by Gavin Haines, The Telegraph, August 24, 2018
Back in 2010, Norway’s now-iconic Trolltunga (or Troll’s Tongue Rock) was an off-the-beaten track rock formation that attracted 800-odd visitors a year.
Seven years later the site was pulling in around 80,000 tourists annually and there are now reports of people queuing to get the most Insta-friendly snaps at the landmark.
The relentless march of social media has been attributed to the rise in popularity of Trolltunga and has raised questions about the monkey-see-monkey-do behaviour that platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter promote.
Because most of the photos posted on these sites are identical. At the time of writing there were over 100,000 posts with the hashtag #trolltunga on Instagram. On an even larger scale, there are 4,847,985 posts with the hashtag #eiffeltower on Instagram and many are a variation on a theme: heavily-filtered portraits of photogenic girls and guys pouting in front of the Parisian landmark.
Yet millennials seem untroubled by a lack of originality: according to a new report, 61 per cent of them are influenced to travel to a destination by its potential for Instagram-friendly snaps.
The survey of 2,008 adults was conducted by the peer-to-peer currency exchange platform WeSwap, which also found that 29 per cent of millennials would veto a holiday destination if they were unable to post about it on social media, while 31 per cent of millennials said that posting their holiday photos online is just as important as the holiday itself.
What’s more, a quite substantial number of millennials, 34 per cent, say that they have actually booked a holiday because of content seen on social media. One example is Olivia, a 22-year-old teaching assistant from East Sussex, who claimed that photographs of her favourite bloggers frolicing in Croatian waterfalls prompted her to book a holiday to Split.
“I hadn’t really considered Croatia as a holiday destination prior to seeing these images and seeing the great pictures people were taking there definitely influenced my decision to plan a holiday to Split with my friends,” she said.
“Not only did I want to see the waterfalls for myself – they looked so amazing in pictures – but I wanted to get photos of myself and my friends there for my Instagram.”
Marcus, a 25-year-old data analyst from Surrey, says he too uses social media while researching his trips: “When researching our holidays, we find that search engines often display the most popular sights, meaning we might miss a hidden gem.
“Social media allows us to keep up with travel bloggers that have similar interests to us and get ideas for our next holiday that allow us to have experiences, taste food and see sights that might not have been suggested on our online searches or in travel magazines.”
With the biggest social media influencers charging for posts on Instagram, however, there now exists a situation where many people are following in the footsteps of bloggers being paid to promote destinations on behalf of the tourist board.
Stephanie Abrams Cartin, the co-founder of Socialfly, revealed in a recent edition of GQ that influencers with a following of 500,000 or more typically charge brands and organisations between £4,000 and £10,000 for a single Instagram post promoting their product, and £7,000 to show up at an event.
Speaking to Telegraph Travel, London-based influencer Claire Menary said: “Some influencers do present travelling in an unrealistic way – they make some of the world’s biggest tourist hot spots look deserted or really play with the colours to make a place look more vibrant and colourful than it actually is.”
“Using certain editing tools – like playing with the exposure, shadows, contrasting or saturation for example – really can have a big impact on the final image,” she added.
“It’s important to remember that influencers only ever portray the best version of their lives on social platforms so there is an element of ‘un-reality’ to it,” she said. “But saying that, if you follow travel influencers who are in fact photographers who like to capture the daily life and scenes of a place, then I do think you get a more realistic picture.”