It’s 2015 and a Google search for “travel blogging” brings up over 29 MILLION results. This includes a number of articles on how to make money as a travel blogger and how to start a travel blog as well as lists of the best travel blogs and even a link to the Travel Bloggers Association. What started as a hobby for many — and still is for a lot of those who blog about their travels — has become an actual industry that includes not just travelers, but destination blogs that tell travelers all about a specific place.
At one of the recent TBEX conferences (which had over 1000 attendees) bloggers signed up for “speed dates.” Instead of meeting a potential mate, bloggers got to sit down (for eight whole minutes) with registered travel sponsors. The purpose of the “date” was to convince the sponsor to put up the funds for a specific trip that the blogger would then use to build their own audience while providing exposure to the destination.
Sponsored travel is becoming the norm for many bloggers. Instead of selling advertising on their websites or getting paid to write for travel magazines, etc., they are finding sponsors to fund their visits to everything from a B&B in New England to trips to Asia and South America.
In some cases the blogger approaches a potential sponsor with a proposal. This could be a hotel, a transportation company, or even the tourism bureau of a desired destination. If the proposal is legitimate, i.e., the blogger can prove valuable access to their readers and social media followers that is worth the cost of underwriting the trip, then a deal is struck. Other times it is the sponsors who comes up with a package and solicits interest from bloggers. For example, they put together a trip to Thailand that includes a stay at a specific hotel and day trips to nearby attractions and then create a contest where the top bloggers who submit the best writing samples get the trip.
The more personal travel blog has not disappeared. These blogs are written by individuals who would travel with or without a website. They have jobs that require travel or that allow them to take frequent trips. They love travel and love to share their travel experiences. At some point or another, a friend or co-worker says, “you should share those pictures and stories — maybe set up a blog.”
Bloggers like Elizabeth Mann of elizabethmann.org fall into this category. The goal isn’t to make money or create a career. It’s simply to share a love of travel with an audience beyond their immediate friends and family. Maybe they hope that their experiences will inspire others to travel more. Maybe they hope that someday they’ll have enough followers to pay for the cost of hosting a website. However, since web hosting is so cheap and there are thousands and thousands of travel bloggers like Trueger who are using free sites like Tumblr and Blogspot the latter is not a necessity.
Whether the future of travel blogging will skew towards more and more sponsored trips or continue to include writers who use the more traditional model of advertising and paid writing gigs, the personal travel blogger will likely remain a fixture of the internet. For those seeking advice about travel destinations and the “how to” of travel, having all three types of blogger only increases the chance of finding the information and inspiration audiences seek.