Currently, I am learning about marketing historic hotels in a management class. Exploring heritage as a competitive asset not only hones in on the intersection of history and marketing, but also brings up the psychological implications of nostalgia, tradition, and co-creation of travel experience. One of the rising phenomena is increasing ability to share and influence travel experiences through social media– photos, recommendations, reviews. This indeed applies to the historic hotels I am studying, but also to hotels and tourism in general. And even the wider audience who hasn’t left their homes.
An implication of the rise and widespread popularity of photo-sharing applications such as Tumblr, Flickr, Pinterest, and, of course, Instagram is the increasing exposure of huge populations to images of far-off places.
These beautiful images, whether professional photographs or spring break iPhone shots, increase awareness of foreign bazaars, tropical paradises, and crumbling slums. The younger generations seem to profess a “wanderlust”– a lust to wander and explore the world– through Pinterest boards and quotes on filtered landscapes.
Though this no doubt increases or augments our visual perception of the world, there is the question of if this increases the desire for travel among the social media using population. Beautiful imagery encourages the idea of seeing the world, though the concept of exploration dates back thousands of years. Just as European expeditions to China would bring back oddities and luxurious fabrics, social media showcases “tokens” of these destinations. Though these tokens are arguably “real” because they are photographs, I would argue that they use the same fantastical mystique as exotic goods. The angle must be just right, the composition just so, and the colors just saturated and succulent enough to inspire yearning. This could be considered a faux-nostalgia- a nostalgia for lives not lived and experiences not had.
However, this yearning can often lead to action. Though it is not achievable by everyone in the broader population, there are many people who go on family vacations, abroad during college, or take trips around the world post-grad or later in life.
The people at these places can share their photographs and have that reused by others creating bucket lists. It helps create awareness of foreign places and customs and may aid in the research process for travel. This could range from what places to visit to which hotel or restaurants to book. Photos, reviews, and recommendations or lists of “Top 20 Things to do in Austin” can help narrow down options and make informed decisions.
Additionally, user-generated content and peer-reviews are proven to be much more trusted than brand created information. Social media is essentially transforming the travel industry, as seen by the decline of travel agents. Information is much more accessible and the ins and outs of a city are more transparent than ever before, empowering individual travelers and families to make plans and informed decisions themselves.
Social media impacts the travel and tourism industry in ways that can be construed both negatively and positively. It threatens entrenched systems but provides tremendous opportunity to market cheaply, more effectively, and to a global audience. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and Pinterest can all aid in sharing beautiful professional or guest photos of your venues. This not only gives potential customers a better idea of what visiting will be like, it also may inspire others to investigate further and retain a presence in the mind of former guests. For instance, Disney’s Instagram account shares lots of photographs of its parks, including guest-taken photos and gives credit to the photographers.
Asking for guest reviews and ratings can help you tremendously. Conversely, bad reviews can cause damage, so service is paramount. People are twice as likely to share negative experiences. However, delight a guest and you could gain a vocal brand ambassador, who can, with social media, easily share their experience with the world.