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How Instagram Is Changing Travel

When does a social media trend become more than just likes and shares you see on your phone screen? When it’s big enough to get you on a plane, and to boost tourism by the thousands.

That’s precisely what New Zealand’s South Island proved in 2015 when it invested in Instagram coverage and saw a huge jump in visitors. Never heard of Wanaka, the island’s small resort town with glacier-capped mountain peaks sprinkled around a glassy, serene lake? Neither had most overseas tourists before the area’s tourism board hired Instagram influencers to share wanderlust-inducing photos like these:

Wanaka saw a 14 percent rise in overseas visits last year, and the South Island average jumped to seven percent—double the year’s visitor growth on the North Island. While it can be tricky to pinpoint the root cause of a rise in tourism, it’s pretty clear that in this case, it has a lot to do with influencers with huge followings sharing the vivid beauty of the destination. We’ve been conditioned to live vicariously through Instagram—the most polished versions of reality—but when it comes to travel, those realities are often within reach.

Tourism boards that invest in social media as a form of advertising have told Skift which influencers they’d love to get on board—Pure Michigan named-dropped National Geographic, Explore Canada has eyed the outdoorsy storytelling expertise of VSCO, Visit Queensland had the good fortune of seeing its hashtags surface on tennis legend Roger Federer’s account, and Visit Philly goes after their now-famous locals, like YouTube star Quinta B. These users have millions of followers, so it’s clear why they’re considered a reliable source of tourism.

Here are some other envy-worthy examples:

View this post on Instagram

Views like this are worth every drop of sweat to get there. Guys, I just created a new account @johanlolost where I'm going to post some behind the scenes / unfiltered moments from my travels. You should check it out to have a better feeling of this insane 10-week roadtrip in Canada 🙂 Thanks again to Tofino Water Taxi for the ride to Meares Island where the trailhead to Lone Cone is. These guys are very professional and can bring you pretty much anywhere you want including the incredible Hot Springs Cove. @tourismtofino #yourtofino #explorecanada PS: Yay Belgium! ????????⚽️????

A post shared by Johan Lolos (@lebackpacker) on

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Finally have enough footage for the video of @vividsydney that I can't wait to share with you and I'm working on editing it now (did you know Vivid goes till June 18? there's still time to make it here yourself!) but here's a classic @Sydney shot taken at the landmark Bondi Icebergs. Iceberg pools are soo Sydney and even though this is one of the most famous ones it's not the only one here. I'm out in Bondi for the rest of my nights here in Australia at @QTBondi and I'm excited to be here because their sister property that's downtown on Market Street is the first hotel I ever stayed at in Australia during my first trip to the country in 2013. So there's a sense of, "coming home" to my stay! Not to mention that Aussies just have a habit of making you feel welcome and at home in general. ???????????? @visitnsw #ilovesydney #newsouthwales

A post shared by Kirsten Alana (@kirstenalana) on

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Associate Editor Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel. Follow her adventures on Instagram @shanmcmahon.

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