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Four Tips for Bloggers Who Want to Work with the Travel Industry

This guest post is by Matt Long of LandLopers.com.

People are attracted to travel blogging for a lot of reasons.

For some, they are doing a year-long trip and simply want an easy way to keep in touch with friends and family. Still others are attracted to the niche travel blogoshpere for the sheer love of travel, and any partnerships with the travel industry are a bonus.

Travel blogging

Image is author's own

While it is possible for a successful travel blogger to participate in media trips, the way we interact with the travel industry is key to our long-term success. After all, many of us operate our travel blog just like any other blog: it’s a business and the relationships we make with industry are not just important, they’re vital.

Before seeking out opportunities though, bloggers should keep in mind the following key points.

1. Don’t take advantage

There is a fairly low barrier to entry to become a blogger. For little or no money, just about anyone can hang out their blog shingle and announce to the world that they are now A Blogger.

Yet for many people, particularly those in the travel PR and marketing worlds, this is a new and slightly frightening universe. Visions of bad TripAdvisor reviews fill their thoughts and they fear any bad press on web sites that can spread virally.

The blogger’s ability to write online and share information with people around the planet gives us power, and we must be mindful of that and not take advantage.

Don’t bully people into giving you things for free. Most destinations and large PR companies will see through this, but not so local sites of interest. For example, let’s imagine Sally Smith has a travel blog that attracts ten unique readers a month, mostly her family members. But she is a travel blogger! She has power!

With this power she decides that when she visits Bangkok, she will ask museums and tourist sites around the city to give her free access in exchange for a review on her blog.These organizations have no idea that she only has ten readers a month and would never think to ask. Instead they see the title Travel Blogger and get scared. The result is that Sally saves a lot of money and the destination gets nothing in return.

It’s easy to be attracted to the bright lights of travel blogging, but just like any other niche blog, it takes a lot of work and perseverance to be successful. Part of that success lies in not taking advantage of current and future partners. Ultimately, it’s all about providing great content for our readers, but first you need to make sure you have enough readers to make it worthwhile for others to work with you.

2. It’s not me, me, me—it’s them, them, them

Whether a country-specific tourism board, or a PR firm representing a client, wants to work with you, your must remember that these organizations have one goal in mind: to promote their destination or property and get more people to visit. Period. The End. Fin. This fact has to be kept in mind from pitch to post-trip blog posts, or mistakes will happen.

It’s up to the blogger to make sure that the trips or products make sense to their readers. The PR people pitching to you may not always have a strong grasp on what your site is all about, but you certainly do.

Similarly, bloggers must not lose sight of the focus of the trip, because there always is one.  If a hotel invites you to visit their property in a fantastic locale, it may be tempting to write heavily about the locale, but that wasn’t the point of your trip. The hotel invited you down to write about them. It’s of course possible to marry the two, to describe the great activities found in the area if you stay at John Doe’s Hotel.

But at no point during your partnership can you forget that this is a business relationship with specific returns on investment expected.

3. Understand expectations

Before agreeing to anything, whether it be a travel product review or a trip to New Zealand, both parties must ensure that they understand each other’s expectations.

This is the time to be frank and honest. Let them know that you aren’t interested in running advertorials and will be fair and honest in your blog writing. Most destinations love this; it adds credibility to the coverage. However, some who are new to the social media world may be surprised at first, so it’s better to make it clear from the beginning.

Also be sure to ask if they expect Twitter, Google+ and Facebook coverage in addition to blog posts, and how many posts they are expecting. It’s equally important to ask about anything in particular they want to have highlighted. On a trip to a specific country, the tourist board asked that I investigate the culinary side to the destination, as it sometimes gets overlooked. Doing so didn’t threaten my integrity as a writer, it just gave me better focus and made sure I covered the areas my sponsor wanted me to cover.

4. Be honest

Honesty is important with any relationship, but especially so when it comes to travel PR. If you are a budget travel blogger and are approached by a high-end resort property, don’t say yes to their invitation to visit! Kindly let them know that you probably aren’t the best match for them.

Travel bloggers of course need to take care of themselves first, but we also have to safeguard the integrity of the community as a whole. If you promise something you can’t deliver, it makes every travel blogger look bad.

Similarly, be honest with your readers. Don’t hide the fact that you’re going on a press trip, highlight it—promote it! You’ll find that readers really enjoy the concept of traveling along with you as you travel, so don’t shy away from it. Weave into your narrative the fact that you’re going on a sponsored trip and explain why. Tell your readers how it will benefit them and you’ll not only keep readers, you’ll gain many new ones.

Travel blogging is a niche market that is still learning the nuances of the mainstream travel industry, and vice versa. But through smart and productive relationships, both blogger and PR pros can only flourish in this brave new world of travel promotion.

Matt Long, travel writer, blogger, photographer and world traveler is the Editor-in-Chief of LandLopers.com, a top travel blogthat caters to the “normal” traveler who wants to get out there and experience the best the world has to offer.

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Comments

  1. Chris Price says:

    Interesting article. I do not have a travel site per se, but I’ve found that some of the most common searches for my blog refer to some sites that I visited in the Czech Republic. Images of scenery and landmarks can lead to a few visits trickling in. These posts have pics taken from a general street level view, but they have driven some traffic.

  2. Josh Sarz says:

    Travel blogs are really great especially if they can pull it off without their content being dry. It always makes me want to travel the world and start my own travel blog.

    Thank you for the great post.

    • I think Josh hit a key “feel” that all travel blogs need to nail down: you have to make me want to travel in order to have a great travel blog.

      I should be able to get back from a 3-week trip and want to pack up and leave again after reading a single one of your posts, that’s my yard stick for measuring a successful travel blog.

  3. Pete Stean says:

    I travel Europe quite often so do quite a bit of ‘travel blogging’ but wouldn’t think about being sponsored to do it. For example, I visited Belgrade in Serbia fairly recently and couldn’t be nice about the place in all honesty – the general feel of the place or the locals. A puff piece saying it was a beautiful destination with warm and friendly people would have been an outright lie, and that’s the kind of thing tourist boards actually want to see. Now if I’d been invited to visit Rome or Berlin however… but you see the problem. Best to be totally independent in my view.

  4. Writing for your own travel business or hotel business could be another way of combining travel blogging with PR for attracting people to your destination or using your services. One should be quite careful in that position too. One must remember not to:

    1) Take advantage of writing to promote oneself!
    2) Write all about us, because it’s about our destination!
    3) Ignore the expectation of your readers (who want to learn more about your destination)
    4) Forget honesty!

    Such travel blogger should carefully write to be like an honest observer who doesn’t create false expectation and feed the readers with vital content answering their most essential questions.

    Darren, it’s been an insightful post. Thanks for sharing it with us!

    Rahman Mehraby
    Destination Iran Tour & Travel

  5. Michael says:

    This is essential for being able to go anywhere and writing about it, not just travel blogging but travel writing/photography/videogrophy, etc.

  6. Robby G says:

    These are great advice to follow, but I have to say it can be applied to any niche. Being honest for instance and doing it for the reader rather than yourself are key principles of blogging in my opinion. In the long run readers will see through the blogger and realize if he’s a fraud or if he’s honest.

  7. Great tips Matt! I have a post on this topic scheduled to run soon on our blog. I agree with what you are saying, especially the “do not take advantage” as we have seen other travel bloggers do, even ones that have large followings, and it makes me really mad.
    Always offer value and a win win scenario

  8. Dominique says:

    Follow up is also very important when working with your industry contacts. I always make sure I let my contacts know when I intend to post stories and send them the links when I do so. You can also cc them when you post the links to Twitter, FB, G+ or other social media vehicles and let then know if you had any great reactions or manage to place a story about their destination elsewhere as well. Keeping those lines of communication open may also lead to further invitations or recommendations from your contacts, too.

    • Matt says:

      Great point Dominique and absolutely necessary in keeping a great relationship. Even if you don’t have anything story specific to share, it’s a good idea to touch base once in a while.

  9. Tonya says:

    Matt, I really enjoyed this post and definitely have a few things to ponder. I’d never have thought about promoting a trip on my blog prior to it actually taking place. I’ll share it via Facebook or Twitter, but not my blog. That needs to change.

    I hope that as my blog grows I’ll have more opportunities, but so far I’ve only been invited to attend two “trips” and it was a learning experience for both me and the host. I love the idea of discussing exactly what is expected upfront so there are no surprises or unrealistic expectations.

    Thanks for sharing your expertise!

  10. Lan Othmann says:

    From my experience, travel industry will contact blogger networks. These network will then propose suitable travel bloggers under their umbrella that meet the industry’s requirements. In this case, bloggers network is the medium between the industry and the bloggers. It is the fastest way for travel bloggers to reach the industry, no?

  11. Great points, Matt. There are quite a few travel bloggers that do a great job of integrating the fact that they are being sponsored in with their social media and blog posts. We all need to remember to be professional and provide value instead of just viewing it as a freebie.

  12. Some great tips here Matt. It’s nice to finally see tourism boards regularly working with travel bloggers to help promote their country!

  13. Omar says:

    Through blogging I’ve learned that quality content will keep you ahead from the casual bloggers. As stated here, content is the key to keep people entertained. I have a photography blog and when traveling I try to talk mor about the places I visit than about what I’ve been doing (it’s not me – it’s them).

    Thanks for the advice on the matter, traveling should be one thing, the ability to show places and magical landscapes is a hard task.

  14. Great post! Some of these things are definitely overlooked by travel bloggers. I’ll refer back to this post when I’m running a travel blog of my own :) Well once I could afford to travel in the first place, that is.

  15. James Greg says:

    Travel blogs are really inspiring and makes readers longing the time and money to see those fabulous destinations in reality. It is true travel blogs should be very accurate and truthful about all the places that are mentioned. Your blog creates a relationship of trust with your readers and it should never be with false claims just to add spice for the sake of max page views. Travel blogs are really getting popular and people feel it necessary to be informed of the places they wish to travel.

  16. Ling says:

    There are thousands of places to cover in a travel blog. Not included how to get there, the events, tips and lots of other information. It’s a never ending topic.

  17. Nice write up Matt. I agree that honesty and openness is the best way to go for both your own reader and the PR/Travel company. When you consider the value to your reader it helps set the course for your writing, advice, and reviews. PR and Travel firms are beginning to see the benefit of working with travel bloggers because of the trust we have with our audience. While they want and in some cases expect good coverage, it is up to us to stick to an ethical standard that prioritizes our readers and not the income. Now on the flip side, we are also not investigative journalists. If I have a horrible time at a destination, or a press trip gets messed up I usually just choose not to write about that place. I’ll give the offending place a heads up and ask if they still want me to write given my feelings. Usually they say no. Of course if a place is trying to take advantage of travelers or have an unethical business practice then the warning blog post goes out. If the place was just dirty and needs a paint job…I’d rather find something else to write about.

  18. Paul Hewson says:

    Matt – Here’s a fifth tip you can add to your list. Make sure you proofread your article before you publish it. This way when everyone on the planet reads it, you don’t look like a tool.

  19. Greg says:

    Nice and informative post
    I currently run a travel niche blog focused on Finland.I agree that the information I offer readers is useful to them and not so much about me and my dreams.
    With a sudden explosion in page views I am having to stand back and evaluate how my blog can best serve my visitors
    I now more than ever look closely at geographical factors to determine what my readers are searching for
    Thanks for the valuabl,e tips
    Greg

  20. Jake says:

    Great tips Matt. I work on the other side of the fence and run a ecotourism and volunteer work company in Ecuador with a blog that helps us promote and boost the sites ranking in google, we often put customers testimonials on the blog which gives us an endless supply of content. I havent explored this idea of getting other travel bloggers to blog about us but it seems like it could be quite handy to get the word out.

  21. rosemary says:

    great post indeed….I am wondering if my blog is NYC related, how would I get into maybe obtaining hotel rooms for comp or half in order to write up a review? as of now the write ups I do are trips I plan myself and pay for but would be nice to stay in different places to review for my readers. Does contacting them directly sound like something I should think about? I do get many invites now for media events in the city to cover and many companies sending items to review as well .

  22. Some great points here Matt. I haven’t come across any travel bloggers who have abused their clout, but I’m sure they are out there. Love the point about advertorials — that’s a real turn-off for me and many like me. People want (and appreciate) honest reviews, not a love-in.

  23. Turtle says:

    I think there’s a key point here and that’s the difference between a travel blogger and a travel journalist. Both are often give free trips to explore a region and then write about it… but the travel bloggers have the flexibility to make it more personal or more interactive with their readers. That means that bloggers who are wanting to work with travel companies should make sure their posts bring a destination to life in way their followers can appreciate.
    The number of readers, posts, tweets, etc are important to agree on but the most important thing should be that the style of the final product represents the blog and the blogger. If travel companies do their research properly and bloggers are true to themselves, then hopefully everyone will be happy with the outcome of these partnerships.

  24. Humaira Riaz says:

    You have shared some really great tips. I have been blogging since 2004 but i have only recently started blogging professionally. It’s awesome but it has it’s down sides as well. Would you be kind enough to talk about the best ways to market your blog? Cos honestly it is getting a little annoying to do it via twitter, people get irritated and even mark you off as spam!
    Or if you have already talked about that issue, could you please share a link? Thank you!

  25. Great post! Especially well timed after the World Travel Market. I think the biggest thing I learned from the other bloggers there (and you nailed it in the post) is you have to say NO to some trips after finding out what the PR/Tourism board actually wants. Especially when they do not relate to your niche as ultimately you will drive traffic away from your site. However, in saying that there is the opportunity to pitch an idea to them about opening up your niche that they may not have thought about. But again, don’t pressure them as a Travel Blogger.
    All very new to us anyway so learning lots, but learning from the best!
    Cheers