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Greenpeace: the NGO denounces travel influencers

A study published by the organization Greenpeace asserts that a majority of travel influencers perpetuate the advertising imagery of the aviation industry. This is a market that cannot do without the Instagram platform to evoke vacation desires.

Approximately 34% of young travelers make their holiday choices through social media, underscoring the responsibility of travel content creators in shaping our practices. It is these influencers that the NGO Greenpeace is targeting in a study commissioned to two academics from Paris X Nanterre, Garance Bazin and Saskia Cousin.

The anthropologist and sociologist, specialists in tourism, compared two sets of data. The first set concerns airline and airport advertisements between January 2020 and May 2023, while the second set comprises the posts of the 36 most renowned travel influencers, creators who are followed on average by 100,000 people. The objective of this report, titled “In Airplane Mode,” was to identify similarities in the messages.

Even Supposedly Spontaneous Posts Draw Inspiration from Airline Advertising Imagery

Approximately one out of two posts from these influencers is sponsored, meaning they are part of a commercial contract and thus incorporate marketing elements. However, the researchers note that even supposedly spontaneous posts draw inspiration from the advertising imagery of the aviation industry, such as the famous deserted beach, the stereotypical embodiment of our “disconnection.”

This is a beach where tourists are invariably depicted as solitary figures, gazing at the horizon, a far cry from the reality of crowded shorelines. The message is clear: one must venture far away to find solace and escape the urban hustle and bustle. These getaways facilitated by air travel are presented as a means to make urban life more bearable.

With recurring phrases like “I’m teleporting myself to Thailand,” the mode of transportation and its emissions are downplayed, just as other types of landscapes—rivers, mountains, countryside—are made less appealing. Air travel is portrayed as a social norm by influencers, despite the fact that only a tiny minority of the French population uses international flights.

Another type of influencer is gaining momentum

A Blind Spot in the Study: These 36 influencers are not entirely representative of the whole spectrum. Many advocate for different ways of traveling, taking their time and engaging with others. Other modes of transportation are also valued, such as experts in camper vans or converted vans, and enthusiasts of the resurging night train. The “influence law,” which came into effect last June, also helps limit product placements and undisclosed collaborations to make the market healthier.

One can also applaud initiatives like the one led by the “Paye ton influence” collective, which directly contacts the most followed influencers to raise awareness about environmental issues and encourage them to abandon the allure of Dubai in favor of the charm of the Drôme region. This is a way to preserve the planet and their image, which remains the core of the influencer business.

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