From Byron Bay to Bali, tourist hot spots are wary of Instagram influencers

Residents of Byron Bay in Australia have denounced plans for a reality TV show set in the iconic holiday town, highlighting a growing backlash against social media influencers and digital nomads who often exacerbate hotspot issues some tourists.

A woman walks with her dog in the surf at Fingal Beach, located 1 km (0.62 mile) south of the Queensland-New South Wales border, near the town of Tweed Heads, the June 22, 2013. Reuter / David Gray

Netflix series Byron Baes, will be a “love letter to Byron Bay” which is already an “influencer magnet”, and will follow the lives of Instagrammers, the streaming service said.

But the backlash was swift, with an online petition from resident Tess Hall to boycott the series, attracting more than 8,500 signatures, and dozens of locals protested by paddling surfboards in Byron Bay on Tuesday.

“We are a community facing significant challenges brought on by influencer culture and the rapidly changing resident demographics. We don’t want to be presented as the perfect backdrop and magnet for social media influencers.” , Hall said.

Rather than using the region as a “punchline reality”, authorities should focus on systemic issues such as housing affordability, coastal erosion, rising unemployment and high levels of domestic violence, a she declared.

“We don’t want to face the consequences of being presented on the global stage in a way that can only harm our local environment and community,” she said in her petition.

Netflix did not respond to a request for comment.

Globally, there is a growing awareness – and backlash against – the negative impacts of tourism, including environmental damage and destruction of neighborhoods when residents are too expensive.

Simon Richardson, mayor of Byron Shire Council which includes Byron Bay, echoed the concerns of many local residents.

“We don’t need it if it only poses a threat to who we are as a community. It will potentially threaten businesses if Byron’s portrayal is as absurd as many docu-soap reality shows. “, did he declare. told ABC News.

The city in the state of New South Wales already receives 2.5 million visitors a year and does not want ‘a intensification and warming of our tourist economy at this time, especially those who may be excited by a vision. void of who we are, ”Richardson added.

Influencers – often heavily followed on social media – promote products, services and destinations for a fee, and are increasingly sought after to drive purchases and visits, and even to promote coronavirus vaccines. .

But they have also been criticized for false messages and for trafficking unlicensed cigarettes and beauty treatments.

There have also been issues with visas for so-called digital nomads – people who mix travel and work and can set up anywhere with an internet connection.

This year, American Kristen Gray, a self-proclaimed digital nomad, was kicked out of the island of Bali after posting tweets that sparked a backlash against her perceived Western privilege and lack of cultural awareness of Indonesian society.

While these nomads may fuel a demand for cafes, bars and hotels that can create jobs for locals, the benefit is limited because they typically do not fall under the tax system, said Stuart McDonald, co-founder of the website of Travelfish trip.

“The combination of a public perception that most work illegally and earn considerably more than the local population, while simultaneously being indifferent to what locals consider appropriate behavior, has naturally aroused significant levels of resentment,” did he declare.

In Byron Bay, residents, including the Indigenous community, were not consulted on the series, Hall told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“Tourism is essential for this city. We want people to visit, but in an environmentally sustainable and community-friendly way,” she added.

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