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How to Find Blog Trips
So the big questions of the day: if you are not making money travel blogging, what else is there? Answer: Blog Trips. Sometimes called ‘sponsored trips’, ‘press trips'(for traditional media), or more succinctly: “free” vacations¹.
I started out this week by going to the Super Bowl of travel networking events, World Travel Market in London, in order to learn more about getting blog trips (one of the perks of travel blogging). Unlike previous conferences that I have attended, which focused on travel bloggers only, or extremely boring academia and their methological research methods and measures, this conference was comprised of the entire travel industry – from tourism boards of countries to hospitality companies to travel agencies – all came from around the world to attend the big show in order to increase awareness of their brand. As such, if you are interested in becoming a travel writer, travel blogger, travel agent, travel asshole who consumes copious quantities of anything free in his path because he is so impoverished and malnourished from living a faux lavish lifestyle by actually believing he can make money travel blogging (sucker), this is the place to start.
I could get all nit picky about the differences between sponsored trips versus blog trips or anything else regarding the subtle nuances of the travel industry, or I could get all long winded like I usually do, but let’s just skip the foreplay and get down and dirty: tourism boards and travel agencies want press exposure. They want people to discover their country and be inspired to take their dream vacations in the country they represent. Traditionally, this exposure was done in the form of sponsored press trips by old school media, say print (magazines, newspapers), radio or television, but with the emergence of the Internet and blogging, the traditional mediums aren’t the only game in town anymore, and more progressive, social media savvy tourism boards recognize this (ie, do I want another article written like a press release, read by people who read press release magazines in the travel industry, OR should I bring travel bloggers to my country who maybe have a smaller reach, but their reach is more personal and trusted?). Ergo, the birth of sponsored blog trips, or free lavish vacations you never got as a child.
Note – Of course there is this big esoteric debate, about “whether bloggers are professional writers” and we could get into this long ramble about a lack of professionalism and the old school hardcore research/framework/industry standards that are lacking or whatever, but for the purposes of our dream travel job – free sponsored blog trips and making money by travel blogging – we don’t give a fuck. For real. Let the kool aid crowd (self-obsessed bloggers who pontificate about how “their readers and fans” adore them and the old guard paper gang (see: future occupy movement handout seekers) deal with the academic debate and the way things were in the good ol’ days – we care about what the market wants. And the market wants real genuine information from trusted sources, not paid for press releases or questionable “guide book” information. Likewise, there is another ethical debate, whether getting a free sponsored trip might just tarnish your true opinion of a given trip/country (duh), but as I said before, I will let you deal with your moral/ethical demons yourself, like the
alcoholic abusive neglective hands-free dad that I am.
After attending WTM, it has become abundantly clear to me that travel blogging is here to stay, that more and more tourism boards are receptive to the idea of sending bloggers on sponsored blog trips in order to promote their city, region, country…etc. There is a lot of value with having a traveler who has a following of people who actually are more personally connected than having some bland press release style media. And while I remain a skeptic as travel blogging as a sole income producer in and of itself (without having a freelance biz on the side) or the ability to make money online with ease craze, I am a believer in the value exchange of sponsored blog trips many cases.
Now how do you find these sponsored trips? In short, by contacting the tourism boards (or you can talk to specific agencies/companies), and simply ask if they are interested in working with bloggers or if they have any upcoming blog trips. How do you find the tourism boards? You can find them online, or even better, you can connect with them personally at an event like World Travel Market – so they can see you aren’t some pimple face kid in your parent’s basement.
But how do you actually GET a sponsored blog trips you might ask? And what should you be doing at networking events? Good questions, ones I will address in the coming weeks but – in a nutshell, it comes down to having a cool blog with real readers, network like a street walker on rent day, and drink with every countries’ PR rep at every stand until you can’t stand – like me. My mum² is proud.
¹-The question of “free” is very much a question, as it can be a horrific marathon of a tour, with the expectation that you are earning your keep, ie promoting what you just did via social media, writing. As such, it can be a ton of work, which is one of the reasons why many travel bloggers don’t accept such “free” trips. Because it really ain’t free. But then yo mama probably told ya that.
²British English for mother, or mom (yes, it does sounds dainty & a bit gay – so very British)