Love them or loathe them, as the travel world re-opens, influencers are back on the move.
That’s welcome news for some hotels like the Langham on New York’s Fifth Avenue.
“Ninety percent of the people we work with are amazing, they are very diligent, this is their business and they do it well,” says Louise O’Brien, regional director of public relations for the Americas at the Langham Hospitality Group.
“They know how to monetize their skill, which is photography and content creation,” she says, adding that they often “bring a keen eye to your hotel and showcase to you something that you didn’t think to do, which shows your hotel in a really interesting light.”
O’Brien says the Covid-19 pandemic led the hotel to be more proactive than reactive in reaching out to influencers they know in the industry for staycation-related content and says that dedicated approach is here to stay.
But not all hotels share O’Brien’s enthusiasm.
“I call them influenzas,” says Gail Behr, owner of Dorp hotel in Cape Town. She says she gets contacted five to six times a week by people who are the antithesis of what the hotel stands for.
“Posing, wearing hardly anything in a hotel room does nothing for us, it’s not the clientele we’re after,” she explains.
A quick glance at the hotel’s website is enough to see why. Showcasing carefully curated interiors, with warm and inviting spaces, it even describes itself as a bit quirky and old-fashioned.
“Everything online is over-promised, presented as being glamorous or wonderful,” Behr says, contrasting that with how she spends her days looking to capture some of the real magic taking place in her hotel, like the staff spontaneously singing happy birthday or discovering chameleons playing in the garden.
“If someone wrote to me and said look ‘I’m overweight, I can’t look glamorous in your hotel, I wear black because I feel more comfortable in it, I’ve got a few missing chunks of hair but I’m bloody funny and am just obsessed with Dorp and would love to come,’ I’d say yes come – someone with a sense of humor who was real and genuine,” she adds, bemoaning the fact that even the word “authenticity” has become a fake buzz word.
Richard Hanlon, owner of the majestic Bujera Fort in Udaipur, India, shares a similar view.
“The problem with influencers is there is no quality control,” he says, suggesting, “someone needs to set up a TripAdvisor that rates them.”
He describes how he regularly receives outlandish requests – demanding five rooms for three nights with free airport transfers and free alcohol – and says the people aren’t even the kind of clientele the hotel caters for.
“Most people who contact us are 18-year-old girls clearly on their gap years trying to score a freebie,” he says. “When you look them up on Instagram, it’s clear they’ve bought their followers and their advertising is paid for.”
‘Don’t be in it for the free stays’
However, both Hanlon and Behr are quick to say that they do appreciate and will always agree to genuine professional journalists or publications coming to stay and have had great success with those kinds of partnerships.