The real reason you chose your vacation destination

In an age where nearly everyone is connected through social media, the fastest way to promote yourself is to post vacation photos online for everyone to see (and more importantly, like). Two hours and 45 sycophantic comments later, you're bound to feel like a rock star. In fact, the allure of positive feedback is so great that most people take it into consideration when choosing a vacation destination. According to recent research, factors like the weather and the likelihood of completely draining your savings account pale in comparison to how cool the photo will make you look on social media. But you probably already knew that, didn’t you?

In a paper published in the journal Tourism Management , researchers from the University of Georgia studied the desire to travel to a destination (in this case, Cuba) versus "social return" (i.e., the amount of positive feedback a post generates) The relationship between. on social media. At the time of this study, the United States had just lifted some travel restrictions that had been in place since the 1960s. (Those restrictions were tightened again under the Trump administration.) Naturally, it became an especially popular destination within a few years as many Americans rushed to get to the island before tourism changed the experience. With this in mind, the study's authors sought to predict whether travelers would be willing to visit Cuba in the short term before the novelty wears off.

First, the researchers developed a "social reward scale" to measure people's expected effects of online travel posts. Next, they asked 758 U.S. travelers to use the scale to assess the expected social returns from traveling to Cuba one, five and ten years later. Finally, they asked the same tourists if they really planned to go to Cuba.

According to the findings, anticipated positive feedback strongly influences whether travelers plan to visit Cuba. In other words, the more attention a person expects to receive online by traveling to that country, the more likely they are to say they intend to visit that country. Social rewards best predicted next year's travel, leading the researchers to conclude that the potential for positive feedback is most impactful in the short term.

So, what does this mean? On the one hand, this study is another check mark in the “Social media has changed everyday life” column. In the past, vacation photos were an ordeal experienced only by the truest of friends, who didn't yawn and/or beg for mercy. Nowadays, whether you're staying close to home or venturing to faraway paradise, posting and capturing every moment of your trip on Instagram is not only anticipated, but received with dozens of comments, shares, and likes Like the inspiration of near-instant gratification. Did you really kayak in a bioluminescent river if you didn’t post proof on social media afterwards?

The study's authors note that this has a serious impact on modern travel. In addition to considering price and whether they will actually enjoy it, people also consider the image they want to project to their online followers. Like it or not, the more glamorous a destination is, the more attention it gets.

Social media not only affects users’ vacation choices; It also affects the way they plan travel in general. Millennials are more likely to use online information from their peers (rather than travel guides) to decide where to stay, what to do and how to get there, according to a study earlier this year. Clearly, the golden age of travel blogging is upon us.

So next time you're planning a vacation, don't be ashamed if you consider the possibility of taking stunning bikini photos. You're certainly not the only one.