heart of Africa and get to know their brand through learning about their conservation work. Awe-inspiring photography of animals tells their responsible tourism success story, while portraits of their conservation officers highlight the importance of community, education and eco-tourism. By putting a human (and animal) face to their brand name, rather than limiting their social media presence to imagery of their luxury camps, Wilderness have successfully understood the power of storytelling in the social media landscape.
Elephant mother and daughter Gikka and Naya were introduced into the wild from the #Abu Herd almost exactly seven years ago, and the story of their lives since then has provided some fascinating insights into wild elephant behaviour and habitat choices. Follow the link in our bio 👉 to read the moving story of these two Abu elephants and their offspring. #abu #elephantherd #elephants #abuherd #wildernessmoments #wearewilderness #wildernesssafaris #botswana #okavangodelta
Meanwhile, the Soneva Resorts’ Instagram account (@discoversoneva) is a beautiful tableau of blues and greens, with wisps of white beaches and strategically placed hammocks. Behind this idyllic imagery, though, is a quiet message of intelligent and ethical luxury, where, thanks to their unique experiences on offer, the idea of sustainability is sold not as a compromise, but as an inspirational way of life. As dazzling as their feed may appear, Soneva’s communicates their commitment to education and sustainability with every image and caption – from the recycled glass lanterns at sunset; to the staff cycling along sandy tracks through the pristine jungle; to photos of their inviting, four-poster beds where the caption informs us that the sheets are washed with eco-friendly detergent.
For these brands, incorporating genuine meaning into the stories they tell online has become an overarching strategy for their social media – a strategy that has seen great success. Travellers want to experience a human touch in their day-to-day Instagram wanderings: they want to see their own needs and desires met – so allow them to enter a world that cares and encourages them to make the leap from sitting behind their screens to the experiencing real thing. Brands who are harnessing their social media platforms as a force for good are changing what we perceive as an ‘Instagrammable’ destination. Moving beyond aesthetically pleasing décor, they’re providing value-adding, genuine content – real stories worth telling that are layered with meaning. Ultimately, these are the sorts of brands that we, as humans, can truly connect to.
Harriet Whiting is a writer and social media manager who likes travel to be at the heart of everything she does. When she’s not blogging, copywriting or managing Instagram accounts for travel media companies including Mr and Mrs Smith, i-escape and Bouteco, she likes nothing better than getting out there and creating her own experiences – preferably with her two young boys in tow. Harriet also writes about green issues and motherhood, as well as running her own eco-campaign, The Greenery.