Sep 24th, 2017, 10:14 AM

Social Media Influencers and Tourism

By Lillian Giler
Image Credit: Janni Delér Blog
Is Instagram tourism turning beautiful destinations into accessories?

It's no secret that the fashion and beauty industries have been disrupted by the digital boom. With Instagram and YouTube stars on the rise, millennials have become be the voice and advocate for brands or for critics reviewing brands.

There are now thousands of Instagram "models" — aka influencers who get paid per post — sharing their "favorite new items" on the market. From bloggers such as Natasha Oakley to Janni Deler and many more, you'll notice their Instagram feeds are trickled here and there with sponsored posts from fashion or beauty companies. However, since more and more lifestyle and alternative brands have caught notice of this trend, they have also begun to implement this marketing method in hopes of achieving the attention of a larger more susceptible audience. Brands such as Revolve clothing and Tarte Cosmetics have started to do get-aways with Instagram influencers.

Image Credit: Rocky Barnes Blog

One of Revolve's recent trips was a vacation getaway to Turks and Caicos, where one attendee, for the first time ever was an editor rather than designated influencer. This is good in terms of getting some external PR cred, but it gives too much insight into these trips.

According to Michelle Scanga, managing editor of WhoWhatWhere (aka the only editor on the Turks and Caicos trip), "it's nonstop content creating—everywhere you look, someone's creating or staging a photo." The main focus of these trips is largely to create continual content. It almost turns these beautiful destinations into an accessory rather than a home, culture, and life for those inhabiting these regions. 

Image Credit: Nastasha Oakley Blog

It's not only fashion and beauty brands that are promoting desirable destinations, but the tourism boards from these countries are also reaching out and working with third-party companies to utilize these social media starlets and even reality TV stars — including the cast of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and the Kardashian clan.

In Airbnb's City Tourism Partnerships Report, Joe D'Alessandro, president of San Francisco Travel stated that, "Our partnership with Airbnb helps drive visitation throughout San Francisco and spread the economic benefits of tourism across our City." Interestingly enough, Airbnb has created an affiliate partnership program for social media influencers including Youtube and Instagram lifestyle maven, Aspyn Ovard, to promote tourism across the globe. Tourism boards also seem to prefer lifestyle and fashion influencers over the influencers who are solely travel focused.

While tourism is an enriching way to stimulate local economies, there are places such as Machu Picchu, and Peru that struggle to manage over-tourism which ultimately can lead to destruction of these historical landmarks. Is it up to the tourism boards to promote protection of their culture, or should the influencers be the ones spearheading sustainable tourism?