The Effect of Instagram Influencers on Vacation Destination Choice
Shah, Anish Zunev
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There has been an increase in the use of Instagram influencers in the travel and tourism industry. These influencers are being used to reach new audiences and showcase destinations. However, do they have any influence on such a complex decision? This dissertation investigates whether Instagram influencers have an effect on vacation destination choice. Previous research in other industries shows that influencers have a positive effect on purchase intention, but research also states that destination choice is a complex multistage process. This becomes the research question for this dissertation, what effect do Instagram influencers have on vacation destination choice? The study hypothesized that the use of an influencer (versus non influencer) in an Instagram travel post would encourage intention to visit a travel destination. It was also hypothesised that an attractive image in the Instagram post would be more effective at encouraging intention to visits, than a non-attractive image. The study that was conducted involved 125 New Zealand subjects aged 18-30 years who were recruited by DYNATA an online panel company, and the subject destination was a relatively low-profile international destination, Canberra (Australia). The subjects were presented with one of four conditions. The first was an Instagram travel post by an influencer and an attractive image. The second was an Instagram travel post by an influencer but with an unattractive image. The third was an Instagram travel post by a regular Instagram user with the same attractive image. The fourth was an Instagram travel post by a regular user but with an unattractive image. The subjects were asked to complete rating scales on the persuasiveness of the advertisement and intention to visit. The results of the study were analysed using one-way ANOVA. The findings show that the use of an influencer has a significant effect on persuasiveness of the advertisement and intention to visit a destination. Attractiveness of the Instagram post is significant on persuasiveness of the advertisement but not on intention to visit. This provides an addition and update to destination choice literature and the external stimuli part of the destination choice process. This also answers the call by multiple researchers to analyse the use of social media influencers in the travel and tourism industry. Destination marketing managers would be interested in this research to help formulate marketing plans or to start using influencer marketing. This dissertation had some limitations including the Covid-19 crisis that was present in the country while data was collected.