Your dream of traveling the world for free with complimentary hotel nights and meals and even massages is truly within reach, if you have social media reach.
As someone who has attended several TBEX travel blogger exchange conferences and IPW U.S. Travel Association conferences in the past five years, one of the most common questions I am asked by travel writers and bloggers is why I pay for most of my travel?
It is a common practice In the travel industry to offer complimentary hotels, dining and trip activities to media and travel agents. Destination marketing is all about promoting a place and media is the way to attract attention and promote tourism to a destination, whether it be a restaurant, theme park, city, region, state or country.
Many travel writers arrange most of their travel through press freebies with the assistance of direct marketing organizations. While it is not that common among points and miles bloggers to have frequent complimentary press trips, most travel bloggers who write about destinations seem to arrange the majority of their travel through marketing organizations for complimentary hotels, dining and activities. Getting to the destination is often their primary expense for travel.
The vast majority of my travel is self-funded, but I occasionally travel through press trips. Until this week in Orlando, I have not been on a press trip in more than a year.
This past weekend at IPW Orlando, there was the Lake Apopka air boat ride and tour on Saturday where I photographed birds and alligators and the Luxury Orlando hotel tour of the Ritz-Carlton, Waldorf-Astoria and Four Seasons on Sunday. A press trip is a required component of being a media attendee to U.S. Travel Association’s IPW convention.
Am I allowed to Take Free Press Trips?
One of the questions I was frequently asked by representatives of DMOs this week was if I am allowed to take freebies. Many newspaper and magazine staff are not allowed to accept freebies when they are working on a travel story. I am my own boss and I do not see it as a serious conflict of interest. I can pay for a hotel and write about it or I can stay free at a hotel and write about it.
The main reason I do not arrange many press trips is I want to be in charge of my own schedule and itinerary. He travels fastest who travels alone.
Another reason is my niche as a hotel loyalty points traveler is compromised to a great extent if I do not travel earning and redeeming miles and points. That is what distinguishes our niche of travel blogging from the thousands of destination travel writers around the world.
The reason I like press trips is the ability to see so much in a short time and have a travel specialist for the area share information and itinerary planning that I might or might not learn and experience otherwise.
This weekend I have arranged to visit Asheville and I will spend Sunday at Biltmore Estate. There was a representative from Biltmore at IPW and she has arranged for me to have a complimentary media pass for entrance and audio tour. I could have gone to Biltmore and paid for my own ticket, then write an article without complimentary press admission. This trip is already costing me over $1,000 to come to Florida for IPW, rent a car and visit places on the way to Knoxville, Tennessee, so I appreciate the opportunity to save a little cash here and there.
I’ll also be staying at a hotel in Tennessee with a dinner show I accepted from another DMO. That will be disclosed in my posts when I write about these destinations.
The reason I quickly scroll to the bottom of the page on many blog posts
One of the things I look for when reading destination travel articles on blogs is a disclosure message from the writer. I quickly tire of writers who have glowing reviews of resort after resort and every destination article reads like it is a marketing article, with a line at the bottom of the page stating the hotel accommodation and everything was provided by some DMO. I know several popular travel writers who rack up tens of thousands of dollars in free hotel nights and meals and cruises each year.
I used the opportunity this week at IPW to meet with representatives of places along my route from Orlando to Knoxville. Most of my road trip will still be my traveled and paid for on my own, yet several pieces of my itinerary changed after speaking to representatives from Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee who mentioned specific places and activities that interested me.
Road tripping through the southeastern USA is a journey I am excited to start tomorrow morning. I look forward to sharing some destination stories as I experience them. One aspect of my writing that I think will hold true, regardless of whether I dine or sleep on a press comp or pay my own way, is my voice for the journey will not sound like I write for a DMO.
I try to tell my own travel story in the way I see and experience it.