Three years ago, Lisa Linh quit her full-time job to travel the world and document it on Instagram, where she has nearly 100,000 followers; since then, she has stayed in breathtaking hotels everywhere from Mexico to Quebec to the Cook Islands. Often, she stays for free.
Linh is part of an ever-growing class of people who have leveraged their social-media clout to travel the world, frequently in luxury. While Linh and other elite influencers are usually personally invited by hotel brands, an onslaught of lesser-known wannabes has left hotels scrambling to deal with a deluge of requests for all-expenses-paid vacations in exchange for social-media posts.
Kate Jones, a marketing and communications manager at the Dusit Thani, a five-star resort in the Maldives, says that her hotel receives at least six requests from self-described influencers a day, typically through Instagram direct messages.
“Everyone with a Facebook [account] these days is an influencer,” she says. “People say, ‘I want to come to the Maldives for 10 days and will do two posts on Instagram to, like, 2,000 followers.’ It’s people with 600 Facebook friends saying, ‘Hi, I’m an influencer. I want to stay in your hotel for seven days.’” Others send vague one-line emails like “I want to collaborate with you,” with no further explanation. “These people are expecting five to seven nights on average, all-inclusive. Maldives is not a cheap destination.” She says that only about 10 percent of the requests she receives are worth investigating.