- Travel influence is lucrative and largely unregulated. New lawsuit attempts to put blame on industry
This is a translation made by The newspaper of the leaflet Does traveling to all countries count if you don’t publish on the Internet?original of The Washington Post.
Audrey Walsworth was at home in Naples, Florida watching “Today” in the spring of 2017 when a young woman named Cassie De Pecol appeared onscreen. “Meet the first woman to travel to every country in the world,” read the banner. Ms Walsworth, 87, was shocked. She saw a blonde woman in her twenties detail her exploits and proclaim herself “the first recorded woman to travel to any country in the world”.
“I thought, ‘well, for God’s sake,'” Walsworth said.
Walsworth sabía que las afirmaciones de DePecol de que ella era la primera mujer en viajar a all los países del mundo no eran ciertas por una simple razón: Walsworth había viajado a all los países de la Tierra, años antes de que De Pocol se embarcara en his trip.
The truth is that De Pecol is not the first woman to travel to all countries. She is also not the first woman to travel alone in all countries. She is, however, the first to declare it on social networks.
De Pecol is a travel influencer who has amassed hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram and TikTok. He hosts a podcast, has given a TED Talk, attends paid conferences, has written a book about his travels, and runs his own fitness app. But according to a lawsuit recently filed by consumer protection group TravelersUnited, De Pecol racked up that hearing by repeatedly making fraudulent claims.
De Pecol didn’t just repeat those claims to increase his large following, according to the suit.
Supposedly, he also repeated them to sell products. Under the guise of being the first woman to travel to any country, she has endorsed various brands such as GoDaddy, Venus razors, and QuestNutrition. De Pecol not only “cheated investors and sponsors by telling them she was the first woman to travel to every country in the world when she wasn’t, but she also tricked and deceived the press, even years later, on his accomplishments.” , alleges the complaint
“This complaint is yet another baseless attack on me and my accomplishments,” de Pecol said in a statement to The Washington Post. “I intend to vigorously contest what unfortunately appears to be a repeat of the same untenable allegations that have been leveled against me in the past.”
TravelersUnited is suing De Pecol under the DC Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA).
DC has strong consumer protection laws, and the advocacy group says that while it’s possible to see DePecol’s unfair and misleading advertising in DC and buy products that have been falsely advertised, the person doing these allegations can be prosecuted in DC.
The group hopes the lawsuit will mark a turning point in the industry, bringing more accountability to claims made by travel content creators. “We hope that other nonprofits will be encouraged to bring similar lawsuits,” said Lauren Wolfe, attorney for TravelersUnited, “but more importantly, the FTC should take care of it. I think it should be a political issue.Both sides want to see more regulation of social media platforms.The FTC should have an entire department focused on truth in influencer advertising.
Travel, especially to remote areas, can be extremely expensive. Visas and flights can cost thousands of dollars, not to mention accommodation, ground transportation, food, and other costs. De Pecol said she saved up $10,000 in childcare money before embarking on her world tour in July 2015, but told reporters her trips were mostly funded by sponsors.
Influencer travel, where creators often travel from place to place, documenting their travels and providing travel advice, is one of the most lucrative sectors in the influencer marketing industry. According to data company Influencer Marketing Hub, the influencer marketing industry will reach $16.4 billion this year alone. Elite travel creators can earn up to millions a year from sponsorships, speaking engagements and product sales. “You can stay in really nice properties that would cost someone $3,000 to $5,000 a night to create content. That’s an incredibly lucrative profit for the influencer,” said Michelle Gonzalez, travel creator TikTok with 896,000 followers.
But in the world of travel influencers, sponsorship disclosures can be rare. It is often unclear whether a hotel stay or trip to a local attraction has been compensated. The Federal Trade Commission has repeatedly issued guidelines on sponsored content, but they are rarely enforced. Hotels and travel brands are also struggling to sift through the flood of travel influencers bombarding them with requests for all-expenses-paid vacations in exchange for social media posts.
De Pecol was able to stand out from the rest by claiming to be the first woman to travel to every country in the world, and brands were eager to work with her. He has worked with large multinationals like AIG, as well as local hotel brands which he has promoted in exchange for accommodation, according to a 2017 interview with CNN. Her pitch deck reiterated that she was “the first woman to travel to every country in the world”.
While world travelers of years past took photos with their cameras, recorded journal entries for scrapbooks, and stamped their passports, De Pecol cataloged his trip around the world on the Internet. She posted beautiful photos and videos of exotic destinations and gained followers during her journey.
When she struggled to get visas approved in remote locations, she turned to social media for help. “There were instances where I posted on my Facebook: ‘Hello, I need help getting into Libya’ or ‘I need help getting into Syria,'” De said. Pecol at CNN in 2017. media. His claims about his travel history have been repeated by Forbes, The New York Times, Travel&Leisure, CNN and more.
As his profile grew, so too did the scrutiny of the tight-knit super-traveler community. DePecol’s trip has also sparked conversations about what it really means to travel. Traveling by plane between countries, in some cases only spending hours or days in the same place, taking an Instagram photo and leaving, is this really “travelling” the world? Nina Sedano, 56, Germany’s most traveled woman who has also visited every country in the world, said she tried to contact de Pecol via Facebook to ask about her travels.
Sedano, who documented her travels to every country in her 2014 German bestseller “Laendersammlerin,” is frustrated with DePocol’s claims. “I said, ‘I also traveled to all countries and I did it at the end of September 2011, and even I wasn’t the first woman to do it,'” Sedano said. not reacted.
Probably the first real woman to travel all over the world was a woman named Dorothy Pine, a woman who spent decades traveling the world throughout the 20th century. His achievement was certified by the Travelers Century Club, which accepts people who have visited more than 100 countries. Pine died at the age of 91, but traveled with Walsworth often over the past decades.
Since then, several women have achieved the feat and recorded it. Sedano’s travel records were verified by a third party and the 10 passports he used were photographed and featured in the German press. Walsworth has mountains of photos, passports and receipts from his travels.
De Pecol blocked and dismissed critics who told her about the women who had accomplished the feat before her. Lee Abbamonte, an extreme traveler who has also visited every country, spoke about De Pecol in a podcast in 2017. “She told me she was going to be the first woman to go to every country. I actually emailed him back, there were at least three or four who did, and I know a few of them,” he said. “I never received a response after that email in 2015. I think he upset a lot of people and mishandled things.”
Guinness World Records confirmed that De Pocol held two records: “Fastest Time to Visit All Sovereign Countries (Female)” and “Fastest Time to Visit All Sovereign Countries (Overall)”. In 2018, the two were defeated by Taylor Demonbreun; There is no Guinness World Record for being the first woman to travel to any country.
Walsworth said he hopes more travel creator claims will be verified. Social media companies that give travel creators blue ticks only add legitimacy to potentially false or misleading claims. “That’s the problem with social media, there’s so much out there,” Walsworth said. “Once it’s there, people assume it’s real.”