With a new strain of Coronavirus raging across the UK, rules and restrictions are tighter than ever as the nation pulls together to try and do their part in minimising the infection until the vaccine is rolled out. But while for many lockdown has meant spending Christmas alone and only venturing outside for one of several essential reasons, there are influencers and celebrities who have been interpreting the rules slightly differently. This week, former Love Island contestant Zara Holland was charged with breaking quarantine rules while on holiday in Barbados after trying to leave the country when her boyfriend tested positive for the virus. Not only does this show a complete lack of disrespect for the country hosting her, but it also begs the question, what was she doing there in the first place?
The excuse is “work”, and sadly she’s not the only Love Island star jetting off to spend the pandemic in the sun and justifying it by sharing a sponsored Instagram post from the beach. Malin Andersson was spotted in Dubai last week, as was Georgia Steel and Jack Finchman. Unsurprisingly this hasn’t gone down well with their followers, who unlike them do not have the same privilege to view the pandemic as an optional lifestyle. When former Love Island winners Molly-Mae Hague and Amber Gill posted sun-kissed bikini photos of themselves in Dubai last month, some of their followers were rightly outraged that not only would they defy government recommendations, but that they would then have the audacity to flaunt it on social media. In one travel vlog, Molly-Mae was even called out by fans for not wearing her mask correctly on an airplane. And then there’s Grace Beverley, also in Dubai and spotted at a house party. Sigh.
While trips abroad for work are allowed, these influencers are also public figures who are looked up to by millions and therefore have a responsibility to their followers, especially during these difficult times. When everyone who follows you is struggling with loneliness and worried about the future, what makes you think they care about getting 20% off swimwear when there’s nowhere to even swim? Fashion, makeup and lifestyle content can all still be produced without venturing abroad, as can the promotion of unseasonal clothing. To think that this is what the nation needs right now only proves how out-of-touch with the real world some of these stars are.
What these reality TV influencers need to do is take note from those whose entire content is based on travel. During the pandemic, travel influencers have struggled as most of the trips and opportunities that fuel their content were cancelled. But they adapted, they got creative. We’ve seen numerous travellers buying vans and venturing to local beauty spots, hiking, sharing old footage and focusing on “achievable adventures” (copyright Charlie and Jess from The Travel Project). They understand that no matter how frustrating it may be, going abroad is not a viable option right now; it could be dangerous and it’s just not relatable content for the millions of UK citizens who are unable to do so. Instead they focus on what we can do, they sympathize and mourn along with their followers and provide inspiration and hope for the future. They love travelling and sunning themselves on a beautiful beach as much as the next person, but recognise it’s not worth doing if it puts themselves, or anyone else, at risk. It all boils down to having respect for your followers, for the rules, and for other countries. Listen and learn, Love Islanders.
By Lucinda Diamond, food and travel editor of CORQ.