In The Name of 'likes': Instagram's Game-Changing Influence on Travel, Tourism

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Instagram allows travel aficionados to share stunning photos and videos that capture their experience and destination. The social networking service inspires wanderlust… but is it always a good thing?

Alexander Thian, 39, an Indonesian photographer and social media influencer, began to use Instagram, an American media sharing social networking service, to document his traveling experience back in 2012. At the time, he shared his pictures and videos watching British rock band Coldplay in a concert in Australia.

Alexander Thian, 39

Alexander Thian, 39

With his eyes for beauty and skills in photography, Thian, nicknamed Alex, began to take snapshots of his travel destinations and upload them on his blog and social media accounts. Alex’s quirky writing skills allowed him to tell stories from each experience through the captions.

“At the beginning, [I] only used Instagram as a media to store [my] photos. There was no intention to make it a tool to promote traveling,” he said.

Alex would later notice the enormous role of Instagram and photography in promoting traveling experience – especially because the platform exposed users to abundant information and amazing pictures that captured travel destinations. From there, he said, people could find inspirations to visit unexpected locations and put them on their bucket list.

Through the Entrance

Tourists and locals view the Gyeongbokgung Palace from its main courtyard in Seoul Korea.

Cliffs Of Moher - First View

Cliffs Of Moher - First View

This is the first view you come across when visiting the Cliffs of Moher. This is a straight walk in and up the stairs from the main entrance. I cannot believe how vast it actually is. See the tiny people on top!

Over the years, Alex developed quite a following on his blog and social media accounts. His Instagram, @amrazing, has around 526,000 followers per the publication of this article, while his Twitter account @aMrazing has at least 811,300 followers.

Alex began to attract clients – a lot of them took interest in his knack in both photography and story-telling. Hotels, tourism boards, and airlines started to contact Alex to use his service to promote their projects to his followers.

“For me personally, I do not feel negative impacts of Instagram [toward traveling] because my mission here is to tell stories via photos and captions,” he said.

Alex also credited Instagram for his success as a photographer. He has had four photography exhibitions so far after a curator saw his work on social media and later approached him for a solo exhibition.

According to a research, more than 40 percent of travelers between the age of 18 and 33 years old would choose destinations that are beautiful to be captured on photos and videos or, as they say it nowadays: ‘instagrammable’. Some travelers would even take risks in order to take a stunning picture or video.

Living on the Edge

Living on the Edge

There are plenty of places to live on the edge in the Deadhorse Point wilderness. Cliffs abound and views so breath taking it is worth putting up with the heat!

This phenomenon did not go unnoticed by travel operators. Some of them began to offer services for travelers to capture beautiful moments – including hiring professional photographers on the scene. As of 2018, a hotel chain in Zurich, Switzerland, offers a hired Instagram ‘sitter’, where they would take photos of a guest’s vacation and post them on Instagram, hashtagged #postedbysocialmediasitter.

For better or worse

Instagram is in the top 4 of the most downloaded mobile apps in the past decade. As of January 2020, Instagram has around 1 billion monthly active users making it second after Facebook, which acquired Instagram in 2012, with 2.8 billion users.

Twenty-nine-year-old photographer Nyimas Laula, whose work has been featured Reuters, The New York Times, National Geographic, and VICE, noticed that the so-called ‘booming’ of Instagram as a platform for travelers between 2014 and 2015

“People at the time began to upload [landscapes such as] mountains and travel bloggers began ‘migrating’ to Instagram,” said Bali-based Nyimas, who started using Instagram in 2013.

Nyimas initially took pictures with her own camera and then bought an iPod just to upload photos to Instagram because the social media at first was only intended for IOS users. While admitting that Instagram is the most user-friendly and accessible in comparison to blogs, Nyimas saw the social media’s influence on traveling as more harmful than good.

Hiking Bear Lake

“So it’s no longer about the destination… most people think that traveling now is [about] ‘me, me, me, me, and me’,” she said.

Instagram itself noticed the phenomenon and recently erased the “likes” feature. Under this policy, the number of “likes” on an Instagram post is no longer visible. The social media app first introduced this new feature in countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Italy, Brazil, and Canada. This may not be true for other regions such as the U.S.

Facebook policy director Mia Garlick stated that the policy was meant for people to focus on sharing the things that they liked instead of focusing on the number of “likes” from other users, as quoted by Lonely Planet.

While admitting that there are some negative impacts of Instagram toward traveling, Kurniadi Widodo, 35, a freelance photographer and an educator in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, said that photography could still have positive impacts.

Kurniadi Widodo

Kurniadi Widodo

Kurniadi Widodo, 35, a freelance photographer and an educator in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

“[Photography] can visually show negative effects such as environmental damages that are caused by traveling activities. This could trigger empathy from people so that they can do something positive [to reduce the damage],” he said.

Either way, the conversation about the impact of social media on travel, good or bad, needs to be had to insure we are fostering responsible travel while taking care of this planet.

~Written by: Amahl S. Azwar

Alexander Thian’s work can be seen on his Instagram account, @amrazing, and his website

Nyimas Laula’s work can be seen on her website

Kurniadi Widodo’s work on this topic can be seen on

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