Image Credit: @lostleblanc

Has Instagram Made Lonely Planet & TopDeck Irrelevant?

Is this the end for old school travel companies?

It’s no longer enough to love travelling. In 2021 you’ve got to post to Instagram about it. All you need to do to see this is scroll around the platform’s discover page for a minute or so; if you’ve ever expressed a vague interest in travel, some content from a travel blogger will likely pop up.

Many people on Instagram identity as ‘travellers’ (in their bio) or some other variation of a human who likes different aspects of nature or travel. Many people in particular, we’ve noticed in recent years, have started calling themselves thalassophiles (lovers of the sea) much in the same way some people put ‘sapiosexual’ in their Tinder bio.

Though your first instinct might be to cringe at this, we put on our goggles, did some swimming, and learned a little about this ancient new trend. Basically: there are a group of people who are making careers out of taking photos of themselves in shimmering waters all around the world, from the Maldives to Malaga, and having a damn good time doing it.

Not all of these Modern Day Vikings call themselves thalassophiles. But they all seem to be inspired by the ocean-loving spirit.

They then sell their e-courses and photography ‘presets’ to other aspiring social media users, and the vicarious tribe grows ever larger.

The movement is taking the travel industry by storm, with more and more people becoming inspired to go it alone, and work out their own itinerary, travelling the world using apps like BlaBlaCar, Workaway, Tinder Gold and Airbnb (rather than Renfe, Flight Centre and Topdeck). It hasn’t killed traditional travel companies yet, but it is disrupting them.

Speaking of disruption, Traveller reported in 2018 that backpackers don’t camp like they used to whilst on guided tours.

Ben Groundwater for Traveller wrote: “Contiki, the juggernaut of group travel for young people in Europe, now only offers one camping itinerary around the continent. One. Out of more than 300 trips the company runs there.”

“By far the more popular accommodation options involve staying at a mix of hostels and cabins (sometimes in campsites, sometimes aboard ferries or yachts), or staying in proper hotels in twin-share accommodation. And even for the hardy few, camping tours ain’t camping tours anymore.”

“Those passengers don’t even have to set up their own tents. They don’t have to wash their own dishes. There’s far more focus on travelling for them, and less focus on doing chores.”

He also wrote: “Millennials are pretty savvy – they know food, they know culture, they know sights and attractions, and they want to see and experience them. They want to go out and have fun, sure, but getting boozy in a campsite that could be pretty much anywhere in the world is not high up on their list of priorities.”

In 2021, we’d go a step further. Though bus tours aren’t dead yet, here at DMARGE we’d argue that no longer is it just camping as part of a tour that’s a dwindling art, but tour operators generally are under threat. And it’s truly international, with popular travel bloggers of all nationalities springing up to (virtually) guide their fans and followers around the world.

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Why? No longer do travellers turn exclusively to The Lonely Planet and Tripadvisor to plan their trips. They’ve got hordes of bloggers showcasing boutique bars, cloistered cloves and dropped pins for them to follow. Who needs Contiki, for instance, when you can customise your own trip and meet people as you go? The only reason to do an operated tour, these days, is to easily meet people, many believe (though you could also argue that’s always been the case).

That said, there is a future where old school travel companies work with influencers (the other good news for them is that people will always want to meet people, so presumably there will always be some kind of demand for operators of a kind).

“I only see the influencer marketing getting bigger,” Jade Broadus, creative director of Travel Mindset, once told Travel Weekly about influencers disrupting the travel industry.

According to Travel Weekly, she claimed people in their 30s want travel agents, but: “They just don’t know that they want that.”

“By travel agents partnering with influencers, they can gain a level of trust. People trust influencers like they trust their best friend.”

On that note: it’s certainly true that while professional travel bloggers may know the offbeat destinations of the world (or, more importantly, have the contacts and nous to find them wherever they go) like the back of their hand, their followers probably don’t. So maybe there will always be a place for guided tours – of a kind.

Another big secret many are cottoning onto is that, with the right filter, everything looks like a hidden gem…

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Still with us? Swim on back to the ocean; watch the video below to learn more about how the word ‘thalassophile’ has become such a buzzword in the travel blogging space, as well as to learn about how others are very much fearful of the ocean, and have ‘thalassophobia.’

Our distaste for the word itself aside, it makes sense people would turn to the ocean as a source of solace (and adventure), particularly here in Australia, where a temperate climate and an abundance of sea pools make the ocean more easily accessible (if you live on the coast) for a variety of people to enjoy than it is anywhere else in the world.

New South Wales, Australia, has more than 70 ocean pools.

Thanks to stats like this, a culture of sea-loving has sprung up.

Caroline from Places We Swim, whose Instagram photos rank highly for everywhere from Victoria’s The Pillars to NSW’s Clovelly and Bushranger’s Bay, told DMARGE: “Swimming is part of our daily lives and psyche in Australia.”

“I’m sure it’s to do with the landscape and climate. But we are very connected to swimming in Australia. We also learn to swim much younger than in most countries.”

“With regard to ocean pools, they almost exclusively exist in NSW, and there is over 100 dotted down the coast. NSW has to be one of the friendliest places to swim in the world.”

DMARGE has also (previously) spoken with photographer Rachael Kane, who has experience taking photos in Italy’s Capri and Amalfi Coast as well as Sydney’s Eastern and Northern beaches (and Byron Bay).

Rachel said: “I think it is a magic cocktail of; people at the beach are all on holidays, they are walking to the beach, they dress to impress – no matter if you are a movie star or a mechanic. Anchored off the calm Mediterranean beaches are glamourous super yachts. You as a participant absorb the beauty, you believe in it. No sand no worries, they happily lie on pebbles all day to unashamedly worship the sun, or even better a sun lounge on the pebbles with a personal waiter.”

Photographer and videographer Chris Mohen, for his part, said: “People need that place to clear the mind and start or end the day.”

“After travelling overseas quite extensively, especially to places like Nice in the south of France really shows that to me, the daily swim is pretty essential for humans of coastal areas and probably shows why people who live on the coast crave that morning or evening swim so much.”

We’ll swim to that.

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