This year, vacation and travel destinations around the world are expected to spend a whopping $542 billion on advertising to lure vacationers to their locales, according to recent figures from eMarketer.
Yet Nihiwatu, a resort on the remote Indonesian island of Sumba, has its own unique method of drumming up high-end clientele—and it costs them virtually nothing. Perhaps more interesting is the exact way in which they've managed to earn an enviable word-of-mouth reputation.
"When guests book and we ask, 'How did you hear about us?' Instagram constantly comes up," James McBride, the resort's managing partner, told CNBC recently. "It's actually fascinating how much it comes up."
Instagram, the Facebook-owned, photo-sharing app just marked its sixth year since inception, and claims more than 500 million monthly active users. The platform is also a growing marketing tool, with companies flocking to harness Instagram influencers—accounts with large amounts of followers—to boost their products.
In Nihiwatu's case, however, the resort is reaping the benefits of being an influencer without much of the costs. It currently has more than 45,000 followers on its Instagram account, and a night at the resort ranges between $600 to up to $12,000. depending on the accommodations.
Despite the hefty price tag, the hotel has little trouble booking rooms, and gets lots of referrals from the photo-sharing site.
"When the content is beautiful, people follow you and they live vicariously through you," McBride said. "Word of mouth and social media are almost intertwined to a certain degree. They coexist."