Tourist sites are wary of social media influencers

Residents of Byron Bay in Australia have launched 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 the issues that attract tourists .

The 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 reaction was swift, with an online petition from resident Tess Hall to boycott the series that drew more than 8,500 signatures, and dozens of locals protested by paddling surfboards in Byron Bay earlier this week. .

“We are a community facing significant challenges driven by the culture of influence and 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 ‘reality TV channel’, authorities should focus on systemic issues such as housing affordability, coastal erosion, rising unemployment and high levels of violence. domestic, she said.

“We don’t want to deal with the fallout from being presented on the global stage in a way that can only harm our local environment and our 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, as locals are excluded.

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’s just 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, ”he 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 might be excited by a vision. void of who we are. Richardson added.

Influencers – often highly followed on social media – promote products, services and destinations for a fee, and are increasingly sought after to generate 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 the hiccups 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 in Indonesia after posting tweets that triggered a backlash on her perceived Western privilege and lack of cultural awareness of the Indonesian company.

While these nomads may fuel a demand for cafes, bars and hotels that can create jobs for locals, the benefit is limited as they typically escape the tax system, said Stuart McDonald, co-founder of travel website Travelfish.

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

In Byron Bay, residents, including the Indigenous community, were not consulted on the series, Hall said.

“Tourism is essential for this city. We want people to visit, but in a way that is environmentally sustainable and respectful of the community, ”she added. – Thomson Reuters Foundation

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