University of Georgia

Selfies drive sightseeing

two women taking selfie in front of Notre Dame

Anticipated positive feedback on social media can influence whether travelers intend to visit a tourism destination.

The research on social return—or the number of likes, shares, comments and overall positive feedback travelers expect they’ll get from travel posts—reveals that social media is influencing how travelers choose destinations, according to Bynum Boley, assistant professor in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources.

“While travel and social standing have a long history of interconnectedness, social media has fundamentally changed the nature of this form of conspicuous consumption,” he says. “Travelers are now able to receive instant gratification and recognition through posting pictures of their travels.”

Boley and collaborators from several institutions developed the “Social Return Scale” to predict whether 758 U.S. travelers intend to visit Cuba over the next year, next five years, and next 10 years based on the anticipated positive social media feedback of posting their travel experiences.

With Cuba as the destination of interest, results show that across all three time frames, the anticipated social return was a good predictor of whether someone intended to visit the country.

The results were published in Tourism Management.

This brief appeared in the spring 2018 issue of Research Magazine. The original press release is available at