With influence, comes responsibility

My new report for the Social Travel Forum highlights big questions for content creators, travel bloggers and all those who use social networks to influence consumer travel behaviour.

The debate on tourism growth and its effect on destinations around the globe is moving quickly, and as tourism arrivals grow, those involved in promoting travel and tourism on a professional level in every sphere are coming under pressure to justify their work. What’s more, as the media pays closer attention to the impact of tourism, many are flagging up bad behaviour by visitors, especially those visitors who use photos and videos to influence others via their blog or social media accounts.

Photo: Johan Mouchet

Against this background, iambassador, in partnership with Graz Tourismus recently brought together nine thought leaders from the world of destination marketing and content creation to ask some major questions, including:

  • What role should travel bloggers and content creators play in the future of destination marketing?
  • Where do travel bloggers and content creators fit in the debate about tourism and sustainability?
  • What is ‘authentic’ content, and what role can it play in responsible destination marketing?
  • What does responsible behaviour by travel bloggers, content creators and DMOs look like?
STF Workshop, Graz
Photo: Keith Jenkins

My role was to design and run the full-day workshop, capture the discussion and compile a report on what we found. The session revealed some fascinating insights, particularly on the way that ‘chasing the money’ has distorted the world of content creation, to the point that respected, long-established travel bloggers find themselves having to make a trade-off between producing thoughtful content, and listicle-style content that’s ready for consumers’ instant gratification.

‘Chasing likes’ is also leading influencers, as well as random members of the public to go to increasingly bizarre lengths to capture photos and videos. Sometimes this means putting their lives at risk, for example by standing on cliff edges or railway tracks or disrupting life for local residents and businesses (as occurs in the Rue de Crémieux in Paris or the tulip fields of the Netherlands).

One of the major conclusions from this first edition of the Social Travel Forum was: with influence comes responsibility. It’s essential for all those involved in travel content creation to recognise that their work can have lasting consequences for the environment and the life of local residents, and act responsibly towards the places and people that they visit. As people with online influence, it’s their job to set an example to others, and use their talents to help travellers become aware of what’s right and wrong when travelling.

You can download the full report here, and find out more about the Social Travel Summit where we’ll go deeper into this topic and more, this coming September.

Find out more about me and my work in destination marketing and development.

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