One of the joys of travel is figuring out how you’ll spend your day in a new city. For a growing number of travelers, the answer to that question is: posing in front of a camera, preferably against a suitably Instagrammable background.
In cities across the world, photographers and gig economy entrepreneurs are offering Airbnb Experiences designed less for the IRL experience and more for the #authentic content that results.
In LA, one 3.5-hour tour (transportation included for $39!) allows you to hit up all the iconic spots: Hollywood Sign “without spending hours hiking”; the Beverly Hills Sign; that classic view of a street lined with palm trees; a pink wall on Melrose Avenue; and a mural of angel wings to stand in front of. At each location, the guides will take your photo, making sure to get your good side, with your own device.
In Paris or Lisbon or Tokyo or London (with prices ranging from $44 to $85 per person) similar services are available: A professional photographer will take photos in ‘grammable locations throughout the city. Some will even edit and send a selection of them to you after the fact. Happy customers in various cities offer praise of the services.
This kind of aesthetically-motivated travel is clearly appealing to some travelers, but can be pretty annoying to locals. As Feargus O’Sullivan wrote in CityLab this week, Paris’s Rue Crémieux—which, for better or worse, is perfect for the gram—has been ruined for residents by people posing on its cobblestones in front of its colorful houses.
The rise of the professional photoshoot on vacation is a logical extension of the influencer economy. No self-respecting influencer goes on vacation without getting a considerable amount of #content out of it. This often means spending hours framing shots, waiting for other tourists to move out of the way, and doing ridiculous and impractical things like yoga on the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset (aka during rush hour).
That, one can assume, has upped the ante on normal travelers, the ones who perhaps don’t have millions of followers and lucrative brand deals, but would still like to capture the moment they kissed their boyfriend at the Eiffel Tower (or, at least, the fourth or fifth kiss, during which both parties looked cute).
Wanting to document your well-earned vacation is nothing new, of course. Still, it’s telling that in the era of smartphones and “pics or it didn’t happen,” actually being somewhere doesn’t feel real to some without the Instagram photos to prove it.
One of the hundreds of gushing reviews of an Airbnb experience in LA described the tour as a “delightful way to capture iconic memories.” Another went a step further: “This was the highlight of my trip.”