We recently spent 3 days on the Gold Coast with Tourism Queensland and Gold Coast Tourism on a hosted tour of the region. We were joined on the tour by other guests representing international agencies involved in the youth travel market for Australia. Our friend, Brooke Schoenman, from Why Go Australia joined us. It was a fantastic opportunity for us to experience, not only the beautiful Gold Coast, which I am currently in love with, but to also get quite an insight into the travel industry.
The Travel Industry
I couldn’t help but get really excited to know that I was involved in the travel industry. From the government departments, small businesses, travel bloggers, and down to the end users the travellers, all I saw was an industry that was based upon people helping people.
I know the cynics out there are going to say its all about money, and yes of course it is, but isn’t everything? So with that out of the way, I was able to see how each person of the the travel industry fits in and how important each person is to that industry. They have to work together otherwise it will fall apart and it is just a too big a piece of the economical pie of most countries.
In fact, the travel industry is the biggest industry in the world, and for many countries it is their biggest form of national income. It is a big deal. And because of that, it is important that each sector to the industry helps prop each other up. On our hosted trip, we had a government department involved who was helping small businesses, help writers, help travellers. Every party benefited to the interactions.
The tourism departments have a very important job to do in getting people to come to their regions. In doing that they need to support the businesses and experiences that are to be had in that region. One way of doing that is to bring in those wholesalers and agents who inform would-be-travellers of what is available in that area, to come along and try these experiences for themselves.
Seeing this interdependency got me really excited about travel blogging, not that I wasn’t already. But, I felt happy to know that I was in the unique position to help travellers like myself really know and understand what a region was like, what experiences could be had there, and how they could do it on a budget. I could be a part of bringing that experience alive for them and helping to inspire them to do the same. I think travel bloggers are now becoming a very important part to the travel industry and should not be ignored by related tourism departments and travel related companies.
Travel Bloggers Role
Travel bloggers have an authentic voice. They tell things as they see them, and are more real to their readers. Much more so then a marketing brochure or tourist board website. Travel bloggers write straight from the heart, they shoot videos that are usually not tourism-marketing-award category,and take an abundance of photos to share; photos that have themselves in them actually experiencing the experience, not just a model who was called in for the photo shoot.
In each aspect of these multi-media representations comes a personal touch. Do you want to see a rock climbing God scaling the limestone cliffs in Krabi or do you want to see your regular backpacker try and fail over and over again, and know, hey if he can do it so can I and it sure looks fun trying?
Travel bloggers aren’t really obligated to anyone, except their readers to be true to their message and their passion for what they are writing about. Therefore they can be real. There is no massive marketing budget or expensive office overheads riding on their heads.
On our blog, our message is always about creating memories on your travel and living your life so it’s a story to tell. As a travel blogger, we want to present the stories behind the experiences, which is what you will find absent in your traditional marketing methods. You’ll see in my related blog posts about learning to surf in Coolangatta and our stay at Komune and Aquarius that my reviews are very personal and authentic, written to inspire you to try the same thing.
Travel bloggers are usually always upfront with any media or press trips they have been on as well, which at times I feel having to put a disclaimer up is very bizarre. I don’t see disclaimers up on my local “McDonalds is Great” sign. Warning: we are trying to get you to buy burgers and make you fat. I mean its a given.
But when you do have a blog that is full of personal stories, tips and advice it is important to let your readers know when the free stuff comes, in case you may be biased in your interpretation of the experience. But, if you have always been trustworthy and upfront with your readers, then this should never be a problem.
However, another great thing about travel bloggers being a part of the industry is that there is never the expectation that you have to write about the free press trip. I know of people who have taken press trips and not written anything about the place they have been or the experience they have had. That doesn’t sit well with me at all, and seems to be very greedy and self-centered.
I think you can write honestly and fairly about anything and always include at least one positive statement. I think most press trips won’t be offered up by dodgy two bit operations anyway and writing something about it is just showing some appreciation back in return. These are people putting their trust in you to help them.
The Right People and Powerful Voices
The recent Oprah Winfrey juggernaut in Australia is proof of what one voice can do. True, none of us bloggers are of her stature and power yet, but this is an example of Tourism Australia being visionary in their marketing strategy. Government bodies and travel companies have the opportunity to work with travel bloggers like this on a smaller scale.
What I love so much about Oprah is the total gratitude she shows for the experiences she gets in life and her open willingness to share it and give back. This is the attitude we as travel bloggers must have when we get the free press trips.
Oprah was shown a great time here in Oz, she absolutely loved it, her passion for it really shines through, and she now wants to become a voice for the wonderful destination Australia is. And the cynics say “But she was paid X millions of dollars to shout from the roof top.” Maybe, but you cannot disguise authentic passion, nor gratitude, nor the desire to want to inspire and help others- and these three things have the power to move mountains. It is why people listen to her and why she has monumental influence.
What you write about an area or an experience may inspire someone to go out and try something they have never done before. It may inspire them to create a meaningful memory for their life, and having the opportunity to be able to help someone like this is really rewarding. And it in turn helps the people or area who sponsored your trip in the first place. Win Win Win– and I’m all about everyone walking away with smiles on their faces, and this is why this industry can be so great.
I think travel bloggers will begin to become more recognized as an influential member of the travel industry and I hope this never gets abused by those out trying to grab some freebies. That could be disastrous for those who have good intentions, who are passionate about the benefits of travel, and who want to make a difference.
And I hope that those companies and tourist boards that want to take on partnerships with travel bloggers, do their research and have the intuitiveness to find those representatives who aren’t just in it for themselves. This could prove disastrous for travel companies, as they will lose some of their trustworthiness for not having authentic people represent their brand. If you are going to play a part in this industry, then play it well.
As a travel blogger, you hold a responsibility to be honest and trustworthy to all those involved in the industry who support you. It is a fabulous industry to be a part of, as let’s face it it is about joy and happiness, and who doesn’t want to help gift that to others.
I get excited to know that I can help others be a success in their business, while at the same time help other travellers have a meaningful travel experience, and as a result I get to spend my days doing something I love. Win Win Win. I think I have the greatest job in the world.
What are your thoughts?