The Travel Blogger blight.

I am currently sat around the pool in a little three star in Ibiza, contemplating my next post while reading some tweets about  abhorrent travel bloggers and feel compelled to put in my ten-penneth as my mum used to say.
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I can summarise the discussion thus;   Someone has called travel bloggers “warts” and a few travel bloggers have taken offence.

I took a while to thoroughly read the blog post referred to in the original tweet, and then sat back and considered my own standpoint.

The original post makes it fairly clear that the author (who I assume is in the travel business) “abhors” travel bloggers, likening them to parasites by creating their offering solely for the purpose of gaining freebies from travel operators.  He makes the point that professional travel agents often have to commit to years of training and years of experience building to achieve in many years what some bloggers seem to have achieved in a few months. Shades of jealousy?

He makes a point to exclude bloggers who use their blog as a sales tool ( I’m not sure how that argument pans out), and those who relate their experiences as a hobby – that would be me.  So, I can safely say from the offset that I’m not responding as an offended travel blogger.

I’ve been writing about my travels now for ten years, and my first version of http://www.worldtraveller.me.uk was on air long before blogging had become popular.Back then  I was still writing webpages in html and trying to get my head around the new kid on the block – “flash” websites, which were all the rage.  Yes, nowadays a lot of websites and browsers are moving away from flash.  I’m showing my age.

In fact I remember the first blogging templates coming on the market and I couldn’t quite understand why anyone would go down that road.  Of course the smart phone and iPads hadn’t been invented, so in fairness, someone out there had some serious vision.

I’ve moved to full on blogging following a conversation with my daughter, who has a nice little blog running (amessinadress.co.uk) and suggested I move to a blog as a better method of producing my pages.  And she was right, my WordPress based blog is much easier than my previous web editors.

I digress slightly; my point is that I came to blogging from a website technically driven perspective, and was therefore enthralled/ bemused/astonished to find that it was indeed seen to be an industry, capable of providing income of sorts to professional bloggers. And let’s face it, that’s exactly what they are. They are not just savvy, successful amateurs making a quid or two out of their hobby.  This is a full time job for some, with a lot of hard work going into producing the links and intros necessary to get their name up in the top of the leader board and start seeing the revenue coming in.

Do I abhor them? No more than I abhor celebrities selling themselves on Big Brother, sleazy reality shows and those appearing weekly in Hello magazine.  Abhor is a strong word, which I tend to reserve for people vaping in my face and all things appearing on a “fruit de mer” menu.

If I were in the travel business, and the proliferation of travel bloggers was having a measurable affect on my bottom line, then I might be upset.  But as a niave non-travel professional, I fail to see how a travel blogger can cause a travel agent to lose business, unless they actually start selling holidays themselves or become an agent for a travel website.

I do view some travel bloggers sites with some cynicism.  I was recently reviewing YouTube for a good Maldives post, and found what I thought was a travel blog about a particular resort, but it just turned out to be 15 minutes of a young woman dancing around the resort in a skimpy bikini, with very little if any information about the actual resort.  Visually interesting undoubtedly but factually barren.  Did I abhor it? Not at all, she had a very nice figure and exceedingly long legs, but unfortunately I soon found myself skipping to another blog with more relevant content.  Ironically, that particular blog had over three million views, as did many of her other offerings on her channel.    And to be fair, for a second I was slightly jealous of her viewing figures, but then putting it into context, my 3k of views regarding my recent visit to Lanzarote probably are more meaningful in my opinion than three million people ogling her toned figure.

But can you blame a brand for throwing freebies at such Internet stars?  Product placement is everything and if you can get one of your products in front of a three million audience, then you are going to do it.   We were amazed to watch on TV some weeks ago an airline blogger being given a first class flight for free just so he could do a write up on it.  That’s serious money. and to be honest the blog he produced in my opinion was mediocre, but it had the required number of views in the millions, and that’s what matters.  I’m sure he didn’t get there by accident and it took some serious work to build up that reputation.  Well done him.

Now, do I want to get there? Obviously part of me says yes – free airline tickets? Who wouldn’t ?

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(If Qatar Airways are reading we really do LOVE your business class and would welcome some free tickets to have the chance to review it for you again!!!)

But seriously I have to wonder how unbiased these reviews are?  Are you seriously going to slag off a first class cabin if you have been given it for free? Wouldn’t that damage your prospects of future freebies?  Isn’t there always the expectation of bias in such paid reviews?

At least my reviews are based on experiences fully funded and paid for by myself.  I wouldn’t feel comfortable accepting gifts from the places I’m reviewing.  I know, thousands of you are already calling me names.  But that’s my point.  It’s not a profession to me, and freebies aren’t my ultimate goal.  Each to their own.

Back to travel professionals. Travel Blogging must be causing a stir, for them to even waste their time posting about them.  I have friends in proper physical travel shops who are seeing their livelihoods crumble as online shopping takes business away from the high street giants.  Independent high street travel agents are long gone.   Do we abhor online travel agents? No it’s just the way the world is going, much like Amazon is killing high street retail  (Of course, Amazon isn’t killing anything – it’s the people using it instead of getting off their arses and using the local shops that are sealing their fate).

While travel professionals might call their freebies “educationals”, I never heard my travel agent friends complaining about having to go on a two or three day cruise to get experience of the latest ship on the market. Yes, a necessity, yes part of the job, but yes, still seen as a perk.

One of the offended bloggers responded by saying that travel bloggers were essential to travel agents and would become the future of travel sales.  Really? Get over yourself. I have yet to book any accommodation or visit a resort destination on the basis of a single “paid” blogger. Or are these called “Influencers”? I’m still new to the blogging scene.   Yes, I will use YouTube maybe in future research, but I and much more inclined to take a view from people actually using the resort properly, paid for by themselves, and leaving reviews on such places as trip advisor.  And yes, before you state the obvious, I know not all posts on trip advisor are from unbiased unpaid users.  But the day that trip advisor allows reviews from these funded advertising bloggers to rule the roost, will be the day that such travel review sites lose their credibility and alienate their audience of normal users like myself, looking for unbiased views from the general public.

So, no offence taken.  The internet is free to use and has equal and ample space for the hobbyist, those intent on making a living from blogging, and for professional companies.    Learn to adapt, or get left behind.

Oh, I did take a little offence.  But not to the original post.  Someone replied that those NOT out to make some serious benefits (freebies) from their blogging were merely “mundane” bloggers.  Let’s make a deal.  I won’t be offensive about you giving crass, egotistical ‘master classes’ in “successful blogging and in return I would ask that you keep your tiresome unsolicited criticisms about lowly, amateurish bloggers (like me) to yourself.

(NB. Rob and Sue’s World Traveller have not received any payment, inducement or benefit of any kind to publish reviews on this website, facebook, youtube or our trip advisor account, and we can say with certainty that our views are our own and based on actual experiences gained while on vacations completely funded by ourselves). 

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