Tourism

Has COVID-19 killed off the travel influencer?

Alexander Frolov

Alexander Frolov

Travel influencers have been grounded by COVID-19 for more than a year now, and it remains uncertain when they’ll take flight again.

With airlines going into administration, hotels converted into medi-hotels for returned travellers, and luxury destinations like Europe and South America feeling further away than ever before, travel influencers have had their business models upturned.

So, when it comes to travel influencers and their sizeable role in travel marketing, what does the new normal represent for Australian travel brands, hotels and airlines, and their relationship with influencers?

Of the 53,000 identified Instagram influencer accounts across Australia, 3.5 per cent are travel influencers. An audit of Instagram travel influencers in Australia revealed influencers have switched to domestic tourism as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with #holidayherethisyear #australia and #tasmania proving to be some of the most popular hashtags in the past 30 days.

As evidenced by the rise in domestic tourism-related hashtags and account tags, the trans-Tasman bubble is just one example of the small steps towards normalcy the industry is seeing. It represents the first true opportunity for international travel marketing in months.

Airlines, hotels and destinations should be taking quick advantage of influencer collaborations and looking to revitalise the devoted following of these (still) popular influencers.

Knowing what’s genuine

Most commonly associated with Instagram, but growing across platforms such as TikTok and YouTube too, brands have been using travel influencers’ reach and swag to provoke desire and inform customers around the world. Tourism and influencers were always destined to be a perfect match – the visually stunning landscapes, luxury hotels and unique experiences everyone searches for their holidays.

But what’s the best way to select and work with travel influencers?

For starters, it should be viewed as a long-term partnership, not just a passing fad. As people creep slowly back towards travel after such a long pause, influencers will be key in instilling confidence that travel is safe and reliable again.

You should also look to work with influencers who understand the necessity of a shifting strategy – what you start out doing may not be the same as the finished product. Evaluating how you can overcome challenges at the outset will go a long way to ensuring the continuity of the relationship through things like unexpected border closures or outbreaks.

A look ahead at travel influencer trends

It goes without saying that domestic travel is going to be a huge trend in the travel influencer sphere over the next 12 months. With many border restrictions still in place, travelling via road or train trips within their own country – exploring those small and special locations off the beaten track – will continue to populate feeds.

For brands, working with influencers in the domestic travel space has the added perk of supporting small local businesses in what’s been an extremely tough year for them with the loss of international tourists.

People are desperate to travel again, so you can believe that when they’re permitted to do so, they’ll do so in droves, but they’re also going to have their dream trips very carefully planned. After spending months largely at home, people are going to spend their holiday time and money very wisely and do their research before they go. So, travel brands would be well-placed to work with influencers on a forward-thinking approach to travel – think dream destinations accompanied by all the information, links, and deals you need to get you there.

Expansion of content types is set to be big. Faced with limited options for their regular travel posts, travel influencers have broadened their horizons to keep their audiences engaged, with live chats, question-and-answer sessions and vlogging becoming more popular means of communication.

While the travel industry takes slow steps back to what it was before – starting with domestic, working up to international corridors and beyond – travel influencers should not be underestimated as an accessible marketing tool for all types of travel businesses.

Alexander Frolov is the CEO and co-founder of HypeAuditor


Featured image source: iStock/EXTREME-PHOTOGRAPHER

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