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Coronavirus Is Causing Chaos for Travel Influencers

With flights, events, and media trips being canceled and hospitality marketers cutting their budgets over coronavirus fears, travel influencers get into trouble.

Dana H. Freeman, a Vermont travel influencer, was scheduled to board a cruise ship from San Diego on Thursday to cancel the weekend’s trip. Merissa Principe, 29, a New York travel influencer, said her trip to Washington, DC, had just been canceled. Sheri Griffiths, 45, a cruise influencer, said her entire April trip was canceled last week.

Influencers who make money, among many others, in the gig economy by doing freelance jobs including promoting hotels, destinations, airlines, and other travel brands are now facing canceled sponsored trips. Many have problems developing as the crater of the hotel industry.

“It absolutely has an impact on our business,” said Ms. Griffiths.

“I’ve lost five campaigns in the last 48 hours,” said Scott Eddy, a travel influencer and marketing consultant. “I think they will come back to the table, but no one can predict when this will end. It has all been put on hold indefinitely. “His losses on Wednesday made more than $ 25,000 in income, he said.

Those influencers who are currently traveling have concerns about how to get home and in some cases are cutting down their excursions. On Wednesday evening, President Trump announced new travel restrictions from Europe.

Another travel influencer, Sarah Gallo, 27, is on a sponsored trip to Northern Norway but has had to revise her itinerary several times in the past few days. She was originally supposed to travel to Ethiopia after her time in the Arctic, but had reconsidered it from Wednesday.

“I have to be careful about the places I visit,” said Ms. Gallo. I have to think: do I want to be quarantined here for a week or two months? “

On Thursday, she found out that she and the photographer she was traveling with were subject to the government-mandated 14-day self-quarantine because she had recently traveled outside of the Nordic region. The Norwegian Tourism Authority has canceled the rest of her trip and she is now in a cabin on a remote island.

“It’s kind of a perfect place to be quarantined,” Ms. Gallo said. “We have the most spectacular view and we are not with anyone. But at the end of the day we’re still in quarantine. We don’t know how to get home. We wait day after day, hour after hour to find out what we can do. “

Ms. Gallo, like many travel influencers, spends most of her year in the air and on the streets, and lost travel means lost income. “I travel 10 months a year and they are all income-generating activities,” she said.

In addition to canceled trips, they and other travel influencers lose money due to the public’s interest in travel diving.

“Vlog numbers have gone down, social media numbers have gone down while traveling, affiliate income has gone down because hotels aren’t being booked and people aren’t buying travel gear,” said Ms. Gallo. “There is a chance that some of the conferences I am asked to speak at will be canceled. I lose speaking of gig payments, tourism association payments, and hotel payments. We don’t know when things will recover. “

Many influencers turn to private Facebook groups for advice from colleagues on how to move forward. Posts in one group ask if the media is blowing things up disproportionately, while another post blames people for not taking the virus seriously enough.

Many influencers report a feeling of purgatory. You’ve reached out to brands but it’s nearly impossible to get answers. “It’s all changing so quickly,” said Selena Taylor, 29, a travel influencer in New York, as she was packing for a flight to Amsterdam on Wednesday night.

“There are currently nine cruises planned for the next few months that have not yet been canceled,” said Alyssa Griffin, 30, a cruise influencer. “But we work with the tour operators, my husband and I, and we had problems with engagement. You don’t know what’s going to happen. Some are all gung ho, others say there is nothing they can do right now. “

With so much in the air, Ms. Griffin and other influencers struggle with what to say to their audience. Some kept posting like nothing was happening, only to get a backlash when they appear numb.

Others have chosen to pause the publication until they figure out how to adequately combat the pandemic. “It’s a serious issue and we don’t want to give wrong advice,” said Sion Walton-Guest, 31, half of the travel influencer couple @theglobetrotterguys. He added that they are likely to advise their audience to follow directions from the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.

“As a travel influencer, you have to be really aware of your role and what you’re playing in the travel space,” said Sarah Dandashy, who leads @AskAConcierge. Ms. Freeman, who has her own blog, posted an article on her blog listing statements and policy updates from all major cruise lines.

She thought it was a way of empowering her audience to make their own choices about travel. “I don’t want anyone to feel like I’m pressuring them to keep traveling,” said Ms. Dandashy, 37.

Some influencers continue to travel. Ms. Taylor posted updates to Instagram Stories from the airport and her seat on the plane on Wednesday evening. “In the next few days I’ll definitely be talking about how my experience was,” she said. “I covered myself with towels and plan to disinfect my seats. I honestly plan to just be extra careful and hopefully take plenty of breaks to wash my hands. “

When Ms. Gallo boarded her plane to Scandinavia earlier this week, she too took extra steps to stay safe. “I wore an N-99 mask on the flight from New York to London and London to Stockholm,” she said. “My mask didn’t leave my face for these flights.”

Edana Mg, 29, an influencer from New York, said that while she has canceled all of her international trips, she still hopes to travel domestically, including upcoming flights to San Diego and Oregon. “I’m not worried about domestic travel at the moment,” she said.

Posting the right content no matter where you are is key. Ms. Gallo plans to revamp her content calendar for Instagram. “I linked a post from Italy that I wanted to publish, but now is not the time,” she said. “I had planned my content for months and now I have to revise the whole strategy.”

Other influencers have stopped posting about cruises and trips to Asia instead of republishing old content or offering travel guides.

Jade Broadus, the vice president of Travel Mindset, an influencer marketing agency specializing in the travel industry, said remote locations may see an upward trend, although travel is down overall. “People want to isolate themselves and get out of bigger cities,” she said. “Places with outdoor recreational activities can see an increase in tourism while cities can see a decrease.”

In the past few days, 25-year-old New York influencer Harry Hill has posted updates from his own stay at the Williamsburg Hotel in Brooklyn, where he’s working on a project for Hotels.com.

On Thursday, he published a photo of himself in bed in the hotel in his Instagram Stories. “Comment where you are in quarantine!” he wrote.

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