Dubai’s Influencer Invasion: Essential Or Insensitive?

Photo of the city of Dubai
Hannah Sutton

Many internet influencers are under criticism online for their constant flurry of social media uploads in Dubai, the Maldives, Mexico and the Caribbean – arguably exchanging their lockdown lives in the U.K. for more glamorous and liberal lifestyles.

With many social media influencers living in London, the Tier Four announcement on the 20th of December left many celebrities packing their bags and escaping the U.K, favouring the warmer climates. Through the New Year period it became clear that these holiday locations were less strict on lockdown measures than the U.K (with most cities being plunged into a Tier Four section on the 26th of December). This left them as popular hotspots for members of the public wanting to celebrate without Boris Johnson’s harsher restrictions.

The Tier Four and National Lockdown measures were implemented by the U.K. Prime Minister as a late attempt to curb the increasing mortality rate as a result of a new, more infectious strain of COVID-19 spreading from samples found in Southern Africa. This strain was said to be 70% more transmissible than the original virus – strengthening the argument for tougher restrictions in the U.K.

These stars are losing thousands of followers, likely due to their somewhat blatant disregard of the COVID-19 pandemic

Despite this health crisis, many influencers like TikTok Star KT Franklin, Love Island’s Zara Holland, Molly-Mae Hague and Tommy Fury – as well as Geordie Shore’s Chloe Ferry – have been heavily criticised for publishing their vacations across social media, whilst many of their following are locked away inside. These stars are losing thousands of followers, likely due to their somewhat blatant disregard of the COVID-19 pandemic and the death toll surpassing two million people worldwide. Some celebrities are being branded as selfish, ignorant and hypocritical by the press and general public after using their influencer status as an excuse to travel.

Most recently, KT Franklin came under fire for travelling to Dubai and posting a viral video on TikTok, which criticised the Prime Minister’s decision to ‘cancel Christmas’ for British families. Franklin began by using a brand deal with Benefit Cosmetics as the reason for her travel, deleting comments and blocking fans who addressed her hypocritical actions. She was called out by other influencers who had been offered the same contract (and were apparently told travel was not essential to the terms of the deal). Due to the immense backlash she faced, the TikTok and YouTube star released a four-minute video accepting her ‘tone-deaf’ actions.

Geordie Shore favourite Sophie Kasaei shared a post promoting summer holidays to Zante and Magaluf on the same day the UK hit over 100,000 COVID-19 deaths

Unfortunately, she is not the only influencer who has been caught out by their actions in this global pandemic. Love Island’s Zara Holland was critiqued and fined for her breaches of COVID-19 restrictions after attempting to flee Barbados with her boyfriend after he tested positive for the virus. Geordie Shore favourite Sophie Kasaei shared a post promoting summer holidays to Zante and Magaluf on the same day the U.K hit over 100,000 COVID-19 deaths.  

But why are celebrities choosing to risk their fame, or use their celebrity status to flee COVID-19 restrictions? The general public have labelled these influencers as clueless for posting that the holidays are classed under essential travel as they are working. This seems unfair to those at risk who have been isolating for eleven months. Although some fans might enjoy seeing how relaxed restrictions are in places like Dubai, where COVID-19 rates are lower and normality seems to have resumed, it poses issues for the host countries.

The influx of foreign travel raises concerns in global transmissions

Many of these popular destinations imposed strict lockdowns in the early stages of the pandemic back in early 2020, resulting in a lower risk of transmission of the virus and thus less-restrictive measures are set out. However, the influx of foreign travel (both towards the host country and returning home) raises concerns in global transmissions.

This is not the case for all social media influencers. Most notably, fitness fanatic and virtual coach Joe Wicks has been abiding by COVID-19 restrictions throughout each national lockdown, providing relief and entertainment for those struggling to workout in isolation or shielding. Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford dedicated his time in lockdown to helping children with free school meals whilst schools were closed, addressing claims of poverty and hunger throughout Manchester, and the U.K.

Many influencers are using their platform to share videos on their social media. ‘Queer Eye’ chef Antoni Porowski posts cooking lessons on his Instagram, highlighting meat-free and entertaining recipes for his followers. Television and movie star Kristen Bell tries to keep positive about the pandemic by sharing useful and educating articles, attempting to shine a light on the happier aspects of lockdown.

As the national lockdown continues, we will hopefully see more stars begin to recognise the need for responsibility as public figures and respect their following in a more sensitive way.

Hannah Sutton

Featured image courtesy of David Rodrigo via Unsplash. Image licence found here. No changes were made to the image.

In-article embedded posts courtesy of kt.franklin via Instagram and thebodycoach via Instagram. No changes were made to the images.

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