Travel influencers feel full brunt of lockdown
When Instagram announced that it was going to hide the number of likes on users’ posts to reduce anxiety and cyberbullying on the social networking site, many travel influencers were not impressed.
Many had built a brand on their Instagram page, and most rely on likes and views to earn an income. But their rage soon faded and everything went back to normal. Travel influencers were able to earn a livelihood and collaborate with brands once again.
Months down the line, these influencers had something else to worry about, as Covid-19 caused havoc around the globe.The coronavirus outbreak negatively affected the travel industry, with many airlines suspending flights and travellers cancelling their holiday plans.
With travel bans imposed, not only in South Africa but abroad – travel influencers had to cancel their trips and partnerships with travel brands.The uncertainty about what will happen next has caused undue pressure and heartache for many travel influencers who rely on social media for their income.
Travel influencer Jared Ruttenberg, famous for his @jaredincpt social media account, made the tough decision to cancel all his scheduled travel trips.
“My work, as a travel influencer and writer, has been severely affected due to Covid-19. I cancelled all of my trips for the next month. It will be difficult to plan any future trips at this stage.
“For travel influencers, whose income relies on being able to freely travel, this is proving to be a difficult time,” he said.
Lerato Mannya, the founder of Motherland Connect, a non-profit organisation created to showcase the beauty of the African continent, said her company had cancelled all trips until further notice.
“Coronavirus has impacted my business quite heavily. Our last group was unable to freely move around the country due to the travel restrictions imposed by the government. My business relies heavily on word of mouth marketing, so not having tourists visit means reduced income for me.”
Another influencer, Katchie Nzama, who travels the African continent in length and breadth, said “No work means no pay for me. I have no idea how long this will last, but the projects I have been working on this month have been cancelled. Unfortunately, I will not have any income at the end of March,” she said.
A change in content creation
Besides promoting travel content on their page, many influencers have encouraged their followers to stay home during the Covid-19 outbreak in the country.
Lelo Boyana, the host of Chica Travel Podcast, said the outbreak caused uncertainty and gloom for her.
Boyana, who has more than 44 000 followers on Instagram, said: “As a travel podcaster, I had to change the type of content I posted on my feed. I could not promote destinations in the middle of a pandemic.
“Instead, I have posted messages that discouraged people from travelling, which goes against the essence of what I do. However, I want to use my platform to encourage responsible behaviour during this tough time.”
Ruttenberg, in between encouraging his fans to be safe during the Covid-19 outbreak, will continue to post his past travels on his page.
“I think people still need reasons to dream, to have their wanderlust fuelled, and to be reminded of the beauty that exists around us. For that reason, I’ll join others in repurposing content from previous visits. It’s also a chance for us to look back at the places we have visited over the years.
“The opportunity to look back and reflect isn’t often afforded with the need to constantly create new content.”Dominique Fitzhugh, a travel expert, said her current content creation was aimed at inspiring people during this tough situation.
“I am certainly looking back at past travels, when posting on social media.
“I believe it will inspire my followers and offer hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel. It gives us all a chance to daydream about where we want to go to next when its safe to travel again,” she said.
Mannya, on the other hand, felt that posting old travel content may seem “disingenuous” following the Covid-19 outbreak. “If I do post anything, it will be old content posted as throwbacks, by the tourists who have been on our trips.”
Lauren Manuel McShane of The Travel Manuel hopes to offer advertising discounts on her website where businesses can contribute to a minimal rate to advertise their travel and lifestyle business.
"It's a great way to support them and myself as a freelancer," she said. McShane added: “As South Africans, we are so resilient. I know we will get through this together. I look forward to the day when the travel industry flourishes and we can continue to inspire people's exploration choices and excursions.”
Boyana said travel influencers needed to use this time to strategise and prepare for the upcoming travel boom. Ruttenberg is optimistic about the future.
“My heart goes out to the many in the tourism industry who will be affected by the coronavirus.
“South Africa has heavily depended on the 1.4 million of us in the tourism industry and, as the situation recovers, it will look to us even more.
“When that time comes, may we be found ready to meet the task,” he said.