Since its 2012 inception, the Instagram geotag movement has grown swiftly across the globe. There are over 500 million active monthly Instagram users today, making it a widely accessible tool for an engaged audience. The implications for the hospitality industry are big: people are increasingly inspired by geotagged posts when choosing their next vacation destination, restaurant meal or weekend outing. It’s a shift in decision-making that has our attention.

First, what is geotagging? Instagram defines it as “storing the latitude and longitude of your current location with your photo.” This data is collected by the GPS device in your phone or tablet and is accessible to Instagram if you grant permission.

Utilizing this tool has become commonplace for Instagrammers. That’s not surprising. New social media norms mean people love to share the five W’s of their lives — who, what, when, why and where. The where can be a win-win for hospitality marketers and fans alike. For example, I now know exactly where my favorite foodie had the “best avocado toast.” The simple act of geotagging a location to a photo has influenced my next Sunday brunch decision. This makes both the café and its (future) customer happy.

Geotagging has become a particularly appealing tool for tourists — current travel photos rarely lack a geotag. This has led to Instagram’s new status as a credible travel resource. Searching “Amalfi Coast” will prompt a raw feed of geotagged posts that can be used as a guidebook. The timely collection of captivating imagery offers a well-rounded sense for the destination, as opposed to a one-size-fits-all stock image.

Not only do geotags provide destinations and businesses with a free feed of largely flattering shots and reviews, but they also present an opportunity for marketers to better understand their customers. Combing through a feed of geotagged posts can be enlightening, revealing the activities, meals and amenities that resonate with guests. This inside look can inspire fresh thinking by hoteliers, developers, chefs and tourism associations. And for social media managers in the hospitality space, note that businesses can gain 79 percent more engagement when they include a geotag in an Instagram post.

So the next time you want to “find your passion,” see what your social media feed suggests, and follow the geotag. The future of sharing — and learning — on Instagram looks bright.