One of our big roles at Skift is to shine the harsh light on the cozy relationships all across the travel industry, and travel bloggers are one of those we will continue to ask questions about.
This past weekend BBC’s Fast Track travel show aired a report on the state of travel blogging and the debate about the practice’s influence as well as the junket culture that drives it.
Skift has often commented about the historically cozy relationship between the travel industry and media that covers it, whether that be trade magazines opening its pages to travel agents, consumer magazines pandering to advertisers with editorial coverage of products travelers don’t need, and the new generation of travel bloggers scrambling to get noticed.
Marketers and PR people have flocked to this latest wave of travel coverage, attracted by the promise of coverage they can control and clips they can show off to their clients, without any clear picture of the real influence travel bloggers have on general consumers.
The Fast Track program did a ten-minute segment on the junket culture of travel bloggers, and Skift makes an appearance as being one of the most vocal critics of these practices. For us, the most revelatory part was the clip about the session at ITB Berlin where bloggers pimp their wares to travel marketers, in hopes of getting these free trips and other perks. The full show below, the first 10 minutes is the segment on bloggers:
After watching this, lest you be in doubt where we stand, here’s it is:
The problem stems not from freebies, per se. It stems from the disconnect between how travel bloggers position themselves as influencers of consumers.
They are not.
Their audience is a fraction of a sliver of a minuscule, but they make lots of noise.
On a good day, travel bloggers are marketers, and their audience is an echo chamber of equal-minded travel bloggers. Many of them would like to be labeled journalists but don’t abide by standards of disclosure, or put the consumer first when they’re happily hashtagging about the destination footing their bill. The question of who do they serve — the client or a consumer — most often comes down on the side of the client.
If they want to be marketers, that’s fine. But don’t expect to be treated as a critic or a journalist when your master is anything other than the consumer.