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Instagram has changed the way people travel. Rebecca Ryan finds out how Tourism Waitaki is using social media to its advantage and what the most “Instagrammable” spots in the district are.

Have you ever seen someone’s travel photo on Instagram and been inspired to go there?

Posts about travel on social media are dramatically affecting people’s decision-making about the experiences they choose to have – and a destination’s “Instagrammability” is now a major driver of its attractiveness.

Due to international travel restrictions, there has been a much bigger focus on New Zealanders exploring their own backyard and heading off the beaten track this summer, which has also resulted in a shift in the popular destinations for Instagrammers.

Waitaki was well placed to take advantage of that trend, Tourism Waitaki social and digital media specialist Cindy Mottelet said.

“You see more people wanting to do something a little bit different,” she said.

Last year’s Covid-19 lockdown also made people appreciate the importance of connecting with nature and domestic tourists wanted to discover more “hidden gems” in their own country.

“I think Waitaki is the perfect place for it,” she said.

“It is different, and it’s also a slower pace – and I think that’s what people enjoy, taking time to take time, enjoying the scenery and not just rushing.”

Ms Mottelet manages Tourism Waitaki’s social media accounts and tracks how many people are talking about the district on social media.

The Waitaki district was a photographer’s dream, she said. The most Instagrammed places were the Moeraki Boulders, the Clay Cliffs, Elephant Rocks, the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail, Steampunk HQ and the Victorian precinct.

Elephant Rocks. PHOTO: TOURISM WAITAKI

“Every month I’m doing a report on that to see where we are – and then every week I’m checking the hashtags and trying to engage with people, answering questions.

“We’re getting more and more people excited about the Waitaki.”

The number of people sharing photos and videos of the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail online was growing – the new section from Sailors Cutting to Benmore Dam had been particularly popular this summer.

“We’re seeing more and more people taking the time to enjoy the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail – sometimes just doing one day, one section of the trail, and coming back another day to do the same section over, or another one.

“It’s something they can do over and over beauty of it. You can do it for free, and you enjoy the nature.”

Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail. PHOTO: REBECCA RYAN

Despite border closures, Tourism Waitaki was still trying to reach an international audience on social media, and was getting enquiries from people who were making travel plans for when international travel resumed.

“We want to stay present in the mind of travellers because the more they see, the more they want to come and discover,” she said.

“It’s trying to keep the conversation going, engaging with people and trying to be seen as a destination worth visiting.”

While there were no statistics available for how much Instagram influenced travellers to visit the Waitaki district, anecdotal feedback suggested it was a powerful tool.

Many influencers had visited the Waitaki district and posted about it on their Instagram accounts to tens of thousands of followers, but Tourism Waitaki did not use them as a paid marketing tool.

It was often approached by influencers, and helped answer their questions and put them in touch with local operators, but did not pay them to market the district.

“Word of mouth is already growing, and working,” she said.

Steampunk HQ. PHOTO: TOURISM WAITAKI

“You also have smaller accounts, where people just share their travels to their family and friends, because that also has a strong impact because if you see a friend or a loved one going there and they talk about it, that’s really good.”

Ms Mottelet encouraged locals to post about their experiences in the district and use the official hashtags such as #WaitakiNZ, to become ambassadors for the district.

“Together, we are stronger,” she said.

“And in the Waitaki we can be proud of our region – it’s a beautiful region.”

Tourism Waitaki’s Top 8 “Instagrammable” Spots:

  • Clay Cliffs
  • Benmore Peninsula
  • Sailors Cutting
  • Lookout Point, Oamaru
  • Elephant Rocks
  • Sunflower fields
  • Moeraki Boulders
  • Steampunk HQ

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