Maldives Resorts Shut Down Instagram Models Requesting Free Stays

Resorts in the Maldives are turning away self-titled influencers requesting free stays.

The Maldives, a group of coral islands in the Indian Ocean, have become a dream vacation spot for many with the crystal clear water, white sand beaches, and promises of relaxation, but for many luxury resorts, the amount of "influences" requesting free stays has become too much.

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(Photo: Instagram / @caro_e_)

"Everyone with a Facebook these days is an influencer. People say, I want to come to the Maldives for 10 days and will do two posts on Instagram to like 2,000 followers. It's people with 600 Facebook friends saying, 'Hi, I'm an influencer, I want to stay in your hotel for 7 days,'" Kate Jones, marketing and communications manager at the five-star resort Dusit Thani, told The Atlantic. "These people are expecting five to seven nights on average, all inclusive. Maldives is not a cheap destination."

While elite influencers, those with upwards of hundreds of thousands of followers and sometimes even millions, are typically invited by hotel brands, lesser-known self-entitled "influencers" are taking it upon themselves to request all-expense-paid vacations in exchange for social media posts shared with their followers, which typically range in the hundreds.

Jack Bedwani, who runs brand consulting agency The Projects, claims that the number of people requesting free all-expense paid vacations is growing and becoming overwhelming for luxury resorts.

"They get five to 20 direct inquiries a day from self-titled influencers. The net is so wide, and the term 'influencer' is so loose," he said. "You can sort the amateurs from the pros very quickly. The vast majority of cold-call approaches are really badly written. It sounds like when you're texting a friend inviting yourself over for dinner—it's that colloquial. They don't give reasons why anyone should invest in having them as a guest."

The surge of new "influencers" has caused many resorts in the Maldives to do away with offering free stays altogether, while others have begun requiring influencer application forms, which request information regarding an influencers number of unique visitors to their blogs and other social media accounts, an estimated media value per post, and the number of posts the influencer would make each day during their free or discounted stay.

The problem does not exist only in the Maldives, either. In January, Paul Stenson, owner of The White Moose in Dublin, slammed Elle Darby, who has 133,000 subscribers on YouTube and 112,000 followers on Instagram, after she requested a free five-night stay in exchange for exposure.

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"If I let you stay here in return for a feature in a video, who is going to pay the staff who look after you? Who is going to pay the housekeepers who clean your room? ... Who is going to pay for the light and heat you use during your stay?" Stenson questioned in a Facebook post.

The White Moose has since banned all YouTubers and Instagram stars from requesting free stays.