TikTok is taking the world by storm – and not least, the tourism scene too. If yousomehow haven’t heard of the app, it’s all about short-form videos. Think, Vine for themodern age.
There was a massive surge in TikTok users during the Covid-19 pandemic, with people ofall ages downloading the app. As of May this year, it’s beendownloaded 3.5 billiontimes. Since then, TikTok has steered away from dance routines and Dalgona coffeeto influencers and brand social strategies all over the world.
But what does this type of instant video consumerism mean for the moderntraveller? Here are some examples of where we’ve seen TikTok’s power used for good,and those when it hasn’t.
When TikTok works for the modern traveller
As with many social platforms, you can search hashtags and see what’s trending –TikTok is no different. The phrase#traveltipshas an astounding 9.5 billion views atthe time of writing. Everything from tricks for making the most of your smallbaggage allowance to local customs you need to know before landing.
And if you’re anything like us, you’re using TikTok to research your next trip. In fact,Skift Researchtells us that 20% of travellers use social media before their nextadventure – whether that’s looking for destinations or searching for activities. Whatused to be a Google search is fast becoming a TikTok search – though we’re not quitesure that name will catch on.
For us, the most exciting part about this is finding local experiences. The places that you ‘had to just know about’ previously are becoming far more accessible. While thiscan mean hidden gems won’t stay hidden for too much longer, it’s also a great wayto support smaller tourist spots and vendors – fromNorth Walesto Australia, you canfind the places off the beaten track.
We’re seeing a rise in smaller businesses going viral on the app too. With betteropportunities to engage with and build relationships with users, TikTok is fastbecoming a great way to support local business owners and community projects. Infact, a recent survey by Business Wire tells us that among small businesses that poston TikTok, 72% say organic content(that’s free content) is extremely valuable to theirsuccess.
Unfortunately, it’s not all positive. In June this year, you may have heard about a presstrip to China that went viral. Fast fashion company Shein, known for its incredibly lowprices andreports of poor environmental practicessent a group of micro influencersto their ‘innovation centre’.
The trip focused on the brand and the group’s positive experience of the factory –many of those who went turned the trip into bitesize travel vlogs for TikTok. It didn’ttake long for the influencers to start receiving backlash for endorsing Shein. Manywent back to the app in self-defence. One influencer, Dani Carbonari, eveninstead chose to talk about pay as a plus-sized influencer and the ‘anti-Chinesepropaganda’ she’s seen in the US.
In aninterview with TIME, Catalina Goanta, an associate professor at UtrechtUniversity and influencer marketing expert shared the negative effect this type ofpolitical advertising and disinformation can have when travelling to other cultures.
“If you’re going to put out information like, ‘Oh, there’s propaganda in the U.S.’ andyou’re actually not very diligent in how you convey that message, you couldpotentially end up doing a lot of harm with the misinformation that youperpetuate.”
But it’s not just on international press trips we’re seeing trouble. Last year,euronews.travel reported that Tiktok has been banned at Buddha’s birthplaceandother tourist hotspots in Nepal. With tourists causing disrupting crowds at sacredsites to take selfies and record dances – no TikTok signs have been put in place. It’sthese types of trends that can damage holy places across the globe, many of whichare still used for religious practices.
A new type of travel
In the era of TikTok and social media-driven travel that brings with it a change to theway we see the world, a few vital reminders can help shape our journeys intoresponsible experiences – prioritise respect for local cultures, environments andfellow travellers.
Using TikTok as a tool can help us see the world in new ways we’d never experienceotherwise. We can uncover local delicacies, support communities and even findvolunteer projects across the world – but we must remember that every location wevisit holds significance for its residents.
Ultimately used responsibly, TikTok can beharnessed as a force for good. It provides a platform to amplify important messagesabout sustainable travel, cultural understanding and conservation efforts.
To see the latest volunteering projects you can get involved in, follow us on TikTokoruse our project finder.