‘New media‘ is rapidly evolving and the number of opportunities to attend press or blog trips are increasing all the time. These usually involve exciting itineraries, providing excellent opportunities to travel, experience new destinations and to rediscover a few familiar ones.
The trips are usually sponsored by tourism boards or possibly a hotel chain, and organised by their public relations agent. The aim, to promote their destination or product, showing participants the most spectacular sights, offering memorable experiences. Passionate local characters discuss their culture, and the cuisine of the region is enjoyed in the best restaurants.
They often provide several stories worth sharing, numerous beautiful images, plenty of bucket-list worthy experiences and almost limitless memories. They represent fantastic opportunities but they are not merely cheap holidays, and this is not always appreciated by others.
Participants attend on a professional basis, this is a job, and whether attending an individual or group trip, bloggers are there to promote the destination. This is not usually difficult, all these places are special, and it is easy to cultivate a positive perspective. It is however, important to retain editorial integrity, if there is genuinely an issue it needs addressing, similarly if the destination has ongoing problems they cannot simply be ignored.
An extreme, but valid example would be visiting Greece during the rioting, and strikes last year, completely ignoring this would have been foolish. It is an issue that cannot be ignored. It needed putting into the context of the difficulties facing the country, but not becoming the overriding subject of the posts.
Generally portraying a destination in a negative way is not the remit for attendance on a blog trip. Taking photographs of the homeless or beggars on the streets, run-down areas or protest marches is fine, but are generally sutiable for personal use. illustrating future unrelated posts. Some may disagree, but tourism boards are unlikely to consider them appropriate in an article which is promotional in its context. There is some responsibility to the sponsor of the trip.
This maybe considered as selling out, I do not agree. We must be professional, this is our chosen employment. Portraying destinations in a positive way is not betraying ourselves or our readers, these destinations are special, beautiful and interesting. The overall experience is a positive one, there maybe some minor issues but they are quickly forgotten, and do not reflect negatively on the destination.
The publisher has a responsibility to provide a flavour of the destination, providing quality content. Storytelling is important to travel writing, explaining the nuances of the culture, such posts will provide their readers with honest insights.
A client would be foolish to invite any media to their destination if it does not produce. They must have 100% confidence in the quality of their product.
However there are other travel opportunities now becoming available to professional publishers; partnering with tour operators. These are a completely different prospect, they are often about cultural immersion, experiencing the destination in a wholly authentic way.
The culture usually has added significance, and can be portrayed in a less sanitised manner. In fact, it is actively encouraged. People sleeping rough, working girls, ghettos and townships, protests or even riots, nothing is beyond the scope of such articles.
This represents a change in emphasis for modern travellers, most are looking for more from their two week annual vacation. Fewer just wish to relax by a pool, or on the beach, more are seeking cultural immersion, genuine experiences, and memories from their limited holiday time.
This freedom results in richer posts, the average media trip possibly provides between 3 and 5 posts. Having attended numerous press or blog trips, but few sponsored by tour operators, the difference is noticeable. A trip to Cuba in particular, a fascinating and photogenic destination, resulted in well over a dozen posts. This can undoubtedly be attributed to the ability to share the full cultural experience.
I enjoy media trips, they are great experiences and often involve some amazing people, creative writers, talented photographers who have their own perceptions, and insights to share. It also seems possible that as cultural immersion becomes even more important to travellers, clients will become more amenable to posts that share the less glamorous side of a destination.
There are several forward thinking tourism boards that may dispute that they are not already open to this. To date I have not had to deal with any tourism professional attempting to influence or restrict the published material. However, equally they do not seem ready to see images of the homeless, or protest marches within posts published from a trip.
It is probable that as new media becomes accepted, and it’s value recognised more tour operators will become open to using it to promote their itineraries or products . Visiting these destinations on an arranged itinerary with a tour operator can offer a more authentic travel experience that allows storytelling from a slightly different perspective.
The last couple of years have seen a huge growth in social media, personal website publishing and the opportunities available to those able to benefit from new media. It is far from exhausted, there are new developments occurring almost weekly, the next few years are likely to provide yet more developments. We live in exciting times.
What are your thoughts, how will blogging continue to develop, and how should new media professionals balance promotion with story telling?