Influencers like Logan Paul are moving to tropical destinations for a new lifestyle and fresh content, but some say it harms local communities

Three people hold surf boards and walk towards the ocean. Their car is parked behind them, and the blue sky and tons of clouds are overhead. Two palm trees are also in front of them.
Popular tropical destinations are seeing an influx in influencers. Adam Hester/Getty Images
  • Hannah Meloche moved to Hawaii; Logan Paul moved to Puerto Rico.
  • It’s part of a growing trend of influencers moving to tropical destinations full-time.
  • Some activists and residents say these moves could have long-term impacts on local communities.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

When Logan Paul said he was moving to what’s reportedly a $US13 ($AU18) million mansion in the wealthy town of Dorado, Puerto Rico, in February, many Puerto Ricans took to Twitter to say they were not happy.

He admitted in a podcast that he was moving to the island in part to avoid paying higher income taxes and to take advantage of a lower cost of living.

The divisive influencer was later introduced at a boxing match as a resident of Puerto Rico, prompting one viral tweet that said Paul’s move would “exploit” the U.S. territory.

“In Puerto Rico, you’re motivated to do more and make more money because of the implications that come with it,” Paul said on an episode of his podcast. “I liken it to working smarter, not harder.” Paul also said that before he went to “scout” out his new home, he thought it would be more “third world” than it was.

Paul, Hannah Meloche, and Kinsey Wolanski are among the big-name influencers who recently moved to popular tropical tourism destinations like Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and Bali.

For government and tourism agencies, some of which collaborate directly with these creators in influencer-marketing campaigns, there is an economic incentive with the potential to bring in more visitors.

Puerto Rico has even passed legislation to encourage more foreigners to start a home there. Act 60 of the Puerto Rico Incentives Code, a law that allows entrepreneurs to pay close to no income taxes for living in Puerto Rico for six months, was passed in 2019 to attract wealthy people and business owners in hopes of boosting the country’s economic development.

But for activists and local residents, the long-term impact of these moves may mean that they struggle to feel prioritized by their leaders, according to the Abolish Act 60 Collective, a Puerto Rican organization that works to prevent wealthy individuals from moving to the island.

“What influencers are doing, it feels like they’re taunting the natives, like they’re getting away with something,” a spokesperson for the collective, whose members are anonymous, told Insider. “There’s a nation there, and it’s not a playground for them. There are children and adults making their day-to-day livings.”

Hawaii has seen an influx in influencers as full-time residents

In late January, 20-year old YouTuber Hannah Meloche, who has over 2 million subscribers, announced that she would be moving to Hawaii indefinitely, with plans to hop around rental homes with friends and take her college courses online.

Since then, her videos have reflected her day-to-day adventures, which include cliff jumping, helicopter rides, and surfing lessons with fellow influencers like Ava Jules, a Hawaii native and close friend of Meloche’s, and many others from the continental US.

Of course, her Instagram account features no shortage of beach and bikini content, with hundreds of comments from envious fans. Meloche declined an interview request for this article.

A post shared by HANNAH (meloche) (@hannahmeloche)

Hawaii seems to be a popular spot for online influencers, including couples hoping to establish permanent homes or start families there.

TikTok influencers Matt and Abby Howard purchased a cottage in Oahu, Hawaii, in late January, while Arie Luyendyk Jr. and Lauren Burnham of “The Bachelor” franchise fame announced the purchase of their second home in Maui in April. Burnham is expecting twins, and the two said on social media that this new home will be the perfect place to raise them.

Government and tourism agencies see economic benefits

Tourism agencies are collaborating with some of these influencers as they see an economic boon from social-media marketing.

Ketut Supanca Ada, the owner and director of travel at Bali Customized Tours in Bali, Indonesia, told Insider he started collaborating with travel influencers five years ago when he saw the effectiveness of influencer marketing in bringing new visitors to the island.

His most notable collaboration is with travel influencer Christian LeBlanc, also known as Lost LeBlanc on YouTube, who recently signed a lease in Bali. LeBlanc did not respond to a request for comment.

A post shared by Christian LeBlanc (@lostleblanc)

Now, as more influencers like LeBlanc fall in love with the places that they visit, Ketut considers their moves a win-win – influencers are able to experience the beauty of Bali every single day and businesses like his are able to thrive because of them.

“Influencers are very good at promoting the island because they want to live here and they feel comfortable with the nature, culture, and social life of Bali,” he said. “We welcome whoever brings positivity and promotes our destinations.”

Governments also often have a hand in destination marketing campaigns. In 2015, the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau launched the #LetHawaiiHappen campaign on Instagram, utilizing the high reach of well-known travel influencers to inspire people to visit.

A post shared by Jordan Herschel (@jordanherschel)

And it worked – 65% of people who saw the campaign said they planned to visit the Hawaiian Islands in the next two years, according to Mediakix, an influencer marketing agency.

Some locals say they are unhappy with their homes being exploited

Critics argue that influencer moves do little to boost local economies. And for locals, the idea of influencers becoming permanent residents of places they moved partly for new content can feel unnerving, according to Andrew J. Padilla, a researcher and educator who has written about the effects of Puerto Rican colonization.

“Our economy is gearing people towards selling more and more of themselves, of their day-to-day experiences. The more influencers advertise how beautiful our home is, the more difficult it can be to remain there,” Padilla told Insider.

The Abolish Act 60 Collective was established to educate Puerto Ricans on how bills like Act 60 allow wealthy individuals to profit off of the gradual privatization of the country, especially when it comes to avoiding paying high taxes.

A red, white, and blue Puerto Rican flag waves in front of a blue sky.
A Puerto Rican law offers an economic incentive for influencers and other foreigners to move to the island. Merrill Images/Getty Images

The collective said influencers establishing permanent homes in a place where local elders are fighting to keep their pensions is not only disrespectful but unwelcome by the native community.

“When you have people who are not paying taxes on the same social infrastructure that everybody uses, it’s of course going to create a detriment on those structures,” the collective’s spokesperson said.

Padilla also argues that there’s a permanent impact that ripples through the community when foreigners settle in.

“That doesn’t mean that influencers are bad people,” Padilla told Insider. “In Puerto Rico’s context, if you’re an influencer and you’re trying to get people to move to a U.S. colony, you’re asking people to become colonial settlers. You should think about what that means for them and for that place.”

For more stories like this, check out coverage from Insider’s Digital Culture team here.