Last Updated on August 25, 2023 by The Digital Travel Expert
Is there a digital travel culture that should govern social media influencer marketing partnerships? There is a growing debate over whether there should be a digital travel culture that governs social media influencer marketing partnerships. Some argue that there should be guidelines and ethical standards in place to ensure authenticity and transparency in the industry. Others believe that influencers should have the freedom to promote and collaborate with brands as they see fit.
Overall, finding a balance between creativity and responsibility is crucial to shaping the future of influencer marketing in the travel industry.
In this article, we will discuss travel influencers that travel business owners don’t want to welcome in their digital marketing strategies. They are often criticized for promoting unrealistic experiences. They are often criticized for promoting unrealistic experiences that can create false expectations for others.
Respect For the Locals, Cornerstone of Responsible Travel
Unfortunately, we don’t always see this level of respect and understanding practiced by all travelers and social media influencers. Respect for the locals is crucial for maintaining a positive and sustainable travel experience. This means being mindful of their customs, traditions, and ways of life. It also involves treating them with kindness and empathy. This will help create a harmonious and mutually beneficial relationship for both the traveler and the local community.
1. Comparisons with Social Media Influencer Home Country
One travel influencer complained about wifi and AC in a national park lodge, the same standards as a luxury hotel. He added, “Oh man, I miss a real hotel in a real city where I can enjoy McDonald’s. Here is the issue: This kind of mindset perpetuates the idea that certain destinations are superior to others and that experiencing a place authentically means conforming to Western standards.
It disregards the beauty and uniqueness of local cultures and undermines the efforts of those who work hard to preserve and showcase their heritage. The digital travel culture needs a shift towards embracing diversity, respecting local customs, and promoting sustainable and responsible tourism. Genuine social media influencer marketing can do better. It can play a crucial role in driving this shift by highlighting and promoting authentic experiences that prioritize cultural preservation and responsible travel.
2. Deceiving Captions or Blog post titles ( Look what I found in the world’s poorest country)
Some travel influencers use deceptive captions or blog post titles in the hopes of getting attention. Sadly, portraying a country as a ridiculously cheap destination is detrimental to local travel businesses because tourists will believe that x amount is enough for a travel experience.
Travel influencers who (un)intentionally create false impressions about the affordability of a destination harm the local economies. This can lead to an influx of tourists who expect low prices, putting strain on local businesses that may not be able to sustain the demand.
Unfortunately, we always see content on influential platforms like Instagram that contributes to the spread of this misleading expectation.
3. Fake: Materialistic displays over genuine experiences
They want you to believe what you see on social media about luxurious life and extravagant destinations as the epitome of travel. However, this narrow view fails to recognize the true essence of exploration and discovery. It is important to remember that travel is not about flaunting wealth but about immersing oneself in different cultures, understanding their values, and fostering meaningful connections with locals. By shifting our focus from materialistic displays to genuine experiences, we can truly appreciate the rich tapestry of our diverse world
4. Belittling the Locals
One tour operator was approached by a tourist( I won’t name his country or travel destination) who wanted to see the poor locals because he thought it would be interesting for his audience and he could raise money to help improve their living conditions. What an arrogant mind! Here is the issue: This tourist’s mindset demonstrates a lack of understanding and empathy towards the locals (the ones he regards as poor, as he puts it).
Instead of appreciating their culture and way of life, he sees them as objects of pity and entertainment for his audience. This kind of belittling behavior only perpetuates stereotypes and reinforces a power dynamic that is detrimental to genuine connections and understanding between cultures. It is important for travelers to approach locals with respect and a desire to learn rather than using them as props for their own gain. We cannot talk about social media influencer marketing and digital culture without true consideration of humanity and respect for others. It is imperative to prioritize genuine connections and ethical practices.
5.No Interest in Local Culture
Whether you want to see wildlife or beautiful beaches, remember that tourism is about and for people. It is important to engage with and respect the local culture and communities in order to create a meaningful and impactful influencer marketing strategy.
Here is the issue: This leads to the permanent belief that some destinations are just good for wildlife, which neglects the very foundation of tourism: people. This neglect of the very foundation of tourism—people.
6. Shady Business
Some travel social media influencers boast on their blogs about ways to travel the world for free. Stay away from this sensational lie. There is a local company out there that is going to spend thousands of dollars on their accommodations, transportation, and activities, hoping to get customers( supposedly from the influencer’s audience). A pure lie: nobody travels for free; either they are self-sponsored or somebody else did. I believe that influence and authenticity should be the driving factors in building a genuine and loyal audience
7. Digital Manipulation
Photoshopped images have become increasingly common on social media, leading to unrealistic beauty standards and distorted perceptions of reality. Some travel influencers don’t shy away from photoshopping birds and other wildlife into their pictures to create a more captivating image for their loyal audience. Riding an elephant in Bali has become popular in recent days.
Funny enough, some of the travel influencers riding elephants claim to be committed to the well-being of animals and sustainable tourism. However, the truth is that there is growing awareness about the negative impact of elephant tourism on these animals’ welfare and the environment. In reality, many elephants used for tourism are subjected to cruel training methods and live in inadequate conditions.
Here is the issue: Hunger for attention makes some social media influencers ignore the core foundation of their self-imposed mission (influence). This practice perpetuates the cycle of unrealistic expectations and further distorts people’s perception of nature and wildlife.
Authenticity should be the foundation of any influencer’s success, not deceitful tricks and staged moments.
8. The Algorithm weighs more than the Local Community
Types of travel social media influencer partnerships may include Instagrammers and travel bloggers. These individuals have gained a significant following on social media platforms by sharing their travel experiences, tips, and recommendations. While some influencers provide valuable insights and inspire others to explore the world, there are also certain issues associated with this type of digital nomad culture.
When they have been invited by a small local tour operator, they promote the same places and photos of less-privileged locals (it’s all about attention and followers). A woman with a baby on her back, carrying a heavy pot of water. They capture the struggles and hardships of everyday life in the local community.
Some of those pictures are sold at a high price (up to $ 250 per shot), to the detriment of dignity and respect for the local people.
Here is the issue: You won’t see the same scenario in developed countries because there are stricter regulations and ethical guidelines in place regarding the photography of local people.
Unfortunately, in developing countries, social media influencers( or tourists) regard local people as tourist attractions rather than individuals with their own rights and dignity. This mindset often leads to exploitation and objectification.
Case of luxury travel influencers: no problem with people enjoying their wealth. They are usually invited by multinational travel brands. But the issue here is that they create a misconception about a travel destination by portraying it as unattainable for the average person.
This portrayal can discourage potential travelers and limit their exploration of different destinations. Their experience is about vanity, which is discouraging for normal tourists who would prefer a more authentic experience. This is detrimental to local small businesses. It hinders their growth and sustainability
9. False expectations are created, and local businesses suffer as a result
Because of the VIP image they exhibit on social media, small business owners often believe their followers are as rich as the travel influencer appears to be in their posts.
The truth is that the audience is just a number. Their number of followers does not necessarily equate to a target audience you can count on for your digital marketing strategy for your travel company. This misconception leads to poor financial decisions and unrealistic ROI on influencer marketing partnerships, ultimately hindering the growth and success of small travel businesses.
Again, it brings the digital travel culture into the equation when dealing with social media influencers, creating a need for more careful evaluation and strategic planning.
10. Questionable ethics and motives of the social media influencers
You’ve probably seen a social media influencer profile with a bio that says: First (female, male, x country citizen…) to travel the world: A 20- or 30-ish-year-old just became the fastest woman or man to visit every country. It is all about egocentric motives. What next? How does this help their community? How does their audience perceive this achievement? Unfortunately, some of the mainstream media are covering the story with huge sensationalism. Beware of those vanity luminaires. The issue is that the true impact and significance of their achievement aren’t clear.
What does a travel influencer do?
First, who is a social media influencer? A social media travel influencer is someone who uses their social media platforms to inspire and influence others to explore different destinations and experiences.
They often share captivating photos, videos, and personal stories from their travels, providing recommendations and tips to their followers. Additionally, they collaborate with brands and tourism boards to promote specific products or destinations, leveraging their influence to create awareness and generate interest among their audience.
How much do travel social media influencers make?
The amount of money travel social media influencers make can vary greatly depending on their following, engagement rate, and the partnerships they have with brands. Some influencers with a smaller following may make a few hundred dollars per sponsored post or collaboration, while those with a larger following and higher engagement can earn thousands of dollars per post. Additionally, influencers may also receive complimentary trips, accommodations, and products as part of their partnerships, further adding to their income.
What is becoming a social media influencer?
Being a social media influencer entails having a significant following on various social media platforms and using that influence to promote brands, products, or causes. These individuals have the power to sway opinions and shape trends among their followers. They often collaborate with brands for sponsored content, attend events, and create engaging content to maintain and grow their influence online. Ultimately, being a social media influencer involves building a personal brand and leveraging that brand to impact and inspire others. However, there is no exhaustive social media influencer definition.
What are the best social media influencer programs available for brands to collaborate with?
There are several top social media influencer platforms that brands can consider for collaboration. Some of the most popular ones include Instagram’s influencer marketing platform, which allows brands to connect with influencers based on their niche and target audience. Another notable program is YouTube’s Partner Program, which enables brands to collaborate with popular YouTubers for sponsored content and product placements. Additionally, TikTok’s Creator Marketplace is gaining traction as a platform for brands to partner with influential TikTokers and create engaging promotional campaigns. Depending on your industry, you can spot the types of social media influencer marketing strategies your business needs.