In a nod to Instagram's increasingly influential role in advertising and shaping public opinion, Guatemala's tourism board (InGuat) invited 12 of the world's leading instagrammers to travel around the country and snap what they saw.
The Instagram tour — the first of its kind in Central America — brought together leading instagrammers from key markets in the U.S., Sweden, Latin America and Spain. The photographers visited the colonial city of Antigua, the pre-Columbian ruins of Tikal, and a few sites around Guatemala City, then posted their photos to their individual accounts, some of which have hundreds of thousands of followers.
The tour, which ended yesterday, is part of an emerging trend where Central American countries, many of which depend on tourism as a main cash cow, are using their limited promotional budgets to create new media targeting younger tourists whose views of the region weren't shaped by memories of past wars. Guatemala last year attracted 2.1 million tourists, netting $1.5 billion for its economy, according to government statistics.
InGuat wouldn't say how much it spent on the Instagram tour, but insists it was big success. "We've already seen a big return," InGuat's Gabriela Alvarado told Fusion. "Our VisitGuatemala Instagram account grew by 30 percent in just three days this week. Instagram and other social media are very important platforms for us to promote Guatemala with young, adventurous adults."
Other country's attempts at non-traditional promotional campaigns haven't been so successful. Nicaragua recently spent $400,000 to help subsidize Paramount's embarrassingly stupid movie Drunk Wedding, which was filmed at a popular Nicaraguan beach resort in San Juan del Sur. The flick, which was originally supposed to be titled "Destination Wedding," was called "abysmally unfunny" by Variety. That was the most generous review the film got. Nicaraguans weren't laughing at their country's expensive fail.
Guatemala, however, thinks it's on to something with Instagram tours, a new take on promotional press junkets. And instagrammers are stoked to do their part.
"Instagram is the perfect platform for doing this type of thing," says Jose Nicolas Silva, an instagrammer from New York with 235K followers. "When people have been following you for so long, they develop almost a personal connection to you so when I post photos from Guatemala they feel like they are there traveling with me."
Plus, Silva says, there is a lot of follower overlap in the Instagram community, so people can see various photographers' photos and "see the whole scope of the experience."
Guatemala, he says, is smart to promote tourism this way because it helps to change the stigma of the country while educating people about the country's tourism offerings. InGuat agrees. The tourism board says it plans to host similar tours with other IGers in the near future.
Here are some highlights from this week's tour: