Tourism operators should be wary of using social media influencers to promote their business, a travel expert warns, as the strategy can backfire.

Doug Lansky, an American author and researcher based in Sweden, says travellers need to be more aware of the motivation of influencers on platforms such as Instagram.

''They're working with the destination - they're totally on the PR side,'' he told Auckland Airport's recent tourism forum.

Described as an ''international thought leader'' on tourism sustainability and destination development, Lansky says he is pained by the filtered lives of influencers.

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