Savvy Travel Blogger or Scam Artist?For most of us, posting holiday snaps on social media is simply a way to keep in touch with family and friends. But some travel bloggers are requesting thousands of dollars worth of freebies in exchange for posts.

An AFF member has shared an email sent recently by a self-proclaimed “luxury travel influencer” to the manager of a famous hotel. The travel blogger begins by boasting about their 522,000 Instagram followers and the extensive travel they’ve funded using their social media presence. The blogger then shamelessly asks for five nights of free accommodation – with daily breakfast and gourmet dinners included – offering some Instagram posts in return.

In this day and age, such requests are not uncommon. There are many travel bloggers that make a living accepting “cash for comment”; positive reviews in exchange for money or freebies. And Instagram posts can be big business. Some of the most famous and respected social media “influencers” are paid thousands of dollars for a single sponsored Instagram post. In fact, even dogs are now getting paid for social media posts!

Will say my niece’s dog has its own Instagram account with 40 times the followers I have and the dog gets offers of free product to advertise. Its a crazy world.

There are cases where giving away free accommodation to travel bloggers may be a good deal for the hotel. Highly relatable social media influencers can be a powerful marketing tool if they have a large enough number of genuine, engaged followers. But, as one AFF member points out, follower numbers are a poor metric.

Beware though – half a million might not be that many, especially if they have been farming fake followers!

In this example, our members find the request utterly ridiculous. One member estimates that this travel blogger is expecting upwards of $3,000 worth of free accommodation and meals in exchange for Instagram posts that are unlikely to provide this value back to the hotel. What’s more, they want to stay right in the middle of a peak travel season when the hotel will be full of paying guests.

I think the ask from this one is a bit rich. Luxury hotel to me is over $500 a night – so they’re asking for $2,500 of accomodation plus $300 for breakfast and say $700 for dinner – so north of $3,500. That’s a high rate per post she’s asking for!

One problem with these kinds of travel bloggers is that their followers are often unaware they’ve received freebies in exchange for a positive review. Their experience at the hotel may have been terrible, but the influencer is unlikely to portray it that way on social media. Sadly, this also applies to some of the travel-related reviews in popular magazines, newspapers and TV shows where the reviewer hasn’t paid a cent of their own money.

Lots of people are jumping on the hashtag/ travel influenced bandwagon as a way to get freebies and free holidays.Travel influencers who do freebies for comment are not sources I would consider as unbiased information.. Add to this journalists who do the free qantas travel for comment.

What do you think – is this a savvy travel blogger or a scam artist? Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: The influence of #hashtag “Influencers”

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]