Once a novel concept, the idea of a travel blogger is now a mainstay to our industry – an outcome of the internet age and accelerated even more through the advent of social media and mobile communications.
Taking it upon myself to become acquainted with this journaling force, I annually attend a convention of travel bloggers entitled TBEX, which last year happened to be conveniently located in my hometown of Toronto.
How things have changed in the past few years since I first reported on travel bloggers. Some 1,300 delegates converged on our convention center to hear a number of excellent speakers outlining various approaches and recapping the state of this fledgling journalistic market segment.
With concurrent workshops and presentations, it was impossible for me to scope up more than a quarter of the material disseminated. The content that I garnered was highly informative, but the bigger takeaway was the recognition that travel bloggers have gained within the industry. The media marketplace, common to traditional PR programs, was in full swing. Interestingly, there were fewer hotels represented; it was more about destinations and tour operators.
What I learned: not all travel bloggers are equal. Many travel bloggers have established niches and have accrued loyal followers. In effect, the more sophisticated bloggers have become specialized in a manner akin to print publications with topics such as family travel, romance, gay travel, honeymoons, and so on.
Digging deeper, you will find that these bloggers' viewers are very active in terms of their responses, signifying a very strong bond with the blogger, far more passionate than what you could expect from print or broadcast media. Just imagine a newspaper where every article had a continuous stream of letters to the editor.
The question I pose is this: how does a hotelier penetrate the travel blogger realm? The answer is through individualized communications. The hotelier needs to understand what their property offers at its core. Based on this, you must find bloggers who would be specifically attracted to your value proposition. Hotels have to build relationships with bloggers in a similar fashion to traditional media members – one at a time and through diligent courtship.
In an era of mass communications through social media, it may seem somewhat archaic to look at travel bloggers this way, but indeed the industry has matured to the point where bloggers should be held in equal respect with mainstream media. I think of it as breadth of sale (broadcast media with many readers but only cursory interest by that audience) versus depth of sale (niche travel bloggers who have few readers but a devoted following).
One of the issues that was addressed at the TBEX Conference was how bloggers get paid for their work. In effect, reporters working for mainstream publications have a salary. Why not travel bloggers? Advertising fees from banner ads and pay per click?
It is an interesting issue. Hotels provide rooms and quite often ancillary services such as meals. These have a cost to the property. To add a fee to the blogger seems to run counter to the concept of fair reporting. It remains an open issue, one that will continue to gain discussion as bloggers grow in prominence.
One thing for sure; travel bloggers should be on your radar. Start by finding those that are consistent with your property's USP. Maintain close contact with those that are providing you with positive reinforcement of your brand values.
Larry Mogelonsky (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the president and founder of LMA Communications Inc. (www.lma.ca), an award-winning, full service communications agency focused on the hospitality industry (est. 1991). Larry is also the developer of Inn at a Glance hospitality software. As a recognized expert in marketing services, his experience encompasses Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts and Preferred Hotels & Resorts, as well as numerous independent properties throughout North America, Europe and Asia. Larry is a registered professional engineer, and received his MBA from McMaster University. He's also an associate of G7 Hospitality, a member of Cayuga Hospitality Advisors and Laguna Strategic Advisors. Larry's latest anthology book entitled "Llamas Rule" and his first book "Are You an Ostrich or a Llama?" are available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
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