The Secret Hotelier: Hospitality is “used and abused” by influencers

Published: 6 August 2020 - 6 a.m.

In this industry we deal with a lot of local celebrities, members of the media and influencers. Many people reading this will have similar stories to tell about their dealing with bloggers, vloggers and influencers.

Most brands have embraced this new form of advertising but one can easily say that hospitality is one of the main businesses to be “used and abused” by influencers. In Dubai alone, there’s a lot of competition in terms of hotels and restaurants, so our job is to look for creative ways to drive revenues to the business.

In our hotel group we work with travel bloggers, who stay for a week across our UAE properties. This means we pay for their flights, hotel accommodation, breakfast, lunch and dinner in our signature outlets, airport transfers, and even their local experiences – things like desert safari tours, theme park tickets, Burj Khalifa visits more.

The whole exercise not only involves a lot of monetary investment, but also a lot of time and effort, especially with tying the logistics altogether. We prepare a lot for them in advance including different VIP kits and room set ups (sometimes even a farewell gift or souvenir) to give them an impressive experience from start to finish.

With all of this in mind, as well as an actual contract with a list of deliverables from both parties, we expect them to deliver great quality content in return for all the services and experiences we provide. While some provide credibility and professionalism, there are unfortunately those ones you encounter that are just, to put it simply, horrible. Once we hosted a family of travel bloggers with a good following on social media channels and who seemed to be incredibly professional during the initial discussion process.

When we told them about what we would provide, they promised us the moon, the stars and everything in between! We delivered what was expected from us – three suites, food and beverage, complimentary airport and trans-emirate transfers, as well as flights.

What we got in return was a poor quality Instagram post by the pool and a food shot, plus three random stories on Instagram (one of which included the influencer just walking in a hotel corridor). But that’s not all. We got slapped with a massive bill from our bar from alcohol and food consumption (it seems they felt they could invite other friends living in the UAE to come and dine with them, on us).

They promised they did lots of content that they would post later, including an “amazing travel blog featuring only your brand” on their YouTube channel.

We tried many times to follow up with them, they never responded. We didn’t get the promised content and never got a return on our investment. They have been blacklisted from our media list, of course. It’s already hard enough to justify to some bosses and colleagues that this is indeed a new way of reaching out and marketing to people, and when you finally get the green light to work with “professionals” you think you can trust – you get treated like this in return.

It’s nothing more than a new form of con artistry, don’t you think?

There are benefits to working with influencers but it’s sad that a lot of them are so entitled. They only think about giving the bare minimum. We receive around six requests a day from self-titled influencers, typically through Instagram direct messages. The internet is so deep and wide, and the term influencer is so loose. Everyone with a social media account could claim to be one. If you have 2,000 followers and promise a couple of posts per day in return for a ten-day stay, we’re not going to answer you. If you just message “I want to collaborate with you,” we know it’s not worth investigating.

I hope with the global pandemic affecting the tourism and hospitality business the most, influencers can begin to understand that we need support more than ever, and that we mean business.

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