Why travel ‘influencers’ make me want to book elsewhere

No destination is safe from the zealous travel influencer.

No destination is safe from the zealous travel influencer. Photo: Instagram

As the power and reach of traditional media continue to shift and, in some cases, decline, businesses are turning increasingly towards ‘influencers’.

Influencers are people who use Instagram to get the message out.

I watch this field with great interest, much curiosity and considerable levels of disbelief and envy. My favourites are travel bloggers.

In olden days, we all used to sit around watching travel shows on TV saying: “Geez, that’d be a dream job.”

But now, in many cases you don’t need a network or a masthead behind you, just an IPhone and a willingness to take photos of your pedicured feet on a sun lounge. Forget years of experience and the powers of comparative analysis.

It could be your first trip to Bali, but for some lucky influencers, the caption “Just incredible! #blessed” will work for pretty much any sunset/cocktail/presidential suite, especially if you look cute in a bikini.


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The most beautiful Balinese flower bath I have ever experienced 🌺 Only at the magical @batukaranglembongan 🛀🏻 . This resort is so great for those seeking that balance of relaxation time and adventure 🌊 the island has so much to offer situated right on the cliff overlooking the turquoise ocean. You can go snorkeling, supping, surfing right on your doorstep, enjoy amazing healthy food with equally incredible views, or laze away in the Bali sunshine by the many pools that #batukaranglembongan has 💦 and of course you must fit in time for the spa and experience one of their signature flower baths 🙏🏼💖🛀🏻🌺 It will ensure holiday mode will begin the moment you step off the boat 💖 . I’m so grateful for a few relaxing days in paradise connecting with my love @bobbybense 💕 The sunshine has filled my soul with all kinds of goodness ☀️✨ . 📸 @bobbybense . #nusalembongan #thebalibible #bali #indonesia #visitindonesia #beautifulbali #beautifulhotels #luxuryvilla #luxurytravel #flowerbath #bathgoals #bathroom #batukarang #honeymoonvilla #destinationwedding #wonderfulplaces #beachesnresorts #thegoldlist #luxuryworldtraveler

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During my years at magazines, I met amazing travel journalists, who spent their life on the road, reading and researching, clutching their copies of Paul Bowles’ The Sheltering Sky on their way to Morocco.

They weren’t as interested in the cocktail cruise and the horizon pool as they were to explore, and to delve deeply into local culture. There are, of course, exceptional travel bloggers who manage to strike a good balance, capturing the best of a location in a neat, digestible digital message. But I’m not sure that Instagram is the best place to tell the real story of a destination.

Travel journalism, for me, requires nuance, the meandering perceptions of a thoughtful writer. I would be more ‘influenced’ by insights and observations than by looking at a shot of a taut, Lyrca-clad body practising yoga on the beach after his or her juice-only breakfast.

In fact, the idea of sharing the breakfast buffet with a bikini-wearing glamazon taking selfies is good reason to book elsewhere. But it seems no where is safe.


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Venice: a how to guide 🇮🇹🍝 @sanpellegrino_official #tastefulmoments #ad

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Every destination is an ad campaign. On a trip to Thailand several years ago, before we reached peak #hashtagILovetoTravel, I made a long trek to what was supposedly a remote, pristine beach, one of the world’s best kept secrets.

When I arrived in the tiny cove, there was not one, but two full-scale fashion shoots happening, complete with canvas backdrops, film cameras and full catering, plus myriad international body-beautifuls with selfie sticks.

Apart from the fact that the film crew had commandeered all the available shade from the scant amount of trees, it wasn’t exactly the ideal situation to absorb the natural beauty of the island.

I’m not the Outward Bound type, but remote, really remote, has become increasingly attractive when it comes to choosing a holiday destination.

No cameras, no selfies, no tanned young women with unnaturally small rib cages and teeth-whitening equipment.

Maybe I need to follow different travel influencers. Where is Bear Grylls off to next?


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Blue and white 🌊 @mondayswimwear

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