How social media is ruining travel

By Franky Farmer, Strategy Director

“If it’s not on social media it may as well not have happened.”

Nowhere is this truer than when it comes to travel. Because let’s face it, if you’re on holiday and you haven’t posted at least one Clarendon filtered sun set, what was the point of even going?!

There’s a certain irony in the fact that 36%* of 18-39-year-olds book holidays based on what they see on social media, but that once they get to those destinations they’re not switching off from the world to be fully in the moment and truly experience their environment. Instead they’re distracted by making sure they get that perfect shot to show everyone what an amazing time they’re having.


Recently I was lucky enough to go on holiday to Fiji and even luckier to go on a snorkelling trip that consisted of just me and the local guy who owned the little boat we travelled out to the dive site on.

Just before we jumped in he turned to me and said “where’s your underwater camera?” I replied, a bit taken aback, “Oh – I haven’t got an underwater camera…. Just my eyes!” which he seemed to think was hilarious.

But, bugger, he was right. As soon as I saw the giant clams, I knew what he was talking about. At over a metre long with their dazzling emerald green and jade blue colourings they were stunning. Then the piece de resistance – he dived down, gave the shell a stroke and, just like in the cartoons, the clam snapped shut! Ignoring the nagging thought that we were probably bothering these clams on a nice, quiet Tuesday afternoon at the bottom of the sea bed I gave them a stroke and was delighted to see them snap shut in response, only to open again a few moments later when they realised we weren’t food or predators.

When I got back to the office and was regaling my colleague with this story, his first reaction was “you’ve got video of this right?”. When I said no, he rolled his eyes in mock disgust. We resorted to googling giant clams and needless to say the internet provided (see below).

Thinking about it now I’m glad I didn’t have an underwater camera, because rather than justfloating, gawping at them and enjoying the moment, I’d have been trying to get the best angle, figuring out how to show their massive scale, whilst at the same time capturing the sun’s rays twinkling in just the right way.

At least that’s what I’m telling myself… and I’m sticking to it.


A recent survey amongst 1,000 18-33 year olds showed that “Instagrammability” is the top reason that Millennials cite for choosing their holiday destination.**

There’s a big business opportunity for those in the tourism industry who are ready to maximise on this trend.

October 2017 saw the unveiling of the world’s first ‘Instagram Butler’, a new and apparently unique service offered by Conrad Maldives Rangali Island. The butler conducts tours of Rangali Island, offering advice on the best angles and filters for each location, guaranteed to help guests up their Insta game and snare those elusive likes and followers.


Of course, friends influencing our holiday destinations is a tale as old as time. However, when our parents were in their 20s and 30s, they weren’t incessantly bombarded by their friends’ holiday snaps every day. Instead, they’d have to wait to go round to Margaret and Keith’s on an agreed weekend, where the projector to be wheeled out in all its glory to show what a fabulous time they’d had in Mallorca.

The difference today with social media is we can now make our holidays look even better than they actually were with the aid of the odd filter here and there, as well as the fact that this word of mouth recommendation is now ubiquitous.

However, we’re beginning to see a backlash to this state of 24/7 hyper connectivity. 59% of 18-39 year olds claim they only update their social media accounts a few times a week when on holiday (although I suspect that may be because they don’t want it to appear that they’ve got nothing better to be doing than be on their phones).

The real backlash is being seen in the form of travel companies like Black Tomato who are launching offerings like Get Lost. With prices starting at £15,000 for one week, they sell high end exploration treks in remote mystery locations by honing in on our need to disconnect from the hyper-connected world in which we live in. They offer “the ultimate experience for helping people to disconnect, engage in the moment and push themselves to achieve a truly wonderful sense of satisfaction.”

There seem to be big opportunities at either end of the spectrum, whether you’re a travel brand that wants to help Instagram addicts up their Insta game or if you want to tap into those who have had enough of it all and want a social media detox.

When it comes to marketing on these social platforms, the key is using them in a way that makes the message appear as authentic as possible, so that the subliminal consumer take out is similar to that of when they see a friend posting about their holiday. This ranges from the tone of the creative to the potential use of an influencer, to targeting personalised messages aligned to the audience’s passions. For example, if you can tell they’re a mountain biking fan, serve them an ad that talks about all the great mountain biking routes in the country you’re marketing.

It’s a lot to think about… I feel another holiday coming on.


*Source: Top Deck: 32,000 young travellers from 196 counties/regions on Topdeck Travel, a group tour provider

** Source: Survey by home insurance company Schofields Insurance surveyed over 1,000 UK adults aged between 18 and 33

This article was first published as part of the LinkedIn Agency Voices series here.


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