What happens when people use TikTok and Instagram to make travel plans

Nearly one in three travelers turn to social media for holiday inspiration, according to a new survey.

The numbers are even higher for younger travelers. About 60% of Gen Zs and 40% of millennials use social media for travel purposes, according to a April 2022 report from travel company Arrivia.

On TikTok alone, the hashtag “travel” boasts 74.4 billion views, while about 624 million Instagram posts are also about travel.

But there is a darker side to flawless travel photos on social media. Expectations may not match reality, with many photographs edited to look better than they actually are.

Disappointed travelers are now striking back and using precisely the media that led them astray. They publish their own videos that show what immaculate places on social media actually look like in real life.

A city from a Disney movie?

A TikTok video inspired 26-year-old Olivia Garcia, a graphic designer and YouTuber from South Florida, to take an hour detour from her road trip, she said.

The video shows snow-capped mountains and a town apparently torn from the script for a Disney movie, capturing the supposed beauty of Gastonia, a small town in North Carolina. Garcia said she did not need more convincing to visit.

The only problem? The pictures in the video were actually Switzerland.

It was part of a tongue-in-cheek video series on TikTok where a user tagged some of the most beautiful and recognizable places in Europe as places in North Carolina. A video named the soaring cathedral in Milan as “the new Bass Pro stores in Concord Hills Mall, near Charlotte.”

“We’re entering the city and it was just a normal city,” Garcia said. “There were no mountains. It was not like the video.”

Garcia made a humorous TikTok video documenting her visit to the city, showing a dirty gas station and dilapidated buildings, though she noted that she focused on the “not-so-cozy” areas of Gastonia.

“You always think like, okay, you see this happen to other people, but it never happens to you – I’m smart enough to know when things are right and when things are not right,” she said.

Since her video went viral, Garcia has spoken to the mayor of Gastonia, who offered to take her on a tour of the city if she returns. She also appeared on “The Kelly Clarkson Show” to share her experience.

“Do your research … because you may end up in a place you do not want to be,” Garcia said. “[And] Do not believe everything you see on the Internet. “

A ‘beautiful, hidden garden pool’

30-year-old travel blogger Lena Tuck also fell victim to a glamorous TikTok video.

While driving from Brisbane to Melbourne, Tuck said, she made an impromptu decision to visit a “beautiful, hidden garden pool” that she had seen on the TikTok – Yarrangobilly Caves thermal pool hike.

“It looked like this out of this world where topless men would feed you grapes or something,” she said.

But on the drive there, her phone lost reception – meaning she had no directions to guide her – and she had to drive on a rough, unpaved road for 10 minutes before walking nearly half a mile down a steep tray.

When she reached the pool, she was surprised to find it filled with families and screaming children, like a public swimming pool, she said.

“All I can think about is how many people have peed in here,” she said in a TikTok video describing the experience.

“It’s … the absolute opposite of an Instagram experience, and I feel that’s why the whole experience was just so much fun,” she told CNBC.

She said she thinks people should be spontaneous and open, but warned travelers to “do more research than I probably did.”

Essential water

Pictures of Terme di Saturnia, a group of springs in the Tuscany region of Italy, show beautiful blue water with steam rising gently from it.

But this could not be further from the reality, said 28-year-old Ana Mihaljevic.

Her visit was “very” influenced by social media posts showing an “almost idyllic” scene, said the self-employed project manager and digital marketer.

But the water was green, smelled like rotten eggs due to sulfur and was filled with visitors posing for pictures, presumably for social media, Mihaljevic said.

“It’s definitely not a place to relax,” she added.

Markus Romischer, a 29-year-old travel filmmaker, agreed that the sources looked different on social media. He made a video, tagged “Insta vs. Reality: Europe Edition”, that showed his disappointment in the Tuscan sources, as well as places in Switzerland, Madeira and Rome.

When he saw it in real life, he said he could see that online photos had been heavily photoshopped. The feathers are “warm, the color was special, but when you only see those pictures on social media” the reality is “a little bit sad,” he said.

The early mornings are far less crowded, Romischer said. When he arrived at 6 p.m., there were few people – mostly “grandmothers” – but the afternoon was a different story, he said.

“At noon, then [many] buses came from everywhere and it was so crowded, “he said.

Tourist attractions will always be crowded, said Romischer, who shared a tip to avoid crowds: “Do not Google ‘what to do in Tuscany’ and go to the top of the list.”

Like the others who were fooled by images on social media, Mihaljevic advises travelers to do their research.

“If you want to travel without research, it’s ok, but be prepared that not everything will be as you saw it online,” she said. “Some places will be even better, but some will disappoint.”

Read more about social media vs. reality

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *