So what have Chinese travel influencers been doing as their industry has stalled? And with the May Day holiday representing the first milestone on the Chinese travel industry’s long road to recovery, are Chinese travel influencers starting to get back to “normal”?
Canceled trips are the most obvious cost of COVID-19 for Chinese travel influencers, but the reality is a multi-faceted disaster for influencers all around the world. KOLs make their money from a variety of sponsorships and endorsements of travel accessories, accommodations, bookings platforms, and so on—and in each of these areas, business is down if not completely at a standstill.
With no travels to report on, many Chinese travel influencers have filled the gap by pivoting to more general lifestyle content. They haven’t necessarily abandoned travel content, rather they’re combining photos and videos of travels from their archives with new content. Many have simply carried the conversation with their followers from the road into the home, discussing the challenges of quarantine and contrasting the benefits of having some downtime with their usual hectic schedule.
For many KOLs, the transition has been relatively seamless, and some KOLs have been able to keep making income through endorsements unrelated to travel. For example, Weibo KOL @猫力molly, who has over 7 million followers, recently partnered with skincare brand IPSA for an ad that interspersed footage of her previous travels with scenes shot in her home as she reflects candidly on dealing with the changes since COVID-19 hit.
This proves that even when grounded, Chinese travel influencers are still proving attractive partners for consumer lifestyle brands in general. Especially as China has moved beyond the acute phase of lockdown and public health crisis, brands have been freed up to show a more hopeful face. The aesthetics and optics of travel—blue skies, nature, colorful settings, and relaxed smiles—are a perfect fit. Popular travel industry influencer @北石同学 proved that point in April when he featured in a series of photos for a promotion for Activia smoothies.