IO – Tourism is the fastest-growing industry in the world, with the ability to contribute greatly to any country’s economy, through job creation and opening new business opportunities; the industry is predicted to grow 2.8%, on an annual basis. Tourism has become a catalyst for nations’ economies, specifically related to income from currency exchange (Lee, 2017; Huang, 2015; Kavoura & Stavrianeas, 2015; Krishnapillai & Ying, 2017).
Historically, the word “travel” has a certain negative connotation, where the word “travel” has a basis in the words “travail”, “trouble” and “torture”. This reveals how tourism in the past was certainly not as easy as what is available today. High costs and hard effort, making not many individuals who can travel, bearing in mind the costs of transportation, lodging, and ownership of horses could not be met by most people (Werner, 2015).
The advent of technology, and especially the internet, has driven the evolution of tourist and business interaction towards a model of direct communication between consumers. All activities and traveling experience can be facilitated by technology. Call it a tour guide that has been transformed from physical books to internet applications, virtual tourist destinations, virtual travel agents, photos, videos, podcasts, and blogs. All of these are the trends of today’s business approaches that continue to capitalize on technological intelligence. (Plunket, 2013; Balouchi, M., & Khanmohammadi, 2015; Koo & Chung, 2016).
Internet technology that can be enjoyed on various occasions through smartphones has presented a variety of information without knowing the limits, since the eyes are open until closed again at night. Modern humans can no longer be separated from their smartphones. During 2014 alone there were estimated to be around 1.7 billion smartphone users worldwide (Yu, 2015). The onslaught of information from this personal device includes presenting new tourist destination offers. When humans are exposed to various information continuously, beliefs will be formed about the contents of information or news, including information on tourist destinations that arouse interest in visiting various tourist destination areas (Koo & Chung, 2016). Free traffic information about travel on this smartphone is found on social media and online news, not only as passive information but individuals who also actively play a role as media and information producers (Kavoura & Stavrianeas, 2015).
It is this development that vaults the traveling experience beyond the ability of the tourism industry to respond to advances in internet technology (Koo, Chung, Kim, & Hie, 2016). A study conducted by Google revealed that 84% of non-business travelers (leisure) use the internet to plan their trips safely and also avoid risk, whereas through social media, tourists can freely and quickly convey various opinions, information and experiences without being limited by funds, distance and time, in real-time, to win the widest audience. Social media has transformed traditional communication mechanisms in the world of tourism (Huang, 2015; Garg, 2015; Gedikoglu, 2018; Balouchi, & Khanmohammadi, 2015; Rudez & Vodeb, 2015). With all the sophistication and comfort offered by smartphones for travelers to interpret travel experiences and support to be connected to anyone, the use of technology such as travel applications can inevitably endure (Yu, 2015; Werner, 2015).
In 2015 alone, travel applications were ranked 7th as the most-downloaded apps from the Apple Store (Werner, 2015). Technology has also changed the lifestyle of travelers. In 2012 nearly 68% of travelers made booking lodgings at the last moment, i.e. within 24 hours of their planned stay and as many as 16.6% booked flights also within 24 hours before departure by using their smartphones (Werner, 2015).
A variety of information from social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram quickly affects holiday preferences of many individuals (Binder & Szabó, 2017). Technology has been able to facilitate almost all the needs of travelers before, during and after traveling from booking to receiving responses to travel stories that have been shared with anyone around the world through social media on smartphones (Plunkett, 2013).
Information circulating by word of mouth through electronic channels (Electronic-Word of Mouth – E-WOM) has become an important and powerful force as a medium of advocacy to seize the Millennial consumer in ways beyond the confines of a simple circle of friends (Lee, 2017; Huang 2015). Millennial travelers use social media as a means to share their personal experiences, including the experience of traveling into their electronic networks. Stories that flow in digital media are nine times more effective than advertisements to influence millions of other potential consumers including travelers to explore even places that prospective travelers have never known before (Banda & Sindhu, 2014; Gedikoglu, 2018; Rudez & Vodeh, 2015). This condition encourages increasing competition in the tourism industry (Suh, 2017).
Generation Conception. “Generation” is a term used to describe the impact of society, which originates from a time-based population group, which experiences important social activities and historical movements in a particular cohort of time. “Generations” can also be defined as groups of people who have preceded certain other groups of people (Kesterson, 2013). A Millennial generation is a group of people born between 1980 and 1994/1995 (Huang & Petrick, 2010). Generations grow in the era of internet technology development, globalization and digital media enhancements and widespread technological evolution, which has an impact on the expectation of change and acceptance of wider differences (Moscardo et al., 2011). They are the generations raised by the Baby Boomer generation.
Millennials have fewer siblings than ever before. They are also big in a high divorce culture, working mothers and having parents who are more actively seeking economic advancement than the previous generation. This parental behavior then produces a Millennial generation that is optimistic, confident, individualistic, because it is always under the protection and always spoiled by always receiving responses, awards, and recognition (Moscardo et al., 2011). This generation is also reported as a generation that is better educated than the previous generation. They spend more time living with parents, which impacts their orientation towards a strong team and focus on continuing to seek knowledge and education (Kesterson, 2013). This generation also has great concern for the dynamics of global life, which encourages them to become volunteers more often, ones who then abandon traditional political styles and behavior (Kesterson, 2013). A Millennial generation or also known as Y generation is the most active generation using social media, at least joined in with 2 digital social networks, where Facebook is the digital space with the highest Millennial population (Rosen, 2017).
Millennial behavior which is closely related to technology through social media daily encourages Millennials to make social media a means of sharing various aspects, including activities and travel experiences (Rosen, 2017). This sharing behavior, in line with the development of a new type of economy – known as the “experience economy”, where many businesses offer experiences compared to products and services so that consumers can continue to enjoy fresh experiences (Huang, 2015). This pattern is in line with Millennial communication behavior, obsessed with continuing to display their various experiences on social media, so that new experiences become the rational and emotional needs of this age group. Every Millennial who gets a certain experience including traveling, for example, becomes a ritual for them to also share it with others in their circle of friends and to the “world” through various technology applications on smartphones (Rosen, 2017).
Technology has a wide impact on the behavior of travelers, one of which makes social media as a source of reference for Millennials to carry out tourism activities, including making bookings during the “injury time” of departure and reducing the culture shock that Millennials must experience when they have to be in a place that hasn’t has been visited, because massive and in-depth information was obtained before departure (Rosen, 2017; Werner, 2015; Yu, 2015).
The Concept of Human Image (Human Brand). Internet technology through social media has created many new “celebrities”, who become “referrals” of thinking, and even acting for other social media users to carry out various activities including tourist activities. The concept of celebrity is part of the conception of human brands, wherein someone has pinned celebrity calls by the public when the echo is concerned echoes in the public (Goffman, 1956; Eager & Dann, 2016).
This is where the power of technology opens opportunities for non-celebrity individuals to build and exhibit an image of themselves to a broad audience without the need to have power attached to certain elements of fame (Iqani & Schroeder, 2016). There is a shift in power from celebrity figures to anyone (“every person”) to be able to construct an image in public (Eager & Dann, 2016).
“Selfie” has become a perfect presentation technique for the theory of images developed by Goffman. “Selfie” has changed the everyday life of every individual in this Millennial era into a mobile theater that does not stop by time and space constraints. The structure, rules, and norms in social media have been transformed into living simulacra of people’s culture, society, and subjective lifestyles, becoming extensions of each digital individual’s self-image (Baudrillard, 1994; Belk, 2013).
“Selfie” has become a powerful narrative method, when it is platformed on a user-friendly digital platform such as Instagram (IG). Instagram is a photo-sharing application developed in 2006, on smartphones (Ting et al., 2015). The fundamental difference between Instagram and other photo-sharing applications is that IG embraces the connectedness of social networks, through the hashtags that are easily identified and found (searchable), through conversation in threads (Eager & Dann, 2016). Instagram has built a new tradition of visual sharing and is a stage for public diary discourse and extensive individual autobiography. IG has become a site for every individual to show his life, showing not telling (Eager & Dann, 2016).
Visual exhibits displayed on social media, when they have harmony with the desires or characters or hobbies of other individuals who are exposed to the visual sequence, have the opportunity to follow them until they are even moved to go to recommended tourist attractions (Stienmetz, 2016). The decision taken by a consumer to buy or use a product and service is partly guided by the perception of the image fit of the product or service to that consumer, whereas in the experience of travelers, it is found that they often look for social meanings rather than merely functional meaning of a trip or tourist attraction (Stienmetz, 2016).
In a study conducted in the West, it was found that consumers who documented their activities during the tour attempted to display their tourist experiences, which means reflecting their lifestyles whose hopes bear fruit in recognition of their existence (Stienmetz, 2016). In other tourism studies, it was found that visual images do indeed influence consumers’ choice of tourist destinations, considering that visuals can help individuals to imitate the reality of activities to be carried out later by individuals who are visually exposed to the tourist attractions (Plunkett, 2013).
Attachment to tourist attractions is formed through experience. The narrative of a visual can be a representation of the real conditions in the tourist attractions. This is where the role of the media becomes very strategic in building stimulus for individuals to travel (Plunkett, 2013). The theory of media richness conveys how the material wealth and reach possessed by the media play a role in improving the performance of information, including visuals. An understanding of media wealth consists of four categories, namely: the ability to be able to provide a fast response; the capacity to transmit diverse guides; the magnitude of language variation and the capacity to personalize a message (Plunkett, 2013). The highest medium of communication is even higher when the medium can replicate aspects of face-to-face interaction in general. So, consumers can lose themselves in the narrative offered (Plunkett, 2013).