Gone are the days when bloggers were scoffed at by journalists who thought they were just winging it to a free meal ticket. Their prevalent rise into the mainstream has seen them go from irrelevant to influential and they could unlock the gateway to heaps more exposure for your hotel. Jérôme Courtial, founder at JCMT Agency explains how to best utilise these online gurus.
Travel bloggers’ influence seems to increase year on year. They are seen by the travel industry as a cheaper option, at times free, from the traditional travel magazines.
And if it’s true that they offer such things as visibility and exposure, they can also offer so much more; pictures, videos, in-depth reviews, and SEO benefits. And contrarily to a lot of magazines who take their online stories down after a while, bloggers offer long-term value, as their posts will grow more popular with time.
As the number of travel bloggers keeps growing, it can become complicated to make the right decisions for boutique hotels with limited resources.
Which is why we’ve investigated how some of the popular travel bloggers operate.
Walter runs http://travelmemo.com/, a blog specialising in reviewing the best boutique hotels in the world as a side project. A major player in the Swiss market, he declines to take payments for his reviews because he likes to stay impartial and objective. He and his team will also pay for their own flights but expects accomodations to be covered.
Walter applies a very professional attention to his blogging activity and content creation, which is probably why he is so in demand. He also takes his own pictures and videos on site, site and hotels can use them for their own online purposes for free print resolution pictures can be negotiated with the hotel for a fee.
Monica, from the www.travelhack.com , one of the 10 top travel bloggers in the UK, has made blogging her full-time job. She has a team of 8 writers who keep expanding the site’s content and destinations.
Like a growing number of professional bloggers, she expects the hotel to cover for her travel expenses, at the bare minimum. But as she’s really self-conscious of the cost for the hotel, she makes sure she provides great value for money by working extra hard once on location. “I don’t treat this as a holiday, this is work” says Monica, who will be working relentlessly to review the property in the best possible light to her loyal fanbase.
And she gets instant feedback from her readers: “I will know very quickly that 10 to 20 of my readers have travelled to a hotel after my review”. My audience has been following me throughout the years, growing with me. “They trust me more than they trust Tripadvisor reviews”.
And trust is a key point why these travel bloggers are so successful. With hundreds of great hotels and destinations to choose from, planning a holiday can turn into a nightmare. Travel bloggers act as a shortcut for travel decisions. Because their audiences can relate to the bloggers, there is a strong emotional connection that is not present from reading anonymous tripadvisor reviews or magazines.
The film maker
Which is something Joao has leveraged. http://www.joaocajuda.com/. He started his career by posting videos of his holidays and as he started gathering interest online, decided to try to turn it into a living. Four years later, he is now one of the most popular travel bloggers in the world, having just passed the 200,000 fans milestone on Facebook. And they are very much his fans, following with great interest his adventures around the world. His latest video of Indonesia has racked 1.5M views.
He now works directly with hotels across the world offering his video services as well as the opportunity to be featured across his huge following. If most of his work is now paid for by hotels, he still sometimes gets convinced to do one for free, “if the hotel is truly spectacular and the destination appealing to me” – but will still require the travel expenses to be paid.
So how do we find them?
Enters Chris, an industry veteran who’s started his travel podcast 10 years ago that now clocks 4,000 downloads a day, more than 1 million a year. He saw an opportunity for a website to match bloggers and travel companies. Where bloggers could detail their travel plans and companies can invite them once they are on the ground. www.bloggerbridge.com now features more than 3,800 active bloggers, and hotels can contact them directly for a small yearly fee. They can target the right bloggers who will be visiting their area instead of contacting hundreds of bloggers randomly.
Another simple option is to Google and follow travel bloggers who often share their travel plans well in advance on social media and react to opportunities.
Or just asking your current guests who their favourite bloggers are. Some influential bloggers are not specialised in travel, like fashion bloggers, and might therefore be more receptive to a free stay in exchange for coverage.
Monica also recommends asking for their Google analytics and social media statistics. Since a lot of bloggers can inflate their numbers by buying fake followers, this acts as a guarantee that the traffic is genuine and worth the investment.
For Chris, engagement is also another key metric to determine how loyal their audience is. And of course looking at the type of content they produce to see whether it fits the hotel’s brand.
Tips for getting them interested
Successful travel bloggers are in demand. Monica receives at least one invitation per day and can only accommodate a small portion of them. She encourages hotels to try to be memorable and really engage her rather than just send generic marketing messages. And to keep the invitation open, she might not be able to come in the short term, but plans do change.
To pay or not pay
Top bloggers can now command a hefty sum and and if they still do free jobs here and there, hotels would certainly put their chances on their side by at least proposing to pay for their travel expenses.
Which is why Chris encourages hotels and travel attractions to work together to attract the best bloggers. By packaging an entire travel experience rather than just a free stay, they make the whole package much more desirable for bloggers.
Final pro tip:
Once the blogger has come and reviewed the property, make sure you promote their review on your social pages says Walter, who is still surprised by the amount of hotels that don’t.
And don’t be afraid to demand for some accountability, especially if you have paid for the blogger to visit, to make sure there investment was worthwhile.