Let’s get one thing straight: while I am a pre-Jurassic print journalist cockwomble at heart, I am not antielectronic media in any of its forms … not even social media. What burns my butt, though, are freebie-hunters who call themselves “influencers”.
Just as every genius is a human being but not every human being is a genius, not every bloggervlogger can be influence other people to make purchasing decisions based on fawning Twitter/ Instagram/Facebook/internet pronouncements.
Would you fork out more than a million bucks on a luxury vehicle because some pouty-mouthed 20-something hottie posts a selfie of herself behind the wheel? I seriously doubt it.
The same goes for travel
There’s a hell of a lot more to marketing a five star private game reserve or beach resort than being “liked” by 360 aspirant zillionaires who actually couldn’t afford a pot to piss in.
O c c a s i o n a l l y ,though, you encounter people who get it totally and utterly right – the ones who go so far beyond “influencer” as to verging on the brink of being travel “inspirers”.
My friend Rose Bilbrough on the Garden Route (named after the biblical garden, which is why the glorious central section between Wilderness and Plettenberg Bay is referred to as the Eden district) has probably done more to promote the region than all the formal tourism structures combined.
She describes herself as a humble “social marketer” but, in truth, she’s a fantastic resource for would-be visitors as well as tourism and hospitality operations. She goes by the “handle” of Travelbug Rose on Facebook and Steller. On Twitter and Instagram, she can be found on @gotravelbug while her web address is www. gotravelbug.co.za.
Bilbrough doesn’t claim to be a journalist and admits she relies on an editor to panelbeat her lengthier and more outspoken posts. However, when she fires off a digital torpedo, all sorts of people and organisations start looking for lifeboats.
This won’t make me very popular with some people along the Garden Route, but I believe that Bilbrough’s travel pronouncements are treated with more gravitas than those printed by the local newspaper.
Bilbrough, let me tell you, is a grandmother. A profane (she’s an ex-soldier), paragliding, snorkelling, hiking, rock-climbing and abseiling grannie who’s up for almost any challenge, she says she’s in it for the “shits and giggles”, but she’s seriously committed to promoting Garden Route tourism in all its facets.
Days spent with her are not only hugely informative, they’re also loads of fun. I often “use” her as co-driver on vehicle photoshoots on roadtrips, especially along the Seven Passes Road or in the Knysna forests. For these forays behind the wheel, she calls herself “The Twig”.
A couple of years ago, I took a Jaguar F-Pace up to the SANParks camp at Diepwalle and asked for her assistance. It had been raining heavily and there were huge puddles along the roads … just the thing for dramatic pictures. I saw a likely spot and got out. Let me get on the other side of that puddle and, when I wave – I said – “hit it hard!”
A split second before the Jaguar reached the water, I knew I was too close. Waaaaay too close. As I squelched back to the vehicle, a sopping blob of Garden Route goo, she looked at me gravely and asked: “Was that okay?”
That’s Bilbrough. Actions speak louder than words but the few she utters are well chosen. What makes her so successful at her job?
Most of all it’s her gorgeous pictures of the Garden Route, in which she often features but never dominates: she’s an element of the pictures but is the quintessential Everyman traveler. You look at her in the photograph and say … that should be me