Like it or not, “travel influencer” is a bona fide job in the tech-savvy, heavily filtered age of Instagram and Snapchat. These perma-sightseers have racked up serious air miles and follower counts with their impossibly aspirational snaps of sunsets and cityscapes. And though you likely want to scoff at their so-called “careers” (it’s just envy, admit it), they now carry so much clout even Forbes is recognising them.
Forbes‘ infamous annual Rich List has just been joined by its first Top 10 Travel Influencers list. These are the biggest names in the travel blogosphere and the grinning mugs that constantly pop up on your Instagram feed – the guys and gals raking in the dough via tourism board partnerships and paid promotions, while also inspiring thousands of bucket lists with their images and insider tips.
Meet the 10 travellers who made the cut for 2017 below.
#10 Adventurous Kate
This ferris wheel in #Chernobyl never got to spin — and then nature reclaimed it. A fair was set to open on May 1, 1986, in the Chernobyl-adjacent city of #Pripyat. The nuclear reactor exploded on April 26, but USSR authorities wanted to keep it quiet. Many people in Pripyat fell ill. But nobody was evacuated for almost 24 hours. They were told they were leaving for three days; they never returned. The homes, the stores, the schools, the hospital remained untouched for 30 years. So did the carnival rides, waiting for celebrants that never arrived. Nature continued on. If you look carefully, you can see buildings through every grove of trees. It shows you what would happen to the world if humans vanish — because the planet will always survive. It’s just a question of whether the human race will. #jaywayukraine #ukraine
The blogger known as ‘Adventurous Kate’ started her first site in 2002 as a college freshman, and launched its current incarnation in 2010. Kate focuses on female solo travel and regularly collaborates with tourist boards in locations as diverse as Finland and Malta.
#9 Chris Burkard
It’s human nature to feel connected to places or things that we understand on a personal level; in other words, the only way people will care about preserving places on this earth is if they feel physically, emotionally, or spiritually invested. It is only through this process of connection that our personal empowerment is fully realized. I understand that I am unable to lead every single person to feel empowered to make a difference, but I hope that I can help garner people’s connection with the world around us to realize that they are valuable in keeping it alive and healthy.
Burkard started blogging back in 2009. As a staff photographer for a surfing magazine, he was looking for an outlet for work that had gotten lost in the shuffle. He remains a commercial photographer – partnering with brands like Patagonia, Toyota, and SwissAir – as well as an avid preservationist, with a particular focus on Iceland.
#8 Johnny Jet
This travel guru (real name: John DiScala) used to loathe flying, and was even reluctant to leave his house at one point. After conquering his fears, he became addicted to exploring the world and started accruing miles and points. He launched a newsletter in 1995 and a website in 1999, making him one of the world’s very first travel influencers.
#7 Louis Cole
British-born Cole started vlogging in 2012, when he took a road trip around the UK on a double-decker bus. In the years since, he’s amassed almost 2 million subscribers on his ‘Fun For Louis’ YouTube travel channel and has partnered with the likes of Land Rover, Sony, and tourism brands worldwide. We named him one of our favourite travel Instagrammers to follow this year.
#6 The Planet D
Husband and wife team Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil launched their website in 2007 when they took part in the 7,500-mile Tour d’Afrique cycling adventure from Cairo to Capetown. The Toronto film industry veterans now run a fully-fledged media company, partnering with the likes of American Express and Cathay Pacific.
#5 Damon and Jo
American Damon Dominique and Brazilian Jo Franco met as college freshmen and bonded over their exceptional linguistic abilities (they speak five languages apiece). Since they began filming their travels together, the YouTubers have scored partnerships with brands like Toyota, MTV, and Greyhound thanks to their quirky, witty travelogues.
#4 Eric Stoen
One of my new favorite places in the world: these overwater hammocks at @sixsenseslaamu at sunset. My son asked if it was possible for something to be “perfecter than perfect”. That summed it up nicely! The Maldives are amazing. #takeyourkidseverywhere #gnomads #afarambassador #traveldeeper #sixsenses #sixsenseslaamu
Stoen had always travelled with his kids and shared photos with family and friends, but after winning Conde Nast Traveler‘s Photo of the Year award in 2012, he decided to go public. He left his healthcare career of 18 years in 2014 to share tips and reviews with his TravelBabbo community full-time.
#3 Murad and Nataly Osmann
#followmeto Havana with @natalyosmann. Check our video from CubaLink in BioThis shot only looks peaceful but is actually the busiest place there and we only had few minutes to us before everyone started parking their cars around us. #samsungwatchface #GearS3 #ad @samsungmobile ……………………………………………………………….. #следуйзамной на центральную площадь Гаваны. Смотрите наше видеоссылка в профилеЭто место только выглядит таким умиротворенным – на самом деле у нас было всего пару минут, чтобы сделать этот кадр, пока мы не были окружены толпой и машинами, которые пытались припарковаться.
Thirtysomething Russian couple Murad and Nataly Osmann went viral by accident after Murad posted an Instagram shot of Nataly leading him by the hand through the streets of Barcelona in 2011. That image turned into a highly-recognisable series, #FollowMeTo, which has since led to exhibitions, brand collabs, and a travel accessories line.
#2 Kiersten Rich
So excited to be hosting my first ever 10-Day Blogger Retreat in Bali with @InstituteofCode! ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• 5 days ago, we welcomed 12 students to their new “classroom”– one of the most incredible villas in Bali! The girls have been busy learning everything it takes to run a successful blog- including WordPress blogging, web development and coding, SEO strategy, photography and Lightroom editing, as well as social media marketing. It’s been absolutely incredible to share the knowledge and expertise I’ve gained over the past 5 years of blogging (after many failures and hiccups along the way). We’ve still got another 6 days to go, so be sure to follow along on Insta Stories and #TBAretreats ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• : Thanks to one of our retreat photography mentors @eyes_of_a_nomad for the capture! #instituteofcode #ioc #bali #canggu
At 22, having tried her hand at corporate wealth management, Rich booked a flight across the world on a whim. “I had saved very little money and I had no idea what I was doing,” she said. She started blogging her grand tour across the globe and The Blonde Abroad was born.
#1 Brian Kelly
Kelly figured out how to game the credit card points and frequent flyer mile systems while living life on the road as a recruiter for Morgan Stanley a decade ago. In 2010, he posted his first blog as ‘The Points Guy’ and began doling out tips, tricks and deals. He now leads a team of 20 and commands seven figures for social campaigns.