Published on Jun 14, 2016
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Is tourism the search for the photogenic? Do photographs depict reality? Do visitors share digital images like postcards?
Leisure research suggests tourist photography often mimics that of marketing imagery used to promote the destination to travellers. The notion of the tourist gaze is how tourists see the visual images in their travel.
What travellers may expect to see when visiting a destination may already be shaped by the media, photography, online content and travel agents. Tourist perceptions of a destination are the sum of the collective imagery presented to them prior to visiting.
These images may build expectations to see particular icons or symbols of that destination when they arrive.
Tourists are compelled to photograph the places they visit.
We collect experiences and souvenir scenery, objects and landmarks for Facebook, Instagram and our online social spaces. Photographs are our evidence of travel.
Therefore, it is not surprising tourists track down images, recapture them, and display these at home or more widely on social media networks where their peers observe the images for themselves.
Case in point
We see a postcard of the leaning tower of Pisa – alone in the landscape, spectacular and isolated.
However our own photos of the tourist attraction are littered with tourists! Visitors travel to ‘re-see’ the images they have already seen in the sales material but the reality might be different.
What does this mean for the Hunter Valley?
Quality imagery is not only appealing in traditional marketing, but in an age of user-generated content, our visitors also create appealing images. The values and attitudes conveyed about the destination within visitor photographs tell us a lot about the tourist gaze of the Hunter Valley.
Whilst we cannot control what visitors are posting, we can encourage positive imagery that helps to sell our region, and support attraction of more visitors.
We can promote businesses, visitors and locals to hashtag their photos #huntervalley or #cessnock (or #branxton or #wollombi ….. the options are endless). Through these labels we gain a glimpse into how people view (or want to view) our beautiful part of the world.
The use and analysis of hashtags can also support the development of strategies to encourage more visitors to share their positive Hunter Valley experiences in photographs.
Using hashtags through the social media can support our region to better understand:
- The expectations of our visitors.
- What our visitors are willing to capture in photographs.
- What our visitors are willing to share of their experience.
- Remember to ask visitors to hashtag #huntervalley.
- It’s free to promote user-generated content using hashtags – take advantage of it!
- Develop, use and encourage use of your own hashtags for your brand.
- Develop, use, share and encourage use of hashtags for events.
- Encourage use of multiple hashtag layers #huntervalley #weloveHunterValley #huntervalleyevent16.
- Develop Selfie Hot Spots – places where people will want to take tourist photographs and put up a sign with the official #hashtag to use.
- Browse hashtags on social media and see how your product is represented.
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