Beach club owner rips into freeloading Instagram 'influencers'

Gianluca Mezzofiore CNNUpdated 5th April 2019
(CNN) — Fed up with hearing from wannabe-Instagram "influencers" asking for free stuff in exchange for publicity, the owner of a beach club in the Philippines decided to take a stand.
In a caustic Facebook post calling for "help," Gianluca Casaccia, manager and co-owner of the White Banana Beach Club on the island of Siargao, went bananas at a whole section of the blogosphere.
Gianluca Casaccia, manager and co-owner of the White Banana Beach Club in the island of Siargao, criticized Instagram influencers in a viral Facebook post.
Gianluca Casaccia, manager and co-owner of the White Banana Beach Club in the island of Siargao, criticized Instagram influencers in a viral Facebook post.
White Banana Beach Club Siargao
"We are receiving many messages regarding collaborations with influencers, Instagram influencers," he wrote. "We kindly would like to announce that White Banana is not interested to 'collaborate' with self-proclaimed 'influencers'.
"And we would like to suggest to try another way to eat, drink, or sleep for free. Or try to actually work."
Casaccia, who is 40 and co-owns the club with his wife, Manila-born Gayle Villaluz, says his post was a "sarcastic and direct attempt" to discourage wannabe-influencers from messaging them asking for a free stay, free food and free drinks.
"These freeloaders would write 'Hi, I'm an influencer, we like your place, we're staying from xxx February to xxx February, we're three people, you provide food and drinks and we draft an Instagram post and we tag you on our story,'" Casaccia told CNN. "I think it's offensive. I initially thought they were trolling us."
Within a couple of days, the post went viral, triggering a debate on the role of so-called influencers.
Many people praised Casaccia for cutting to the heart of the matter.
"We must not excuse nor defend the entitlement of self-proclaimed influencers," said one in the comments below the post, making a distinction between "real" influencers and those just on the hunt for freebies.
Others were unimpressed by his tone.
"I just feel like the choice of words here is an overkill and unnecessarily condescending," said one commentator.
Another agreed: "Whoever is your Social Media Manager, sorry but there is a better way of stating your opinions. And that is not by shaming people or profession online."
Not everyone sees a problem with trying to get free stuff in exchange for coverage. "I recently tried pitching to resorts and hotels, because why not, right? There's no harm in trying," wrote one commentor.
In a subsequent post, Casaccia clarified that his target wasn't influencers per se, but freeloaders with just a few followers on Instagram.
"A REAL influencer is called as such by the rest, he does not address him/herself as an influencer," he wrote. "They are bloggers. We have actually collaborated with a few of them, in different terms and conditions, and we support them."
A few people argued that Instagram influencers allow places like the White Banana Beach Club to get noticed, saying they provide a service, a form of free publicity that works for both bloggers and hospitality businesses restaurants/hotels/clubs.
But Casaccia said this wasn't the case for his business.
"Siargao was already famous and we are providing an excellent service. The White Banana was already the White Banana before this social media storm -- that's why everyone wanted to come for free," he said.
He added that he didn't expect his post to go viral.
"I didn't want to give any lessons but someone had to address the elephant in the room," he told CNN. "I can't believe we became world famous for saying the most obvious thing in the world: Pay your bills."