The Travel Influencer: Beneficial or Fake?

In today’s technology focused world, many of us now turn to social media when looking for advice. When it comes to planning a trip, instead of buying a travel guide or going to a travel agent, many of us will turn to social media sites and blogs for advice on travel. Travel influencers can be found in all spaces of social media from Instagram and TiKTok, reddit and blogs. There are benefits to being able to easily access information on tourist destinations, but when it comes to travel influencers do they always have our best interests in mind? Travel influencers can certainly be entertaining and even helpful to have on your social media feed. But there are somethings that you should be wary of.

1. Instagram vs reality

We all know that what we see on Instagram does not always match reality, so much so that it has turned into popular joke on social media. Despite this sometime we can still forget about this reality when scrolling through social media. When a travel influencer posts a photo, it shows a place at it most pristine and often they make it look like they are the only ones there. But as anyone has experienced traveling, this is often not the case. Having worked in tourism for years, I have seen this happen first hand. In one of my jobs, we actually had evenings where we allowed influencers to come on after hour tours. Although, the photos are beautiful it certainly does not paint an accurate picture of what many popular tourist destinations look like during their peak season.

The Columbia Icefield Skywalk on a normal summer day
The Columbia Icefield Skywalk as seen on social media

2. Financial accessibility

As someone who makes a career as a social media influencer, they get to stay in places, or get certain things or experiences for free. At another tourism job I worked in the whale watching industry, our head office would send influencers on free whale watching excursions, if they had a large enough following. Using their influencer to promote a business in exchange for free experiences allows them to stay places, or see things that may not be as financially accessible to their average follower. This is especially true if those followers are from a younger generation may be looking to travel on more of a budget. Although influencers do not necessarily claim that they trying to travel on a budget, it does create an inaccurate picture of what travelling to certain place will be like for a lot of their followers.

3. Appropriation of cultures or landscapes

This is not something that is unique to the travel industry but a lot of different industries and influencers. Often times this has to do with a spiritual experience or wearing clothing that is significant or popular to certain culture. For example, may people will travel to the amazon for “Ayahuasca retreats”. Ayahuasca in Peru is a very spiritual and culturally significant to Indigenous groups in the Amazon. The commercialization of Ayahuasca has watered down its spiritual significance. It has also contributed to the over harvesting of Ayahuasca plants, making inaccessible for many Indigenous groups. Just because an influencers is seen doing or wearing something from another culture does not mean that is is appropriation. However, it is important to do your research if you do see or hear of an influencer doing or wearing something that is cultural in nature, make sure it is done in a respectful way and you know who or where the money is going to.

Does this mean we shouldn’t trust travel influencers? Not necessarily like everything we see on the internet it is important to take it with a grain of salt. If you are inspired to do a trip because you’ve seen on social media, know that the reality may not match the filter on social media. You can also be aware of the influencers you are following. There are many influencers out there who are trying to educate and have a positive impact. One influencer Vivienne Dovi uses her platform to educate her followers on black culture throughout the world. The moral of the story is, the boom of travel industries is what you make of it. If you enjoy following influencers because you like the photos, then all the power to you. If you are inspired to do a trip based on social media, make sure you do some supplementary research. In the end it’s all about making smart and informed decisions. Do you follow an influencers? what has your experience been?

Social Media Posts:

Twitter: Is social media your go to place for travel advice? Take a look at my latest blog where I talk about the world of the travel influencer on social media. Find it here! #travel #explore #getoutthere

Facebook: Here is the link to my latest blog. I talk about the world of travel influencers and somethings you should look out for when it comes to the influencers you follow? Click on the link!

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