News of a few press trips run by national DMOs and focussed on travel bloggers have landed in our email/gossip box over the last few weeks and I think they’ve really got it so wrong.
One, run by or somehow remotely facilitated/related to a certain Southeast Asian tourism board and a third travel website is simply too wacky to go into and is more a tacky link buying exercise than anything else, so I’m not going to bother with it here. No doubt it will serve as fodder down the path for some case study in what not to do.
But another, associated with another country’s tourism board, is more conservative and typical in structure. A mix of local and foreign bloggers get flown and shuttled around the country on a “best of the top shelf” tour of the country. Inbound flights and all expenses are covered — so the airlines, travel agents and hoteliers are all in the mix. In return the bloggers are required to blog regularly about what they are doing and push their work out through social media and so on — thus introducing the country to their varied readerships.
It’s no different to when a bunch of newspaper hacks get flown around the shop to fill the next few months of Sunday supplements.
Regardless of the bloggers all forming their own opinions/not being influenced blah blah and what not, everyone who put a comp in wants a piece of the pie. The airline gets a mention, perhaps the hotels do, and, of course, by writing about top shelf displays, the various travel agents who can organise these various jaunts will hopefully get a bit of business as well.
At the end of the day, the bloggers have all become copywriters for the various vested interests and that kinda sucks.
What is perhaps a better approach?
Tourism board does its research. Finds six prolific writers — whether they call themselves bloggers, travel writers or journalists — from around the world who have readers in target markets. Gets in touch. Asks about stats, readership and so on. Finds out more about their personal interests, what they know about the country and what they don’t know but want to learn.
Sorts the writers out with a return ticket. For whenever they want.
Gives each of the bloggers say US$7,000 and says:
Come to my country.
Travel for as long as you want.
Where you want.
How you want.
To grow your site.
To serve your readers.
To present the destination country, warts and all.
Then, they give the blogger a phone number and say:
If you need a hand organising something, give us a call and we’ll put you in touch with the right people. You’ll pay for it (out of your kitty) of course, but we’ll use our contacts to help open the doors you need opened.
There is zero editorial oversight.
The writer is under no obligation to write anything.
Surely that’s a better result for everyone on board?