Report: How Travel Influencers are Shifting Gears Amid COVID-19

Among the many professionals stuck at home during COVID-19 have been travel influencers, whose livelihoods depend on the ability to visit new places and share their experiences with their communities. As the pandemic continues to shape the future of how we travel—and who we depend on to inspire that travel—these influencers have been recalibrating their brands, content and business models to keep bringing the relatability, creativity, and authenticity that only they can deliver.

But you don’t have to take our word for it. In Ketchum’s latest “Ask an Influencer” Report, travel influencers open up about the impact of COVID-19, how it’s changed them, and how they expect the world to look on the other side of stay-at-home measures.

Our travel clients rely on these influencers as voices that foster inspiration and tell unique and authentic stories from their perspective and via their creative eye. Letting their voices be heard during these challenging times is our commitment to the influencer community and their role within the travel and tourism industry. Below are takeaways from their remarks, which can help destinations and travel brands as they think through their upcoming influencer strategies:

Fresh Perspectives

  • Appreciation – The pandemic has led influencers to find a deeper meaning in travel given the vast inspiration it brings to everyday life.
  • Time to reset – Complying with stay-at-home restrictions, they have taken this time to reflect on new places to discover and those that will now become a priority to explore.
  • Local, for the short term – Despite travel bans lifting, they predict domestic travel will increase within the near future given overall consumer hesitancy in this space.
  • Squeaky clean sojourns – Sanitation will be a priority before influencers embark on new adventures.
  • Contextualizing travel – With limitations in place, influencers have gotten creative in their approach to developing new content and defining what travel truly means.

New Approaches

  • Leading by example – Influencers acknowledge that their audiences turn to them and they must lead responsibly.
  • Pivoting content – Whether it be leaning into TikTok or becoming a source for information as opposed to inspiration, influencers are taking new approaches to pivot content strategies.
  • Revitalized revenue solutions – Diversifying revenue streams and brand partnerships is now critical.
  • Broader business strategies – Leveraging their value in new ways, from relaunch strategies to goodwill opportunities, influencers are out with the old and in with the new.

Travel on the Rebound

  • Supporting hard-hit destinations – Some want to visit destinations that are struggling with the dramatic drop in tourism.
  • Vacation with loved ones – Prioritizing destinations where family and friends live is common.
  • Wheels over wings – Visiting national parks and embarking on road trips is to be expected.
  • Island vibes – Many are seeking a calm, tropical paradise where distancing is possible, while enjoying a serene escape.

Download the full second annual “Ask an Influencer” report with additional insights.

Special thanks to our friends and colleagues reflected in this report, who include (in order of appearance within the report): @missangievilla, @anna.everywhere, @briankelly, @thecameronlee, @tourdelust, @erubes1, @jeremyaustiin, @johnnyjet, @kirstenalana, @theblondeabroad, @asenseofhuber, @lindsaysilb, @meirr, @oneikatraveller, @tobishinobi and @xkflyaway.

If you’re a tourism or hospitality brand that is interested in additional expertise to navigate influencer engagements and/or social media strategy during this time, we can assist. Our Ketchum Travel team – a boutique agency within Ketchum – is supporting many of our clients through the COVID-19 recovery. We provide the best of both worlds, the grit of a boutique with the resources of a global consultancy, seasoned in media and influencer relations. Given how important it is to get the tone and content right, we’re offering scalable social evaluation and strategy packages on all things social/influencer, with plus-up options such as content assessment and ideas by top travel influencers themselves. Reach out—we’re here to help!

Amanda is a vice president in Ketchum’s Travel, Hospitality & Leisure sector. Based in New York, she provides expertise in integrated marketing within the travel and lifestyle space, currently leading successful communications strategies for tourism and hospitality brands. Her background across various industry sectors has molded her passion areas, which include strategic planning, unified global account management, effective media relations, crisis communications and experiential execution. Amanda is a Belong@Ketchum DE&I leader within her New York Marketplace. She is a graduate of Hofstra University and fluent in English, Spanish and the Portuguese dialect of Galician.