Has visual media become the new travel agency?

OCT 25, 2017 

Header photo source: iceland.is

Throughout my lifetime, we’ve seen the rise and fall of various industries. I’ll never forget my parents taking me to Blockbuster after school on Fridays and how happy my 8-year-old self was when I managed to rent an N64 Super Smash Bros. with all of the characters unlocked. Fast forward to 2017 and we’re in the digital age, the sharing economy, the selfie generation — whatever you want to call it — many businesses that failed to adapt to the digital economy have ceased operations.

The way we live has changed significantly, and so has our economy. The other day, I was thinking about some of the dinosaurs from that generation that are still in business to this day. Just down the street from our office lies a Flight Centre travel agency, and it’s really got me thinking — “Who goes to these travel agencies and just tells the sales reps, ‘Just take me somewhere!’?”. This isn’t the Roaring Twenties, and I can’t imagine anyone simply dropping into one of these shops looking for a voyage across the Atlantic. If anything, in this day and age, it’s both easier and cheaper to just Google tour packages in other countries and pick your own flight online.

Back at the office I’ve found myself on Instagram, where I’m routinely exposed to my twenty-something, recently-graduated university friends filling my feed with travel photos. They upload pictures of rather magnificent landscapes that made me reminisce of a place I’ve never visited.


Source: Twitter/ @BrianJacobSmith

That’s when it hit me -- I had seen these rolling mountains and volcanoes before! I wasn’t hiking, I was Netflix bingeing in my bedroom in February, watching London-based DJ Riley Blue flee the UK for Iceland in Sense 8. My uni friends had been snapping photos of the same dramatic backdrops for the TV series, which was auspiciously shot at various locations in remote Iceland. This isn’t the only show shot there, as the hit Game of Thrones and countless other series and films also took advantage of the remote island’s glaciers, coastlines, and mountains.


Source: nzholidayguide.com

Perhaps this has always been known and I hadn’t ever been conscious of the subliminal tourism marketing that we’re always exposed to. Even now as I sit in our office back on social media (again), I see avid Harry Potter fans happily grabbing onto half of a fake luggage cart that’s been bolted onto a brick wall at a train station. Immediately I make the connection that I’ve got friends who are off visiting England, while (I’m sure) some bitter Britons are passive-aggressively throwing shade at the real train platform from Platform 9 ¾.


Source: Instagram/ @miriam.mr22

We don’t need travel agencies to sell us destinations anymore, as social media, TV series, and movies are enough of an inspiration for us to choose where we want to spend our tourist dollars next.

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