When social media and the cell phone merged into that portable unit we call the smartphone (or iPhone for Apple enthusiasts), the idea of taking selfies while on vacation was seen as a perk for those jetting to destinations unknown. Now, according to an InterContinental ICons Research Study global survey, social media is becoming more of a pull factor in the travel industry, a trend that's predicted to stick around for a while.

Millennial consumer choices

The research is showing that social media, particularly Instagram, is the choice medium for deciding on where tourists want to go. Millennials are more triggered by what's shown on the platform as an incentive to see the world, making social media more influential than the travel brochures and websites of the past.

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Additionally, most respondents in that age group declared social media isn't a distraction from traveling but is an addition to the experience. The option fits in well with experience as the driving force behind overall millennial consumer choices these days. It's also a choice that runs counter to the more materialistic options preferred by their boomer and Gen-X predecessors.

Meaningful experience

While almost everyone indicated they wanted to travel at least once this year, accordingly, nearly 40 percent of survey participants wanted to put more effort into using social media on future trips.

More than half of them said that grabbing those images via selfie added to the sentimentality of the travel experience, making the journey more meaningful to them. But a bigger incentive seemed to be that such online images enhanced their reputations as leading more carefree and attractive lives.

Eiffel Tower Overexposed

More than 77 percent of respondents said they'd want to take a selfie at the world's most popular tourist sites. Those attractions include the Eiffel Tower, a top choice common among respondents of all generations. The Paris landmark was also listed by iCon as the world's most overexposed Instagram tourist attraction.