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Tourism Australia under the influence

Tourism Australia paid almost $70,000 of taxpayer money to European social media influencers between August and December, in an attempt to promote Australia to a hip young new audience.

A Instagram post by French travel photographer and influencer, Bruno Malter, sponsored by Tourism Australia. Inside Imaging‘s resident French translator provided this rough translation: ‘He’s as excited as a “flea at the carpet show” at being in a country 11 times larger than France. His journey starts in Melbourne, a city he’s always wanted to visit and reminds him of Montreal. Everything is chill and clean, people are very friendly, and it’s good to be here.” He then asks his audience why Australia is attracting French people for a working holiday visa.

There is no denying that social media influencers are a big deal nowadays. Although it feels like at any moment the hype bubble will burst, leaving scores of beautiful young people jobless, the influencer market continues to march bravely on into the future.

Most influencers exist primarily on Instagram where they post photos, usually of themselves, along with a caption which endorses a product, service, or travel destination. It’s rare for an influencer to disclose whether they are financially compensated for posts.

Some influencers, but certainly not all, are talented professional photographers, while others would better be described as personalities for hire, who use photography to endorse a client’s message. When it comes to being an influencer, there is almost no shame. Vanity and narcissism is celebrated. It’s a strange world, but it’s the one we’ve created.

So Tourism Australia has splashed some money in this market, hiring seven different influencers to promote different parts and pieces of Australia.


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INSTAGRAM VS REAL LIFE💥 On a tous déjà été déçus par un lieu qu’on voulait absolument visiter après avoir vu une photo magnifique de ce dernier. Pour moi, c’était les Chutes du Niagara (peut-être plus l’ambiance de la ville que les chutes en elles-mêmes d’ailleurs). A l’inverse, il peut arriver qu’on soit agréablement surpris par un endroit, et ça a été le cas pour moi avec les 12 Apôtres. Je suis vraiment resté ébahi devant ces superbes rochers qui bordent les côtes australiennes. Et vous, quel lieu vous a surpris en bien ? 😊 Bref le voyage ici se passe toujours bien 🇦🇺 Voyage en collaboration avec @australia. #twelveapostles #GreatOceanRoad #greatoceanroadtrip #seeaustralia #aussienewstoday

A post shared by Bruno Maltor 🍁 (@brunomaltor) on

French travel influencer Bruno Maltor, who is currently in New York City taking quality photos, visited Victoria and Queensland in August. According to government financial documents, obtained by Sunday Times, ‘Maltor and German online prankster Simon Will were paid more than $49,000 to show off Australia to their fans’.

Maltor has 250,000 Instagram followers and was paid to make nine posts at destinations like the 12 Apostles, Melbourne, Fitzroy Island, and the Great Barrier Reef. Sunday Times says he was part of ‘the most expensive social media campaigns’ this financial year by Tourism Australia.

A more peculiar campaign by Tourism Australia was forking out $13,055 to a British fitness couple, Chessie King and Matt Carter to each publish two posts. The couple were pencilled in to visited Kakadu and Darwin between jobs in Greece and Koh Samui in Thailand. Influencing is a full time job and takes no holidays. But someone apparently has to do it.

King has 727,000 Instagram followers, and is a ‘body positive’ model/influencer. Most of her posts are videos of herself dancin’ like no one’s watching, or photos of herself in a swimsuit.

She published two posts at Kakadu. While both received hundreds of likes, with the actual number now hidden to ‘depressurise’ the platform (ostensibly to improve the mental health of users), Chessie also garnered over 200 comments.

Two posts by Chessie King for Tourism Australia apparently cost $6500. Tourism Australia described the influencers as producing ‘captivating digital content’. (Which begs the question as to whether TA can tell the difference between a snapshot and captivating imagery.)

Most heaped praise on the influencer for her beauty, or asked her to ‘come to Brissy/Sydney’, or asked where she acquired her swimsuit. No compliments for the beautiful watering hole, or the backdrop of iconic native pandanus trees and the rocky escarpment of Kakadu. Not a single indication that a group of Brits have been swayed to visit the Top End.

Matt Carter, Chessie’s partner, has 61,000 followers and from his two posts he received between seven and eight comments each.

King and Carter were paid $13,000 to make four posts, or $3250 per post. Here’s one of them.

Another beauty/travel influencer, Emily Canham, was paid $5229 to take a holiday in Queensland in September with her vlogger mate, Adam Waithe. Taxpayers paid for them to cuddle a baby wallaby, charter a helicopter over the Great Barrier Reef, and enjoy brekkie at The Deck on Airlie Beach.

Tourism Australia informed Sunday Times it doesn’t normally hire influencers, and these lucky seven underwent a ‘rigorous evaluation process’ before being paid from the campaign budget for their ‘captivating digital content’.

‘With Australia’s $143 billion tourist industry employing one in 13 Australians, it’s vital we continue to find innovative ways to attract the attention of prospective international travellers so we can keep tourist numbers at record levels,’ a Tourism Australia spokesperson said. ‘Each of these people travelled to different parts of Australia to create captivating digital content that resonates strongly with young people who want to combine travel and temporary work in Australia.’

There are, quite literally, thousands of influencers to pick from, who all specialise in different areas and have different, um, talents. There’s no doubt Tourism Australia has an expert marketing department, so it would be enlightening to know how they determined these content creators provided the best bang for their buck. And also to understand how the effectiveness of these campaigns is measured – if at all.


  1. Upset Upset January 22, 2020

    Unbelievable! When will our government become transparent and really tell us what’s going on!

  2. Kent Johnson Kent Johnson January 22, 2020

    It’s easy to still see the likes on IG using a desktop browser. Chessie King got 45K likes for the swimsuit shot in the Nat Park. Thats a nice number and it might sell swimsuits but I would love to know if it is even close, to enough exposure to have people spend the thousands required to travel. Still I suppose it’s just an outreach Branding exercise for Australia; an accumulative approach.

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