Features

Exploring Instagram tourism

With over 1 billion monthly active users worldwide, Instagram has become a go-to source of travel inspiration and a contributing factor in destination decision-making. How are properties responding? Click. explores

#travel has over 350 million posts. Envy inducing #wanderlust content has generated almost 90 million. @bestvacations has over 4.8 million followers, while Murad Osmann’s #followmeto project triggered a holiday snap trend of viral proportions. Like it or not, Instagram’s now a staple in travel marketing.

Crafting your aesthetic

Increasingly, properties are integrating ‘grammable content to the experience they offer - whether it’s upgrading breakfast with millennial favourite avocado toast or signposting picture perfect locations.

According to Instagram Consultant and Content Creator, Zoe Timmers, the aesthetic appeal of a property has significant impact on its popularity. “How we choose to travel has changed so dramatically. With the 20 - 40s age group in particular, 40% are making destination choices driven by the desire to be somewhere a good photo can be taken. Ridiculous as that seems, good user generated content can make or break a hotel these days,” she says. 

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Photo: Ben White

Photo: Ben White

Indeed, UGC has a 4.5% higher conversion rate over branded content - giving travel operators a goldmine if they can engage guests effectively. “Hotels are crafting a distinct aesthetic so that guests can capture the hotel brand’s look and feel,” says Timmers.

For example, Conrad Maldives Rangali Island has a specially curated ‘Insta Trail’ of picturesque vistas identified by hotel staff. And should guests require a more hands-on approach, the Instagram Butler service provides guided tours round the most desirable locations and tips on how to capture the perfect shot. "We have had a huge increase in user generated content which we love...it helps build brand personality with the help of guests and makes our content more genuine because these are real experiences of real people who have stayed with us," says Kimberley Roberts, Director of Marketing & Communications.

Design thinking

The sheer volume of content being shared fuels the need for eye-catching design, but in many ways this has always been prevalent. “Clients are more aware of creating ‘Instagram moments’. But people have been creating those experiences for centuries - take postcards of seaside resorts from 100 years ago. We’ve always understood that and it’s been a focus of our design experience,” says James Dilley, Head of Interior Design and Hospitality and a Director at Jestico + Whiles.

“The idea of discovery and memorable experience is now more focused as people have the means to physically capture that moment in time and distribute it around the world with almost no effort whatsoever. We’re creating a backdrop for that ‘Instagram moment’ that communicates their joy, their delight,” says Dilley. “These moments we create are important and impactful. I don’t think we’re doing anything new particularly, it’s just the technical means of capturing that moment is different.” 

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The Instagram-worthy W Hotel, Edinburgh, credit: Jestico + Whiles

The Instagram-worthy W Hotel, Edinburgh. Photo: Jestico + Whiles

So while the notion of ‘Instagrammable’ design might just be a transient label, the level of finesse has been heightened by social media. When once photos were just shared with friends and family, posts and stories propel the image globally, under the scrutiny of strangers.

“People only talk about the exceptional, they don’t talk about the mundane,” says Dilley. “You have to be very cognisant that everything has to be right - the lighting, the service around the space, the way everything is dressed, the way tables are cleared. You are under a lot of pressure because if you get this wrong an Instagram shot could be distributed round the world to 500 people within an hour - so, there is perhaps more at stake now.”

Curated content

Amid the introduction of new features and services, properties are starting to acknowledge the pressure of maintaining an Insta-perfect life. In November, Ibis Switzerland launched ‘Relax, We Post’, a service whereby guests leave their login details with a ‘social media sitter’ who’s briefed to share content for the duration of the stay.

“The service was designed specifically for millennials as we wanted to allow them to switch off during their stay, but we know that they feel particularly compelled to keep their community up-to-date via Instagram stories and with posts on the feed, “ says Pascal Aeberhard, Brand Marketing & PR Director of AccorHotels Switzerland. “People want to show their community all the great things in their lives but at the same time this can cause stress.”

And while the focus on providing your guests - or their sitters - with inspirational content grows, Timmers says a property’s own Instagram must also reflect the aesthetic it offers residents: “It is as much about creating an Instagram worthy physical space as it is making sure that the Instagram feed itself is curated and managed properly, and choosing the best user generated content to showcase it. The hotel could be beautiful but if the Instagram feed isn’t properly representing that then no one will want to stay.”


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Hero image: credit to Jakob Owens

Takeaway
  • 40% of 20-40-year-olds make destination choices driven by potential for photo opportunities
  • ‘Instagram moments’ are a growing ask in hotel design
  • Conrad Maldives launched an Instagram Butler service, providing personalised tips and guidance round the resort’s ‘Insta Trail’
  • Ibis Switzerland provide ‘social media sitters’ that maintain a guest's feed while they enjoy a digital switch off

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