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Travel influencers are flourishing, in spite of COVID-19 pandemic

Alvaro Rojas (@wanderreds) has visited every country in the world – an accomplishment that he only finished last December. That’s quite a lot of traveling. The 31-year-old from Spain is a travel influencer by profession, but when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, closed borders, canceled flights and closed parts of the global travel industry, it changed his lifestyle.

“I never thought a pandemic would keep me down for so many months,” Rojas told USA TODAY.

Traveling during a pandemic wasn’t easyfor each. For influencers whose livelihoods depend on attracting audiences and attracting and retaining sponsorships and partnerships, however, this goes beyond wanderlust.

Rojas was imprisoned at home in Madrid from March to July. He estimates he lost more than $ 35,400 to projects that fell apart due to the pandemic.

“It is not just the monetary impact, but also the potential growth that my company would have experienced, as these were the first projects with new sources of income for me: TV tour guides, a TV advertisement about my trips to each country, public speeches large-scale corporate event, “he says. “It’s these amazing new opportunities that hurt the most.”

And Rojas is far from the only travel influencer whose terms of employment have changed as a result of the pandemic.

Francesca Murray (@onegrloneworld) also traveled a lot before the coronavirus.

“Towards the end of 2019, I was out and about almost every month with paid campaigns and collaborations with tourism associations and hotels,” she says.

Ana Linares (@ananewyork) was also out monthly – or two or three times a month – for client-sponsored projects. And Elona Karafin (@elona) was out every “two to three weeks”.

“My lifestyle has changed completely because practically all of my trips have either been postponed or canceled and the travel industry has changed irreversibly overall,” says Karafin, noting that she was no longer constantly on the move but was at home and her pace is slowing down had to live fast-paced.

And the losses went beyond not traveling: some of Linares’ contacts were troubled and she missed opportunities to meet new ones when networking events were canceled.

You are still traveling

Just as millions of other workers have learned to adapt to working from home while teaching their children, influencers have also reached a new normal.

Rojas says he’s silentshare the same type of content on his Instagram accountthat he did prepandemic. He still visits new places, especially those off the beaten path destinations, by taking road trips that provide natural social distancing and keep him away from public transport.

“I just adjusted to the new circumstances overnight,” he says. “Fewer projects, tight marketing budgets and many travel restrictions. The latter was particularly difficult: Most countries are completely closed to visitors, while others impose strict quarantines and / or discriminate based on their nationality.”

As part of his new normal, he has had to adapt to constantly changing constraints and requirements and has chosen goals accordingly. He visits smaller cities and also prioritizes trips that allow him to get outdoors.

“I’ve visited countries with fewer restrictions that are wide open to tourism, such as the Balkans, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, or Mexico, to minimize the impact on my logistics,” he says. “It is not time to hop around multiple borders, but to choose a large country and explore it in depth.”

Do you have to go? Americans can visit these countries without quarantine

Karafin, who lived in New York at the start of COVID-19 – once the epicenter of the pandemic – has also started traveling again.

“I was in Switzerland for a business trip over the summer and recently took a fall foliage trip in New York state,” she says, adding that she “hopes to do a lot more domestic travel to the US” in finding destinations that are suitable for US citizens will be reopened.

Like Rojas, the Linares focuses on road trips. With international travel still largely banned for Americans, the Miami-based influencer has domestic travel plans for the coming months, starting in Charleston, South Carolina. She is also exploring other North American options.

“There are several destinations, including Mexico, that we can currently travel safely to,” she says. “I am considering some of these goals as options.”

She also looks further into the future.

Linares is planning a group trip with her followers in the fall of 2021, with the destinations being determined by the results of a survey of their favorite places.

“The remainder of this year will be a good time to plan future trips in the hopes that next year has more options and destinations for all US citizens,” says Linares.

Murray also did some road trips and stayed in hotels in the summer, she says.

They have adjusted their strategies

The challenge for influencers goes way beyond trying to figure out how to travel, however.

“Moving from a project-related income of 80% in 2019 to almost no projects in 2020 was a challenge,” says Rojas. “Fortunately, I had my book (‘Stories: From My Travels in Every Country in the World’), which was supposed to be a romantic ending to my travels in every country, but it turned out to be a great success.”

The book not only saved him financially; it also taught him a lesson: “You can’t put all your eggs in one basket,” he says.

Part of Linares’ job – aside from being an influencer – is to develop curated content for location-based brands. “I usually work with hotels for shootings or tourist boards on my travels, but most of my work is focused on shooting for local lifestyle brands,” she explains. “My clients include J.Crew, Ann Taylor, Google and Birdies, who hire me to take photos during my travels.”

They also send their product for use in their instincts. She receives products to create a catalog of photos and 99% of the time she keeps the swag on receipt of payment.

These photos don’t always appear on her Instagram, which she keeps “very curated”.

“Fortunately, my long-time clients continued to work with me, and I adjusted my shots to be at home and I had to get creative to recreate lifestyle moments for them,” she says.

She also started posting behind the scenes content while filming for clients and moments at home. “My audience responded very well to this because it is relevant to our current situation around the world.”

Like Rojas, Linares realized the importance of diversifying their business and adapting to the “pace of things”.

During the pandemic, Linares has expanded her website and is in the process of opening a “print shop” to sell some of her photos. She also works on long-term partnerships with clients so that her business is not based solely on travel.

However, she was pleased to see that her travel-related content was still performing well thanks to home-bound hikers planning future trips.

“I’ve never seen my audience as engaged as I do now,” she says. “I had recorded more moments at home with the lockdown related to our current circumstances, but to my surprise, I expanded my audience during the pandemic with many people planning the future of travel and wanting a sense of the escape Madness we’re experiencing. “

And things are looking good: Linares sees more collaborative projects and product placement work returning, especially with the holidays approaching.

Rojas and Murray have also changed their content and the frequency of their posts.

At the height of the pandemic, Rojas reduced the number of posts he published because he was not traveling and occasionally replaced a throwback image in place of new content. He also tried new tactics like live chats and question-and-answer sessions on Instagram. He feels like it brought him closer to his audience.

“For many of them it was very comforting to see how I committed myself to four months in prison after years of traveling around the world,” he says.

The pandemic was good for Murray in at least one sense: it gave her the opportunity to expand the scope of its content.

“I started producing more lifestyle content and eventually fulfilled my dream of incorporating beauty, natural hair and skin care content into my brand,” she explains. “I’ve been passionate about beauty for years, but I was afraid again that people wouldn’t be interested if it wasn’t about travel. I was wrong.”

Karafin also added new types of content to their feed.

“I took a lot of risks during the pandemic and opened up a lot of new dimensions,” she says. “For a while, I had a Friday cooking show making simple delicious recipes that were easy to follow. I started a podcast and interviewed people from all over the world about their experience with COVID-19. During the Black Lives Matter- Movement, I’ve put a lot of emphasis on making easy-to-digest posts about American politics and beyond. “

Although she did her best to stay busy, Karafin also used the downtime to educate herself. In addition to experimenting with new content, she also took time offline for personal growth by incorporating exercise routines into her daily life and taking online classes, including some online Ivy League courses on negotiation and other topics, according to her Instagram .

Some had newfound successes

The worldwide shutdown of the cruise industry has not slowed Dario Cremona, although he had to close his Instagram account @cruiseexperience for about three months.

The shutdown actuallyturned out to be random for Cremona: it gave him time to prepare for the launch of his new website. And he already had enoughBanked content to keep on Instagram until the cruise resumed in Europe in late July. In fact, he sailed on TUI Cruises’ first post-pandemic cruise.

“I’ve been on four European cruises since then and have had time to vlog myself, create new content and focus on my podcast,” he says. “But even in the worst of times, I had many great opportunities to let CruiseExperience grow.”

As one of the first people to return to the sea, it has also resulted in more advertising and new deals with cruise companies paying him for a cruise and up to $ 350 per photo to post.

“A major newspaper covered me and my first post-COVID-19 cruise, and I had many amazing PR opportunities and even interviews with various online magazines about my work, my recent cruises and trips in times of COVID-19” , he says.

Murray, who identifies herself as Afro Latina on Instagram, struggled at the start of the pandemic but says things have turned – by and large.

“It was difficult at first because it was a tough time for everyone. Most budgets were frozen until brands could figure something out,” she says. “Business is good now! If anything, I’ve had more options than before the pandemic because brands are finally getting a new awareness of diversity and inclusion.”

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