Individuals who travel for a residing are struggling to search out work in the course of the coronavirus pandemic
As a tour guide and video producer, Andrew Gunadie usually sits on a plane every two to three weeks and flies out with his camera team to work on commissioned projects for television stations or to film content for his YouTube channel. The risk of coronavirus infection had been in the back of his mind since late January when he was traveling through Japan and Taiwan for the New Year celebrations, but it wasn’t until late February that other countries reported a significant increase in cases. that he realized that the pandemic could seriously disrupt not only his nomadic lifestyle but also his job.
“You always take some risk when you travel, but right now we are in an unknown volatile phase,” said Gunadie. “I think any sane person would have concerns about going anywhere now. I’m not as worried about myself as I am about others – my crew and the civilians we might come into contact with. ”
Countries around the world are rushing to enforce travel restrictions to contain the spread of the virus. Airlines are suspending flights to reduce or in some cases cut off entire routes to destinations with an increase in coronavirus cases – places like mainland China, Italy and South Korea.
The travel and tourism industry as a whole has been shaken amid the pandemic, which the World Travel and Tourism Council predicts could put up to 50 million jobs at risk. Airlines, hotels and travel agents are cutting their budgets, and companies regardless of size are issuing layoffs related to coronavirus. Norwegian Air is temporarily laying off up to half of its workforce, MGM Resorts will begin vacationing and laying off workers through June 30, and travel agents in the US are steadily letting go of their staff when bookings drop.
“I think any sane person would be concerned about going anywhere now.”
In the face of this industry-wide collapse, there’s a small category of professional travelers – bloggers, creatives, photographers, and video producers like Gunadie – whose careers are in disarray. Most are freelancers who work with or are hired by travel-related companies to conduct promotions, copywriting, or video editing. Many are proud globetrotters who document their travels in front of thousands of viewers and broadcast their experiences via online blogs or social media posts.
Bloggers of all types began monetizing their websites through ads in the mid-2000s, when blogs entered the mainstream and traditional media began hiring online writers and even starting their own blogs. With the advent of social media and popular platforms like WordPress and Blogspot, it’s getting a lot easier to start a career as a professional travel blogger – provided a person has enough money to start sponsoring themselves.
In recent years, however, some travel bloggers and influencers have been criticized for demanding travel and amenities that pay all costs, sharing photo locations that encourage overtourism, and at times showing a deaf-mute attitude towards world politics when it comes to promoting travel goes. Of course, there are plenty of professional travelers out there who are well aware of the impact their jobs have on tourism, but online many people are disillusioned with the glamor and allure of their lifestyle.
If Facebook goes to zero, do Instagram models and travel bloggers have to get real jobs?
– Hipster (@Hipster_Trader) July 31, 2018
“It’s a privileged lifestyle to make a living from,” said Ciara Johnson, a travel influencer and blogger with more than 57,000 Instagram followers. “On the other hand, I realize that it’s a business that I built from scratch for five years and spent thousands of dollars to get started.”
On social media, users joke about how Covid-19 will force travel bloggers to get “a real job” or at least create content about their newly quarantined lifestyle as international travel becomes increasingly restricted. Some influencers face backlash online for continuing to post and interact with audiences without mentioning the pandemic or its impact on travel and the economy at large.
While most of these influencers are technically part of the gig economy, their financial rewards and stability are often more secure than those of the average hail driver or grocer. In a way, most are used to having some level of uncertainty about how much income they expect in a year.
This level of flexibility is not necessarily available to every worker, and millions of people could remain unemployed if the pandemic is contained. With the coronavirus outbreak threatening to disrupt most industries, economists at UCLA Anderson School of Management have predicted that the unemployment rate will rise from 3.5 percent today to 6.3 percent by the end of 2020. That means around 3.5 million jobs have been lost in all industries, David Wilcox of the Peterson Institute for International Economics told CNBC. Sectors such as hospitality, hospitality and travel have already started to lay off a significant part of their workforce. A weekend survey of 835 employed adults found that around 18 percent of people have been laid off or working hours have been reduced.
“The nature of a freelance job is never to guarantee anything,” said Johnson, who has not traveled professionally this year. “It’s worrying to know that the companies you hired are likely to cut budgets, but right now I’m taking it one month at a time.” Still, most bloggers rely heavily on travel agencies and tourism partnerships for the majority of their living.
“The nature of a freelance job is never to guarantee anything.”
Johnson expects payments for her previous projects to bring her income by June, and she’s actively looking for freelance writing and branding opportunities that don’t require her to be on a specific destination. In her experience, press trips are not planned too far in advance. An influencer could get an early invitation to go on a summer trip, but specific plans and bookings are typically made “a few weeks to a month later,” she added.
At this point, however, the future seems uncertain. Taylor Lorenz of the New York Times reported that many bloggers are “in purgatory” as many brands and travel agencies are unwilling to get involved in anything in the near future. A cruise influencer told Lorenz that tour operators “essentially have issues with engagement,” with some companies continuing their planned trips and others remaining unsure.
Selena Taylor, who runs the Find Us Lost blog, told BuzzFeed’s Tanya Chen that a significant portion of her income comes from sales and bookings through the affiliate links she posts. Taylor has seen a drop in bookings from hotels and Airbnbs as international travel slows to a halt. Some bloggers have focused on posting wellness and quarantine tips, and posting articles on how to “flatten” the curve to reduce the risk to others.
Gunadie, who has an audience of travelers, said he was starting to publish more articles on “social distancing” and proper hygiene as people “need to start paying attention”. He’s been home since his last two trips in early March, working on preproduction for other content. “I’m currently avoiding unnecessary trips and I know that many industry friends have canceled performances,” he told me. “I have enough to keep myself busy so that I can work from home without feeling like too much has changed.”
Johnson said “things will get difficult” if things haven’t improved in three to six months. “We have to get very creative,” she said. “People are going to need some kind of respite from reality, some kind of entertainment or escape, and I think that’s where we creators come in.” The financial survival of the coronavirus outbreak and the possible recession on the horizon depends on how many followers a blogger has and how willing they are to reposition themselves in a post-pandemic world. BuzzFeed reported that one influencer’s February earnings were cut in half and another had canceled six “substantial projects”. This could have a significant impact on bloggers with smaller followers who can earn anywhere from $ 200 to $ 100,000 per month with multiple sources of income.
While global air travel is expected to decline and airlines to lose revenue quickly, travel influencers are hoping that once the pandemic is successfully contained, demand for content will increase. “There will be an opportunity to tell meaningful stories,” Gunadie said. “What do people want and need to know? How can we inspire them to get back on a plane? Maybe it’s not about finding the best spots for an Instagram, but rather the story of a really cool restaurant in Chinatown that survived in an age of pandemic. “
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