In the digital age, social media influencers are vital to the travel industry. They influence where we travel too, where we stay and what we do whilst travelling. But how do they influence our decisions? What impact is this having on the travel industry?
What is an influencer?
In order to understand the impact influencers are having, we need to know what an influencer is. According to Pixlee, a social media influencer is a user on social media who have established credibility in a specific industry. They often have large followings in order to reach and persuade their audience. They often post images online of their idyllic trips away, in order to try to persuade and engage their audience to go and experience what they experienced.
An example of a popular travel influencer is Kiersten Rich, aka The Blonde Abroad. Kiersten, or Kiki on her Instagram, is a travel blogger who documents her travels across the world on social media. She has over 547,000 followers on Instagram with a fan base dying to see her next adventures. Kiki is a prime example of a social media influencer within the travel industry. With each post, she captions where she went and the activities she took part in. “We explored Christmas markets in Austria, Germany and Slovakia by river cruise and ended our adventure in Budapest” is just one example of how Kiki documents her travels. Her audience wants to live this same lifestyle and so become influenced by these posts, whilst researching their own travel ideas.
How do they impact the travel industry?
Although we may not understand just exactly why we as a society are so heavily, and easily, influenced, it’s no secret that using social media influencers for your brand does actually work. Travel brands often contact these influencers for a ‘collab’, where they’ll post content that will reach a huge audience. Influencers then get good content for their social media sites and so both benefit from them. But what is so inspirational about these influencers? Why are they so popular with brands? The attractiveness of the images they post already gives them a large following. The fact that they’re deemed more trustworthy by their audience as they view these influencers as a friend means that they can also engage with their audiences better. As audiences follow their life on social media, they feel like it’s someone they know. This means that audiences are more likely to trust influencers, rather than advertisements.
Impact on Trolltunga
One example of a landmark which has had an increase in tourism due to influencers is Trolltunga.
Trolltunga in Norway is part of a cliff which hangs 1,000ft over the Ringedalsvatnet Lake below. It has quickly become one of Instagram’s most famous travel spots. Hundreds of thousands of identical posts of users perching on the edge of the rock are seen all over Instagram. When influencers post these images, other travellers want to replicate their scenic images. Travel bloggers and influencers have put Trolltunga on the map in a major way. According to Independent, before 2010 only 800 people hiked to Trolltunga each year. In 2016, however, more than 80,000 people completed the trek in order to get the ‘Instaworthy’ shot. Influencers on social media are getting the word out about these places which others may not have known about previously. With many articles such as ‘The travelling hotspots made famous by Instagram’ on Vogue or ‘Travel Destinations Instagram made Famous’ on LuxuryEscapes, it’s obvious the impact influencers are having.
“I’ve met people who have traveled to places because of my photographs“- Chris Burkard (photographer)
Is it all positive?
Although the influence they’re having is helping the travel industry, it’s also one of the main causes of ‘over tourism’. Like with Trolltunga, certain places abroad are being swarmed with travellers wanting to get the perfect image, thanks to social media influencers. This massive increase in tourism in such a short space of time can be damaging for the area as they struggle to cater for the mass amount of people. Justin Francis, the chief executive of Responsible Travel suggested that “Seventy-five years ago, tourism was about experience seeking. Now it’s about using photography and social media to build a personal brand“. What he is suggesting is true. We now travel for different reasons, in order to boost our social profiles rather than to see the world and influencers are one of the reasons behind that.
Influencers are impacting the travel industry in a massive way. Trolltunga is just one example of how the power of social media and influencers are changing our travelling habits. We are exposed to more countries and landmarks due to social media sites and so are expanding where we travel too. Influencers are one of the main reasons for this. Without them, we wouldn’t be aware of half of the beautiful places in the world, such as Trolltunga.