How a trip to Rwanda has likely sparked the end of the travel influencer game as we know it

Travel has obviously been much reduced in recent months
Travel has obviously been much reduced in recent months

Last week 21-year-old influencer Charly Jordan, who has more than 5m followers across Instagram and TikTok, was criticised for travelling to Rwanda amid the coronavirus pandemic. In a now deleted video, Jordan tearfully details how following a positive test for Covid-19 she was “dragged” by government officials into quarantine.,

Aside from bizarrely emphasising “Rwanda, AFRICA” throughout, Jordan also added that she was due “to do charity work with gorillas” and testing could take weeks because she was in a “developing country”. In a subsequent video, Jordan also went on to say that her anxiety was being compounded without access to medical marijuana.

Following the backlash, she apologised – explaining her initial test produced a false-positive but that she had, indeed, contracted coronavirus three months prior and “got over it.” She offered: “I have learned my lesson one hundred percent…I was completely in the wrong for traveling.”

While Jordan’s apology feels sincere her knee-jerk reaction of highlighting how she was travelling to “AFRICA” to do “CHARITY WORK” in a “DEVELOPING COUNTRY” does have a whiff of wanting to allay criticism before it’d even happened. Jordan, to date, has posted a single video of herself standing by some gorillas.

Rwanda, notably, has been successful at curbing cases of Covid-19, deploying robots donated by the UN to minimise contact with infected patients and requiring mandatory testing on arrival.

Former Love Island stars Kaz Crossley and Molly-Mae Hague have also attracted similar criticism to Jordan. At the end of April, Crossley’s followers expressed concern when she flew to Thailand as Covid-19 cases escalated in the UK to give herself, she explained, the opportunity to create more content. Similarly, Hague faced ire after documenting how she was almost not allowed to board a flight to Greece last month having not completed a compulsory entry form ahead of her trip.

In January, Forbes outlined that the influencer marketing industry was on course to be worth more than $15bn (£11.7bn) by 2022. Individual Instagrammers are able to make tens of thousands from a single post buoyed by freebies to the point where some have even been caught faking sponsored content to build credibility. So, understandably, many influencers, including Jordan, have referenced the drop in income and eagerness to begin travelling again.

However, at the start of this year, I moved to Latin America for a job and had the chance to indulge in some shameless tourism hotspots for my own highlight reel. Within months I found myself jobless, unable to afford rent and on an expiring visa. Friends say I’ve landed on my feet and I have, indeed, been fortunate enough to spend lockdown in the sunshine. On the flip side, being in quarantine alone in an unfamiliar country, dealing with governmental bureaucracy in another language and self-isolating either side of visa-runs in-between studiously getting tested is not a barrel of laughs either.

So it’s been difficult to muster up sympathy for the likes of Jordan who have voluntarily put themselves and, more importantly, others at risk with unnecessary travel. As borders have tentatively re-opened news stories of Influencers shocked at ongoing restrictions have felt like histrionics. At best, they come across like brats, at worst they seem to have not bothered finding out the most basic travel restrictions.

Faced with the moral quandary of tourism destinations being financially forced to their knees versus wanting to control infection rates, we’ve ghoulishly made a habit of arguing for money over health. Borders re-opening for holidays has felt comparable to shoppers hammering online orders at the start of lockdown under the pretence it was helping save jobs. This was despite warehouse workers at the likes of Amazon and ASOS stating that they were worried. 

Others have also pointed out the expense of staycationing in the UK on top of the toll on mental health lockdown has taken means, of course, gravitating towards cheap foreign holidays. Coupled with the government’s vague rules and reports that UK Border Control are not enforcing let alone checking 14-day quarantines upon arrival, the onus is on holidaymakers to take responsibility and, more worryingly, to have a conscience.

It’s fair to say that us mere civilians chase that carefree travel high as hard as our influencer overlords. To now see them crying in hotel rooms and empty airports in face masks has been surreal to the point of absurdity. But it’s a healthy reminder that going on holiday is a privilege and not in fact a human right.

Now that working remotely isn’t, as it was once painted, an impossibility and safety is at the forefront of our minds, our holidays will change. They have to. We know travel is magic; it opens up our minds to other cultures and experiences. Alternatively, sitting by the pool with a margarita is just as restorative. So my advice? Put the brakes on for now and when you do decide to take that vacation make it slower, longer and more considerate. That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

Read more

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