Are Travel Writers Becoming Extinct?
Yes, if all they write about are places they travel to. It seems the traveling public is more interested these days in travel ideas, trends, travel news and technology, than destinations.
Travel writers love to travel. That’s why most of them are in the business.
But it that the right reason?
I don’t think so.
Matador Notebook points out, the world is so thoroughly Googalized, that the tradition of destination travel writers may be coming to an end.
Historically, authentic travel content came from world explorers, cultural investigators and scribes like like Ibn Battuta, W. Somerset Maugham, and even our own, Paul Theroux.
But how relevant can traditional travel writers be in this Googalized world where all kinds of destination travel advice, reports and images are available everywhere?
Do consumers really need another article on the “impossibly blue waters” of the Caribbean or another “Top Ten Destinations,” – or “Top Ten Travel ” anything?
The Society America of Travel Writers, the professional organization representing many travel writers, seems disinclined to look closely at the role and value of travel writers in this time of ubiquitous travel information.
Then there’s the question of motivation.
I read a number of blogs and articles proclaiming that becoming a travel writer was a free ticket to free travel: hotel rooms, airfare, meals. Most everything.
If not free, then deeply discounted. But mostly free.
And after a few conferences, I was, not for the first time, struck by how many professional travel writers measure their success and clout (Klout) by how many press trips they get invited to.
Much of the energy in professional travel-writing conversations centers around how to get noticed by Destination Management Organizations (DMO’s), like public relations or marketing companies, so that the yearned for invite to a Caribbean island or an exotic destination like Bali would be more forthcoming.
Journalists usually chose their professions because they are consumer-facing, committed to providing timely, compelling, useful information to the public. In some cases journalists are actually committed to revealing a truth or exposing unsavory practices. Think Watergate, of course.
Travel writers often seem by comparison to simply want to indulge their passion for travel, and want to write about their trips.
They seem less guided by what information the public needs or wants or finds relevant, and more by the destination the writer wants to visit.
So, something isn’t right when I read a long, puerile thread on Linkedin Discussion Groups about the distance one has to literally travel ( 50 miles?1000?) to be considered a real travel writer.
And then there are those posts with titles like, “So You Want To See the World for Free? Become a Travel Writer”.
In my own practice as a member of the travel writing community, I made the shift to writing about travel trends, technology, travel news and the business of travel.
Of course I like to travel and file a report about an interesting inn or an especially positive travel experience.
I think sometime the public is curious and likes a professional point of view.
But if numbers matter, content about travel brands and social media, or women bloggers or the veracity of TripAdvisor’s reviews, get far more Tweets, comments and views than my St. Lucia story does.
And when I combine an article on how Ireland is cleverly using Foursquare as a marketing tool, and add a video, the content does best.
I still love to travel, and write about it, but my passport is getting dusty.
And I notice really informed DMO’s (and the traveling public) are looking for more than a destination piece on how great they are.
They seem to be moving toward a marketing package that includes their destination, but in the context of travel trends, travel technology and travel news.