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COVID-19 does not necessarily mean the end for travel influencers

With advertising budgets tightening and many travel restrictions across the world still in place, one has to wonder how travel influencers can survive.

COVID-19 is here to stay for the foreseeable future, whether we like it or not Influencers, whom we might believe are detached from the concerns of the average employee who has had to contend with pay cuts and layoffs, have been legitimately impacted by the pandemic too Travel influencers have perhaps been the most impacted, though COVID-19 does not necessarily need to mean the end to their careers

COVID-19 is here to stay for the foreseeable future, whether we like it or not. Influencers, whom we might believe are detached from the concerns of the average employee who has had to contend with pay cuts and layoffs, have been legitimately impacted by the pandemic too. 

After all, when an economy finds itself reeling from a major financial shock such as the one we are witnessing today, it’s only natural for influencers, most of whom rely on advertiser dollars to stay afloat, to take a hit. Even those with their own brands and product lines will find that when crisis strikes, beauty, luxury and other unnecessary amenities take a back seat to more important expenditure. 

In the early stages of the pandemic, this meant that advertisers were cutting down on influencer marketing campaigns, postponing them, or outright cancelling them altogether, spelling doom and gloom for influencers worldwide. 

According to a report by analytics firm Launchmetrics, sponsored posts on Instagram fell from representing 35% of influencer content in mid-February to 4% of creator content in mid-April. 

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Fortunately for these content creators, economies worldwide have begun to recover in these past few weeks, and things have started to look up again, though they’re still a far cry from how they used to be. 

Look at travel influencers, for example. Even as lockdown measures have begun to ease, many of these content creators who have built their online presences on travel and tourism now find themselves at a loss, starved for content. They used to rely on sponsored trips to promote hotels, destinations, airlines and tourism-related brands for income sources, most of which have now dried up. 

Notably, sponsored content for travel and tourism brands hit an all-time low in April, according to data collected by Izea, as reported by Business Insider. (Though by July, things took a turn for the better and sponsored content for travel and tourism rebounded by 34%.)

As a result, we are now seeing most influencers – whether in travel or not – having to step back and find new ways to produce content. 

Travel influencers need to adapt or risk follower backlash

Celebrity and influencer marketing platform Influencer Intelligence highlights Hannah Tafft, who runs the account Postcards by Hannah and Instabritain, whose content is based around producing high-quality destination photography. As part of her influencer role, she has been gifted a number of tourist experiences over the years. 

“My content is mostly travel related, meaning it has been almost impossible to go out and create,” she explains to Influencer Intelligence. 

In the meantime, she is having to tweak her content and test new things to keep her page active and her users engaged.

“I am currently sharing a lot of ‘throwbacks’ and it’s encouraged me to edit photos I hadn’t had time to even look at before. I’ve tried to adapt as best I can by snapping shots in my back garden!” 

Hannah has made sure to indicate that any travel-related content she is sharing is from her portfolio, as opposed to being a product of a recent trip. That’s because we are seeing travel influencers face harsh backlash for travelling and not maintaining social distancing regulations, even with restrictions easing. 

Among these are British TV and Instagram personalities Kaz Crossley and Molly-Mae Hague. 

“At the end of April, Crossley’s followers expressed concern when she flew to Thailand as COVID-19 cases escalated in the UK to give herself, she explained, the opportunity to create more content,” The Independent reported. “Similarly, Hague faced ire after documenting how she was almost not allowed to board a flight to Greece last month having not completed a compulsory entry form ahead of her trip.”

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While controversy still surrounds the practice of properly using protective measures during the pandemic, such as wearing masks, most people, at least online, are acting vigilant towards influencers that make light of travel restrictions and social distancing practices in pursuit of creating “more content.”

For those travel influencers that have been wise enough to adapt, their content has now been more geared towards raising awareness about travel during a pandemic, and about best safety practices. After all, these online personalities are in a unique position that, despite not being able to travel, can in fact impart valuable travel knowledge to their followers. 

“Instead of packaging their blogs to be purely aspirational, influencers can encourage their fellow travellers to make ‘socially responsible decisions,'” TripZilla writes. “Consider influencers like Dion Wiyoko and Febrian, who have partnered with the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy to promote safe ways of travelling in Indonesia.”

While it certainly poses a major challenge for travel influencers, it’s clear that COVID-19 is not necessarily the end for travel influencers that are willing to adapt.