Instagram Marketing and Tourism. The World in an Hashtag

2 August 2018

The ticket purchased with Skycanner, the overnight stay found on Booking or, for an even more immersive experience in the local context, on Airbnb, the best typical restaurants identified on Tripadvisor and the fastest routes suggested by Google Maps. Traveling and discovering the world has never been as simple as in the digital age. To start, you only need to choose your next destination and find the places of interest on the most updated photographic catalog of the web. Instagram, with its one billion active users per month and 80 million shared photos a day, redesigns the rules, and the marketing, of tourism.


To associate the concept of novelty with the changed methods of purchase and consumption brought by the web is now out of place and anachronistic. The new habits have consolidated in our daily routine so much so that we have also changed our points of reference in the search for information and in the construction of personal opinions. Word of mouth is still the soul of commerce, but the key information comes today from a community that counts billions of strangers who, through the validation mechanisms of social media, acquire authority and prestige in our eyes. The continuous, accurate and complete access to information and services around the world has brought down many barriers, transforming, perhaps most of all, just the tourism sector. The tour operators, once the only filter between supply and demand, have been replaced by the web and in particular, by Instagram. According to a research conducted by MissTravel, a luxury travel company for couples, 48% of Instagram users rely on it to choose their next travel destination, while 35% consult the social media to discover the points of interest of the place where they are staying.

Considering that the hashtag #travel alone groups more than 308 million posts, it is no surprise that Instagram has become in a few years the main promotional channel of many museums, hotels, restaurants, cities and even national tourism boards. The response to the photographic storytelling of influencers, as well as amateur instagramers, is in some cases so enthusiastic and massive that it has become a problem for the environment and the public safety. Trolltunga, a rock projecting on the Ringedalsvatnet lake in Norway, was one of the first places to reach fame and popularity thanks to the breathtaking photos shared on Instagram, seeing its visitors grow from 500 in 2010 to 100,000 last year. In 2016, moreover, the attractiveness of the images and the urgency to be among the first to get a perfect shot, has forced the Chinese authorities to restrict access to the world’s longest glass bridge, suspended above the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon, after only 13 days from its inauguration. Even the striking and uncontaminated Thai Maya Beach has been closed to the public for a few months this year, while in Rejkjavik it becomes increasingly difficult to see the aurora borealis due to the illumination coming from the countless phones pointing to the sky to catch it.

Mass tourism is already a serious problem for some places and it is necessary that local authorities understand the phenomena connected to social media to better manage the negative aspects of the fame generated and amplified by social media. Granting to an instastar a special permission to take pictures in places usually forbidden to the public can bring fame to the place, but at the same time it becomes predictable that many followers will be intent on following his footsteps, regardless of the prohibitions and common sense. At the same time, however, if used correctly and consciously, Instagram can be a tool capable of bringing tangible economic and social benefits. For example, the historic Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas invited 20 important instagrammers to stay overnight at the hotel, generating nearly 50,000 positive mentions in less than two months and significantly improving the turnout during the low season. Another good example of collaboration between professionals for the promotion of the territory is all Italian: about 50 municipalities along the 99km of the river Aniene have worked together to make known the attractions of an area of ​​Lazio usually obscured by the notoriety of the nearby city of Rome.

That the Internet has changed the habits of all of us is more than established, but how can you explain the fact that, in the field of travel, Instagram has won over forums, blogs and specialized websites, certainly more accurate and information-rich ? In fact, Instagram has evolved into a constantly updated personal travel agent that takes into account a fundamental factor: the humanisation of information.

The digital revolution has not only influenced the way we do things, but has also shaped new values ​​and symbols, encouraging individualism and personalization of information. If once we were all exposed to the same media channels, today the traditional authorities of collective opinion are disregarded and replaced with new points of reference. Our instagram feed consists of the contents shared by influencers, celebrities, brands, institutions, friends and instagramers that we voluntarily decide to follow, recognizing them a certain value in terms of reputation and consistency with our own interests. Having selected ourselves, albeit indirectly, the images that are proposed to us, we are more inclined to evaluate them with a positive attitude. In addition, hashtags and geotags allow us to view in a single stream the content made by different people, with different skills and interests, which gives us an overview that we tend to consider much more credible, complete and disinterested that any narrative proposed by a brand or a specific author.

Instagram Marketing and tourism are the elements of a winning combination on all fronts, so much so that there are more and more hotels that serve aesthetically surprising breakfasts and offer rooms with ‘instagrammable’ elements, cities that design selfie spaces (such as the word I amsterdam in the Dutch capital) and restaurants that look carefully after food presentation. All with the goal of ending up on the net accompanied by a geotag and a mention.

There are different styles of storytelling, as well as the tone of voice and the editorial line chosen by the various protagonists of the tourism sector. The French chain Accor Hotels, for example, periodically collaborates with famous travel bloggers, following them for a few days; the last was the photographer Arnaud Montagard with a follow-up of 67.7 thousand followers. The Baglioni luxury chain, on the other hand, reposts almost exclusively photos of its customers, while the Hilton group uses surveys and riddles to create engagement. Even the largest Italian tourist group, Alpitour World, takes special care of its presence on the social network, allowing its users to participate in virtual tours and discover the most evocative places on the planet through the hashtag #instaAW, which has about 5 thousand post. Among the profiles of national institutions, stands out undoubtedly that of the Department of the Interior of the United States of America that counts 1.6 million followers, followed by the official tourist account of New Zealand that presents its rich landscapes to 830 thousand followers.

Anyone wishing to take advantage of the digital word of mouth through the contents generated by the users, however, must necessarily offer them an added value that can be translated into images. Instagram is an almost endless and free showcase, but requires an effort in terms of service and creativity that ultimately improves the customer satisfaction and the uniqueness of the experience.

The secret of the success of the tourist promotion on Instagram seems to be found in the coexistence of official and amateur contents, which make information real and reliable and at the same time nourish our need for participation. The possibility of adding a personal piece to the mosaic of images that describes a place or an experience makes us, in a sense, the protagonists of the story and, why not, someone else’s influencer. To reach, one like at a time, those 15 minutes of fame theorized by Andy Warhol, half a century ago.


To fully capture the potential of social media, develop effective communication contents and plans and manage the marketing and sales area of a company, Bologna Business School offers several programs dedicated both to new graduates and professionals:


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