Getting the perfect Instagram travel photo is a status symbol for ‘influencers’

This summer, iconic destinations are bracing for a wave of travelers desperate for that perfect Instagram travel photo. A Purdue Hospitality and Tourism Management researcher weighs in on the need for social status.

“Young people are forming their consumption patterns. In the process, self-enhancement is an important motivation as they strive to establish, protect or maintain a positive social image and enhance their self-esteem and social standing. When weighing their vacation options, they often look beyond all the other factors and ask, ‘Which one is popular on Instagram?’ or ‘Which one is more Instagrammable?’”

— Dr. Alei ‘Aileen’ Fan, assistant professor in the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management

Restrictions and fees designed to limit foot traffic are being implemented at many of these crowded locations, which are often popularized by social media posts from celebrities and internet stars. The owner of one resort  became fed up with Instagram “influencers” requesting free room and board in exchange for free advertisements. Many selfie-takers have even died after posing for photos on precarious cliffs and other dangerous spots.

Alei Fan, an assistant professor in the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management in Purdue University’s College of Health and Human Sciences, researches how technology impacts consumer behaviors. Fan has studied how the need for social status and self-enhancement can influence certain consumers’ consumption decisions. The same psychological traits and processes are present, she says, in Instagram users planning to visit the trendiest destinations.

Before working in academia, Fan worked for a decade as a public relations and marketing professional in the hospitality and tourism industry. 

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