How to Read Instagram Travel Influencer Photographs: A Semiotic Analysis of Space and Exclusivity in the Content of Instagram Travel Influencers

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  • The social media platform Instagram has had a considerable impact on the global tourism industry. Instagram users are increasingly selecting where they will vacation based on photos shared by travel influencers; however, these photos may not present accurate depictions of the destinations portrayed. Research has been done on the use of semiotic techniques in travel photographs and how some of these techniques may be deceptive. However, the literature analyzes but does little to provide recommendations for how to read travel influencer photos that use semiotic techniques to create idealized, unrealistic destination images. My research will address the gap in knowledge regarding how travel influencers use semiotic techniques in their photos and how travellers can best read them. I analyzed 300 photos by a sample of 30 travel influencers to determine trends and insights pertaining to how they utilize two semiotics techniques: space and exclusivity. I will show that travel influencers use these semiotic techniques to emphasize open space and exclusivity in order to present idealized destination images; yet in instances, these destination images may be potentially deceiving. This study uses more realistic images of destinations in order to reframe influencer images within a broader context. This research further provides an understanding as to how travellers need to read potentially deceptive photographs and will conclude with recommendations for new ways in which travellers can more accurately read Instagram travel influencer photos.

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    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International