Before social media, people would go on vacation, take photos on their roll(s) of film and then show a few good ones to loved ones and friends upon their return. Today there is no limit to the amount of photos you can take, you have room to take photo after photo. Not only can you take tons of photos while traveling, you can share them instantly on social media. In fact, stats show that 60% of travelers, and 97% of Millennial travelers, share their travel photos instantly while traveling. (Source : http://www.olapic.com/resources/the-impact-of-social-media-on-travel-inspiration_blog-p1aw-f1tr-v1th-t1sm/)
So how is this impacting the travel industry? Since the rise of social media photo perfect travel locations have seen a drastic increase in travelers. The iconic location of Trolltunga, Norway, saw an increase of 35,000 tourists from 2009 to 2014. This increase is credited to social media, everyone looking for the perfect Instagram photo.(Source: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/travel-interests/arts-and-culture/how-instagram-is-changing-travel/)
And you might be thinking, well duh! Who doesn’t want to travel to Norway and sit on that cool cliff! But this phenomenon is happening in small local places too.
Just a few weeks ago a sunflower farm outside of Toronto, Ontario, had to shut its doors because it was overrun by tourists. This small sunflower farm regularly charged visitors admission to their sunflower fields, a little extra income for the farm before harvesting the seeds. However, after people starting posting their sunflower selfies on Instagram the sunflower farm had to shut its doors because too many visitors arrived and they were damaging the fields, and disturbing the peace. You can read the whole story in this article here.
This might sound like whining. Don’t tourist destinations want tourists? Isn’t that their goal? And yes, there are social media campaigns that have increased tourism to an area in a positive way. The town of Wanaka, New Zealand saw a 14% increase in tourism after launching its social media campaign. A successful and wanted increase. (Source : https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/travel-interests/arts-and-culture/how-instagram-is-changing-travel/)
However, while cities might want this tourism the truth is certain places can’t support that sort human footprint. On social media you can Geotag your exact location, which allows for your followers to know exactly where that cool photo was taken. This has led to an increased number of people heading to previously secluded locations. In the last decade American National Parks saw a 26% increase of visitors. (Source : https://www.theringer.com/2016/11/3/16042448/instagram-geotagging-ruining-parks-f65b529d5e28) This is a significant number of more people on hiking trails. This increase in visitors has been accompanied by an increase in warnings given by Park Rangers. As visitors come they bring with them an ecological footprint that these spots can’t always handle. In addition to higher foot traffic there are also several cases of people vandalizing national parks. Cases of vandalism include lighting fires in a restricted areas to capture that perfect camping photo, or hopping a fence to get a closer shot. You can read about some examples here. The result of this kind of social media travel, is a negative impact on our most precious nature preserves.
So what is the answer? National parks exist so people can experience nature. Isn’t technology typically associated with a sedentary lifestyle so people getting outdoors should be a positive thing? But at what cost to nature. Don’t we want these parks to be around for our grandchildren’s children? Would simply removing the Geotag from photos help to solve this problem?
#Nature is killing nature! Why social media travel isn’t what it always appears to be. https://bit.ly/2ORtUFj
Did you Instagram your last camping trip? Or Snapchat that day hike? See how your social media reports of your #nature experiences are not always helping mother nature. https://bit.ly/2ORtUFj