Anyone with an eye on the news this weekend will have noticed the emergence of this online feud between a hotelier and blogger following an enquiry into complimentary accommodation. 

There are a lot of issues here that I won't go into (and trolling is never, ever, acceptable), however having worked with bloggers, vloggers, instagrammers and more rounded 'influencers' over the past few years, it has got me thinking about the social media industry and it's relationship with the travel and leisure industry. 

Social media influencer marketing has become a lucrative technique for retail, beauty and fashion brands in their quest to reach consumers over the past 10 years. By sending an 'influencer' of choice a sample product in return for a review, brands have successfully found a cost-effective, honest and efficient route to increased sales. 

However, whilst this is the way that we in the travel and leisure industry have begun to work with influencers, applying this same model cannot continue as a long-term strategy. As the number of online reviewers increase, influencers serious about breaking into the travel and leisure world must be more creative. In short, it is time for the relationship to evolve.

"How?" I hear you ask.  Well, we should  take inspiration from some of the big travel brands already working with influencers in a new way. 

Firstly, the collaboration should be seen as a partnership rather than a quick win. Travel has a longer-tail buying burn than other purchases, such as clothes or makeup. The price is higher and the commitment to purchase is bigger. For consumers to be influenced they need to read a life-cycle of authentic posts, that will really imprint on their psyche. 

Secondly, the collaboration must be beneficial to both parties, just as the brand benefits from increased exposure to an engaged audience, so must the influencer also be rewarded. Travel has a higher price tag, and travel businesses must be confident that by providing a hotel room, flight, excursion or trip, they will benefit from increased sales rather than missing out on the profit that they could have made had they not given it away for free. 

SkyScanner has lead the way in this space, creating a robust programme for influencers, ensuring that campaigns are trackable, measurable and rewarding for both sides. The model means that SkyScanner benefits from exposure and increased traffic and bookings, whilst influencers are rewarded for posting inspirational and information-rich content about specific flight routes - win, win.

Thirdly, creativity must be at the heart of every collaboration - one size does most definitely not fit all when it comes to travel and leisure. Without communicating why one experience is different from another, no consumer will get any closer to making a booking. Influencers can have a key role to play not only in bringing travel and leisure experiences to life, but in bringing them to life to the right audience at the right time. By recommending creative well thought-out ideas influencers can showcase just why a brand should invest in them specifically as a partner. 

I think it is clear by now that influencer marketing is not a fad. It is not going to go away, no matter how hard people try to ignore it or shut it down. But, it is time that we all thought differently in order to ensure that it makes business sense and has the impact that traditional marketing just cannot achieve alone.