Guest Post: Are travel bloggers undermining spirit of social media

The latest blogging trends are a corruption of what the form started out as, says Steve Dunne, executive chairman of Brighter Group 


It was that great Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw, who said: “All great truths begin as blasphemies”.


So here goes. Travel bloggers – have they lost touch with the true spirit of travel blogging?


Now before travel bloggers start madly tapping out an angry riposte, let me clarify. I’m not criticising the art of blogging, or the role bloggers play in the digital world.


Blogging is what the spirit of social media is all about. It is democracy in its purest form: the opportunity to publish one’s views for the entire world to see.


Bloggers who charge


What I am questioning is an emerging trend that is making tourist boards, tour operators and other travel principals increasingly uncomfortable.


I’m talking about the fashion of bloggers to charge tourist boards and travel principals to write blog posts about their experiences of a destination, holiday or travel product.


Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not denying anyone the right to earn money from their activities or to be commercial in what they do.


However, I would suggest that this latest trend is a corruption of what blogging started out as back in the late 1990s.


Blogging is self-publishing. The barrier to entry for anyone to be a blogger is almost non-existent.


Its charm lies in the fact that anyone can write about anything. What they write is generally subjective, sometimes emotional or indulgent, and usually unchallenged by an editor for facts, newsworthiness and quality.


But, as I say, therein lies the charm of blogging. What you read is from the heart, unfettered by commercial or editorial considerations.


Threat to the art


However, I fear that as tourist boards and travel principals have shifted some of their emphasis from traditional media reviews to blogger press trips, and blog posts about their products, the spirit of blogging has disappeared.


At travel seminars we are increasingly told how influential travel bloggers are, how they “move bookings through the sales funnel” and how they get destinations and experiences on to the travel consumer’s agenda.


I don’t doubt it. But if consumers get wind of the fact that some (not all, I stress) of these blog posts are being paid for by the tourist board or tour operator, then the credibility of travel blogging will nosedive.


And this would be a disaster for the art, as travel blogging is currently viewed as the purest form of third-party endorsement – with openness, honesty and transparency ruling the discipline.


I fear that if this emerging trend for travel bloggers to charge tourist boards and travel principals for reviews continues, it could kill off one of the biggest phenomena of travel marketing in the 21st century – and that would be a crying shame.

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