The Dangerous Selfie Epidemic
The baby bison picture that went viral during the weekend and into Tuesday breaks every animal lover’s heart — possibly even the hearts of the tourists whose actions killed the animal. As the spotlight on the bison calf’s fate of being shunned by other bison due to excessive human attention and, therefore, needing to be euthanized gains steam, travel marketers may be concerned that the next victim will be tourism.
You see, the tourists who first took selfies with the baby bison and thought they were warming the calf up in their rental car because the mammal looked cold were … tourists. And the beachgoers who left a baby dolphin on the beach to die after passing the aquatic marine mammal around for selfies were … tourists. In other words, they pay to travel and the new vacation slides tend to be real-time selfies they post on social media.
Travel marketers like PalmBeachLately.com know this. On Oct. 1, 2015, a post on the site appeals to the selfie crowd with: “Now through October 31st, you can enter your best #CruiseSmile selfie each day for a chance to win one of 31 cruise vacations for two.”
Even non-travel industry marketers appeal to the selfie-loving travelers. From Feb. 8 to March 27, Long John Silver’s sweepstakes allowed entrants to vie for three grand prize cruise packages. #FishYouWereHere entrants just had to take winning selfies of themselves with the food chain’s fish or other dishes and socially share the snaps along with a special “referrer link” and #Sweepstakes.
— Long John Silver's (@longjohnslvrs) March 7, 2016
So could Tuesday’s public outrage spill over onto marketing campaigns like these and the general travel industry that’s lately been seeing headlines like these?
- “Selfies Rule: ‘Selfie Tourism’ On The Rise”
- “Tourism Officials Hope ‘Selfie Spots’ Will Attract More Business in Helena” (This city in Montana wasn’t getting the amount of tourism it wanted from the visitors to national parks such as nearby Yellowstone, where the baby bison was euthanized after tourists took selfies and separated the mammal from its herd.)
Perhaps not if marketers proactively approach the selfie situation this way:
Tell Tourists Regarding Travel — What’s In It for Them If They Can’t Take Unique Selfies?
This may seem like a no-brainer, but now that tourists are being discouraged from taking dangerous, destructive or harmful selfies, the question comes up: Will they travel? While some selfie situations are homegrown, such as the warning in Philadelphia to locals taking selfies next to the train tracks that trains are wider than the tracks and may strike and kill them, others aren’t as easy.
Here’s what travel marketers can tell tourists they can get from exotic locations:
- Seeing Wild Animals. As park officials at Yellowstone National Park note, the newborn bison would still be alive and no humans would be endangered if no one had approached the calf.
- Amazing Views. Beachgoers in Argentina could’ve looked at and enjoyed the ocean and even the baby dolphin in it, rather than posing for selfies with the mammal and then letting the rare La Plata dolphin die in the sand. The same is true of a Bulgarian woman who pulled a swan out of a Macedonian lake “in order to pose up for a photograph, before leaving it to die on the beach,” reports the Daily Mail.
- Safe Voyages. In addition to the story about the trains in Philadelphia, there’s the tale of a Colorado “Pilot Killed in Crash After Taking Selfies in the Cockpit,” according to WTVR.com. While this was a Cessna — in other words, not a commercial passenger plane — it relates.
Stop Letting Tourists See You Infighting.
Tourists are watching. They know in an environment in which they, the customers, are in charge, there may be more marketing campaigns like the one in Helena that sets up ideal selfie areas.
“Marketing the U.S. Mountain West region, a giant billboard advertising the wonders of Montana sits along Interstate 25 south of Sheridan, Mont.,” reads eTurboNews.com. “ ‘Montana: Get Lost,’ reads the oversized ad. The Bighorn Mountains, a symbol of Wyoming's unbounded wilderness, stand a few miles west of the display. The billboard signifies the complicated relationship western states have as they try to lure travelers to their own high peaks, lush valleys and diverse ecosystems. Tourism is the No. 2 industry for both Wyoming and its northern neighbor.”
[Author's note: The infighting article actually leaves out Idaho, which the National Park Service lists as one of Yellowstone's states.]
As money may be the main motivator, perhaps figure out how to cooperate rather than thinking of, for instance, Montana as the competitor. The rest of the 2013 article, “Montana and Wyoming Tourism Are Fighting Over Yellowstone National Park Visitors,” talks about how the states need large marketing budgets because tourists staying in one state rather than the other is viewed as a “loss.”
Point Out That the More Visitors Show Up, the Safer the Wildlife Will Be.
Back in 1914, just as the major marketing campaign luring Americans to the national parks rather than Europe began, the parks were in deep trouble.