Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Mark Rademacher

Second Advisor

Terri Carney


Since hosting the 1992 Summer Olympics, Barcelona quickly elevated its status as a prime tourist destination. Still, as visitors from all over the world flock to the city, its residents have felt pushed out, disrespected, and exploited, resulting in a phenomenon known as “tourism-phobia.” Barcelona Turisme, the city’s destination marketing organization (DMO) developed a 2020 Strategic Tourism Plan to find ways not to manage tourism in a city, but to manage a tourist city through responsible, sustainable practices. As Instagram has evolved as a principal social media platform for two-way, interactive conversations between brands and their audiences, this research studies how theoretical elements from media richness theory and speech act theory, originally developed to understand traditional media, transfer into today’s applied social media best practices for destination marketing. Social identity theory and the concept of destination authenticity also provide frameworks to examine how to reconcile resident-tourist tensions in Barcelona. A content analysis on a census of Visit Barcelona’s 2020 Instagram posts found geotags, carousels, and reposting of user-generated content performed best in terms of engagement, while the traditionally perceived effective features of videos and hashtags did not receive as much engagement. Additionally, while Barcelona Turisme diversifies its posts according to destination popularity, its limited promotion of expensive, arts-focused destinations may attract a certain type of tourist and promote the destination via stereotypical images rather than authentically. These findings provide insight for future studies of DMOs’ use of social media concerning both media best practices and guidelines for authentic representation.

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Communication Commons