Travellers want authenticity, not influencers


Travellers are turning away from filtered influencer content in favour of more diverse, authentic content
Creators collaborating with Kimpton’s Stay Human offering – MYRNE, Rei Shito, Dan Brown, Anna Whitehouse and Shayne Tino | Image source: Supplied

The return of global travel has seen an influx of influencers saturating social media feeds with glamourous travel images, from impossibly blue, sparkling infinity pools to toned and tanned bodies. However research by luxury and lifestyle hotel chain Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, shows that most travellers aren’t buying into the hype.

While more companies are actively engaging with influencers to promote their brands, research of more than 4,000 travellers by Kimpton – a subsidiary of global hotel chain, IHG Hotels – shows that presenting an artificial, overly-glamourised portrayals of holiday experiences may have the opposite effect.  

Almost half of the travellers surveyed said that pressure for their holidays to be “social media-worthy” negatively impacted their travel experiences. More than half of the Australian travellers surveyed were not convinced that content creators depicted their travel experiences in a realistic light and 53% felt bored, jealous or left out when viewing travel content on social media.

Almost half of all travellers feel negative pressure to make their holidays “social media worthy”

Source: Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants (IHG Hotels and Resorts)

Tourism is an industry that has underpinned the economic strength of Australia for decades and having satisfied travellers plays an important part. According to peak body Tourism Australia, there are more than 1.4 billion international travellers globally, spending around $US1.5 trillion per year.  Australia is one of the highest yielding destinations in the world, with visitors spending $44.6 billion in 2018-19 alone, Tourism Australia says.

But having the right people representing a brand is a crucial to marketing authenticity. Influencer marketing presents a paradox that consumers are very familiar with. They understand that influencers make their money by aligning themselves with and curating content on behalf of brands. Consumers question the authenticity of influencer content, which has undoubtedly come with a price attached.

Creating social media content that followers can aspire to – whether it is real or fabricated – is big business. For example, in Los Angeles, influencers are able to book studios set up to mirror the inside of a private jet for as little as $US34.99 an hour in order to create the illusion of luxury and wealth.

Nearly eight out of 10 of travellers indicated that “more realistic depictions of travel” on social media would be more useful to them than the content currently on offer.

It’s a problem that Kimpton’s chief commercial officer, Kathleen Reidenbach, says her company wants to overcome. She acknowledges that social media and marketing content in the travel industry “hasn’t always reflected the people and experiences that truly make up our global community”. As a result, Kimpton has launched its “Stay Human” creator collective, using diverse creators with a range of different backgrounds and life experiences – including Australian creators Shayne Tino (@shaynetino), an art director, designer, model who has launched retail campaigns across the world and founded fashion brands Rimagind and C&talyst and Dan Brown (@simplydanbrown), a Sydney-based fashion model and industry insider signed to Chadwick Models.

In February 2023 Kimpton will offer a series of Stay Human packages that are tailored to the individual and will including curated social hour menus, themed pop-up events and other tailored experiences.

“That’s why we are committed to diving deeper into the foundation of our Stay Human brand ethos with new brand commitments that will continue to change the way we work with creators, the imagery we share and the experiences we offer.

“Our founding principles have us rooted in human connection and delivering a ‘Stay Human’ experience. We want our guests and our employees to be comfortable and embraced for being their most authentic selves, no matter their pronoun, skin colour or body type,” Reidenbach says.

Creators taking part in Kimpton’s Stay Human offering Rei Shito, Dan Brown, Anna Whitehouse, MYRNE, Shayne Tino and Tess Daly | Image source: Supplied

  • 85% of travellers want social media content to be more authentic and inclusive
  • Nearly half of survey respondents have negative feelings (jealousy, self-consciousnesses etc) towards the current travel industry content on social media
  • 84% of travellers say travel brands could add more diversity to their social media campaigns
  • More than half disagree or are unsure if content creators are depicting travel experiences realistically
  • Australians were most likely to react negatively to viewing travel content on social media (50%)
  • One third of travellers feel unrepresented when it comes to factors such as gender, race, disability, age and body size