Can Influencers Save the Travel Industry From Itself?

Can Influencers Save the Travel Industry From Itself?
Activists stage a protest against a cruise ship docking in Venice, Italy, June 5, 2021 (AP photo by Antonio Calanni).

Before the pandemic, Sam Anthony and her partner, Veren Ferrera, crisscrossed the world full-time as digital nomads, sharing their experiences online under the name Alternative Travelers. As members of a niche but growing community of sustainable travel influencers, who earn a living creating travel-related content online, they focused their social media posts on teaching their 8,500 followers how to travel ethically and mindfully. But when the novel coronavirus arrived in the U.S. in March 2020, Anthony and Ferrera found themselves stuck in Salt Lake City, Utah, looking at a year of cancelled travel plans, as the entire tourism industry ground to a halt around them.

When I asked Anthony, who is a personal friend, when she plans to hit the road again, she laughed nervously. “It’s so hard,” she said. “I feel like a lot of people are just ready to get back to it, back to travel. It’s not that I don’t want to—of course I do—but I think there’s just other factors to weigh.”

She isn’t the only travel influencer to grapple with the question I posed. Vaccination programs are making steady progress, and governments in the United States, Europe and elsewhere are beginning to ease pandemic-related travel restrictions. Does that make it safe to travel? Is it ethical to do so, when so many countries are still in the middle of health crises? And how do the answers to these questions weigh against personal interests and financial need?

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