Business is booming thanks to TikTok, but at what cost to our natural wonders? – Sydney Morning Herald

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Businesses and national parks featured in viral TikToks are experiencing immediate and long-term impacts after the exposure – sometimes good, sometimes bad and sometimes without any input on their part.
Young people are increasingly making consumer choices based on user recommendations they see on the social media platform, which has become a searchable trove of bite-sized reviews and things to see and do.
Marika and John Saliba with their daughter Roxanne at their flower farm.Credit:Flavio Brancaleone
Glenbernie Family Farm, a flower farm about an hour north of Sydney in the Hawkesbury region, became an online sensation despite having nothing to do with TikTok.
Owner Marika Saliba says her flower-filled fields, where visitors can pick fresh sunflowers and take photos, have proved incredibly popular with influencers, and business has boomed as a result.
“It’s quite the phenomenon,” Saliba says. “We don’t really know much about TikTok, but we’re always amazed by the number of people of all ages who come to the farm and tell us they heard about it from there.”
The sunflower field has gained popularity on social media as a place to stage online content.Credit:Flavio Brancaleone
A screenshot of the video of Glenbernie Family Farms posted by @taramilktea on TikTok.Credit:
One of the biggest examples is a TikTok filmed at the farm last year by popular influencer @TaraMilkTea. The video has attracted 210,000 views and inspired countless others to head out to Glenbernie to film their own clips.
With about 7.4 million Australians on TikTok, the video-centric platform has become a crowdsourced treasure trove of recommendations for things to do outdoors in and around Sydney.
Government bodies such as Destination NSW have also embraced the newest social media frenzy. It runs two TikTok accounts (@sydney and @visitnsw), which largely focus on natural wonders and outdoor attractions.
“The beauty of digital is that the content lives on long after it is posted and can be searched and consumed at any time as a sort of visual library,” a Destination NSW spokesperson says.
A popular TikTok shows viewers how to go off trail to get to a waterfall in NSW.Credit:
“By having a voice in the conversation, we can act as an authority on visitor experiences in Sydney and NSW.”
Part of the appeal of TikTok as a platform for recommendations is that the algorithm can create mass exposure for hyper-local content, which can be discovered via search again and again.
But there’s concern that such exposure of natural wonders from unverified sources could lead to overcrowding and safety issues.
Destination NSW says it “regularly consults industry stakeholders … for the latest advice about local conditions” to ensure it only promotes destinations that are “safe and publicly accessible”, but there is greater concern about inexperienced adventurers promoting unsafe or environmentally problematic practices.
This is especially true for the popular trend of sharing how to access secret spots like hidden rock pools and waterfalls or secluded beaches.
A spokesperson for the National Parks and Wildife Service says they are “concerned that the desire for visitors to take photographs in national parks sometimes overrides concerns about personal safety”.
They ask that visitors “take responsibility for their own safety by observing all safety warnings, staying behind safety barriers and on marked tracks, pathways and designated visitor areas”, and avoid “going close to inherently dangerous cliff edges, waterfalls or rock platforms”.
LandCare Australia says one of the most important pieces of advice to protect the environment is to “stick to the pathway when you’re navigating a national park or going to the beach”.
“We see people try and go off path based on advice they might have received online, and that disturbs the habitat of the flora and fauna.”
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