Travelers Are Choosing Vacation Destinations Based on Instagram Likes, Research Says

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Selena Gomez photographed by Steven Klein, styled by Edward Enninful. W Magazine, March 2016.

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Welcome to 2017 where the world's most influential currency, at least among certain types, may be the social media "like." People chose their outfits based on potential likes. They order at restaurants based on likes. They may even chose which friends to post pictures with based on likes. So it comes as no surprise than that people may chose their vacation destinations based on likes -- and that's according to science. Well, one study at least.

Conducted by a group of professors from various American universities and published in the Tourism Management journal, a new study found that "Social Return" (i.e. "the amount of positive social feedback that one's social media posts of travel generate") plays a significant portion in vacation destination selection.

As a test case, the researches chose to study American visits to Cuba since restrictions on travel to the country were only recently lifted for American citizens and, hence, its become something of a buzz-worthy destination. Notably, there's an emphasis on traveling to the country "before it changes" and that travel to the country is still "novel" amongst Americans.

Researchers then asked 758 people who planned to travel to Cuba within the next year to take a survey asking them whether social media posts they've seen from those who have already visited made them "look cool," "more popular," "stand out," "look unique" or made the viewer envious (from a scientific standpoint, we should point out that the researchers didn't actually take "likes" into account, but rather how people actually felt about others social media people's social media travel posts).

It turns out that, yes, potential perceived social returns were "a positive and significant predictor of tourists’ intentions to travel to Cuba." Though, the study found that potential social return had a stronger influence on visitors who planned to travel to a destination in the near future (like, within a year) than those who would like to visit eventually (sometime in the next ten years). Which makes sense. Cuba may not get you as many likes or follows in ten years.

Of course, the researchers caution that the study has limits because no one else has done much scientific research into the idea before, and even their study only used one destination to collect data. Though, they do come to the conclusion that thinking about the potential Instagram-ability of a location may be something for local tourism boards to take into account.

In any event, we've certainly come a long way from the times when the idea of sitting down and watching your neighbor's slideshow of their latest family trip was universally considered torture. Now we're all creeping on everyone else's vacation pictures voluntarily, and perhaps planning our own travel plans based on them.

Related: Jetset Instagram Star Aureta Thomollari Never Travels With Less Than Five Pairs of Sunglasses

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