Travel writers and travel bloggers dream of getting paid to do the two things they love most: travel and write.

Hot air balloon over Namibia by Sarah Duff

Photo: Hot air ballooning in the Namib Desert. 
Courtesy of Sarah Duff – a South African travel writer who was commissioned to write about the region in 2013.

However, even in this digital age where content is the new currency, few companies are willing to foot the bill for travel writers’ hedonistic adventures in exchange for stories, photos and videos.

So what exactly do these companies — mostly travel publication and travel companies — look for when hiring travel writers and travel bloggers?

Recent research conducted with twenty-six companies in South Africa’s tourism industry shows that travel companies look for writers and bloggers that (1) meet deadlines, (2) understand the travel brand’s objectives, (3) respond well to critique, and (4) are punctual with emails and correspondence.

Research also shows that writers should (5) have excellent grammar and spelling, (6) have a unique voice, (7) have first-hand experience of the destinations that they are writing about, and (8) have a portfolio of their previous work to earn the rights to travel on someone else’s dime.

Here is a detailed description and the findings of research done to uncover the characteristics that travel companies look for when hiring or contracting travel writers and travel bloggers.

 

Download the PDF: Research into the characteristics that travel companies look for when hiring or contracting travel writers and travel bloggersDownload the PDF version of Research into the characteristics that travel companies look for when hiring or contracting travel writers and travel bloggers

 

Research Objective

To discover which characteristics are the most important for a travel writer or travel blogger to have, when working with travel companies.

Research Method

Thirty-three companies within the South African tourism industry were approached to be a part of the research project.

Twenty-six companies from various sectors of the South African tourism industry responded:

  • Three flight booking websites
  • Four accommodation booking websites
  • Five online travel companies
  • Three tour operators
  • Five hotels / lodges
  • Three tourism bodies and
  • Three digital agencies (these agencies are responsible for content and marketing on behalf of travel companies).

The people who responded were marketing managers, content managers, social media managers, PR managers, editors, online editors and business owners — all of whom are responsible for hiring travel writers and bloggers at their companies.

The research survey consisted of twenty characteristics that a travel writer or blogger may possess.

For each characteristic, the respondents were asked to rate the relative importance of the characteristic by choosing one of these multiple choice options: 

  • Not necessary
  • Handy to have
  • Great to have
  • Essential 

The survey included two open-ended (optional) questions: 

  • Is there anything else in particular you look for in a travel writer or blogger?
  • Is there anything that puts you off hiring a travel writer or blogger? 

The survey was created using Google Docs forms. Respondents were contacted telephonically to explain the research background. A link to the online survey was emailed to all participants. All survey responses were submitted online.

Research Background 

The research survey was conducted in July 2013 by Andre Van Kets, co-founder of Discover Africa Group. The findings of the research were presented at the 2013 Getaway Travel Bloggers Conference in Cape Town, South Africa.

Research Findings

Finding A – The relative importance of each characteristic 

The relative importance of each characteristic is expressed in the graphs below.  

Graph 1: Relevant writing course or qualification

Graph 1: Relevant writing course or qualification

 Graph 2: A portfolio of work

Graph 2: A portfolio of work

Graph 3: Perfect grammar and spelling

Graph 3: Perfect grammar and spelling

Graph 4: Unique voice

Graph 4: Unique voice

Graph 5: Own quality photos to go along with their copy

Graph 5: Own quality photos to go along with their copy

Graph 6: Photoshop or similar photo editing skills

Graph 6: Photoshop or similar photo editing skills

Graph 7: Active on social networks

Graph 7: Active on social networks

Graph 8: A large social followingGraph 8: A large social following

Graph 9: SEO copywriting skillsGraph 9: SEO copywriting skills

Graph 10: Basic HTML skillsGraph 10: Basic HTML skills

Graph 11: Punctual / responds to emails timeouslyGraph 11: Punctual / responds to emails timeously

Graph 12: Responds well to critiqueGraph 12: Responds well to critique

Graph 13: Awareness of your travel brand’s objectivesGraph 13: Awareness of your travel brand’s objectives

Graph 14: Some form of travel industry experienceGraph 14: Some form of travel industry experience

Graph 15: Some form of marketing experienceGraph 15: Some form of marketing experience

Graph 16: Has travelled within the last 6 monthsGraph 16: Has travelled within the last 6 months

Graph 17: First-hand travel experience of the destination writing aboutGraph 17: First-hand travel experience of the destination writing about

Graph 18: A good dose of travel experience around AfricaGraph 18: A good dose of travel experience around Africa

Graph 19: A good dose of travel experience around the worldGraph 19: A good dose of travel experience around the world

Graph 20: Meet deadlinesGraph 20: Meet deadlines

Finding B – Travel writer and blogger characteristics ranked from most to least important 

The relative importance of each characteristic was calculated by assigning a value to each response (Not necessary = 0, Handy to have = 1, Great to have = 2, Essential = 3) and then summing the value of all responses for a particular characteristic to create a “total score” for each characteristic.  

The total score for the twenty characteristics were then compared with one another and ranked from highest to lowest: from most important to least important characteristic.

Chart 1: Travel writer / blogger characteristics ranked from most to least importantChart 1: Travel writer / blogger characteristics ranked from most to least important

 

Research Conclusion

The research shows that some of the most important characteristics a travel writer or travel blogger should have are:

  • The ability to meet deadlines
  • A good understanding of the travel brand’s objectives
  • A portfolio of work
  • Good grammar and spelling
  • The ability to respond well to critique
  • Punctual with emails and correspondence
  • Have a unique voice when writing
  • First-hand destination experience for places writing about 

The research shows that the least important characteristics for travel writers and bloggers are:

  • Some form of marketing experience
  • Basic HTML skills
  • Photoshop or similar photo editing skills
  • Relevant writing course or qualification

Some characteristics had a mixed response from survey participants. They were either very important to some and unimportant to others, or they were viewed with indifference by most survey participants. 

  • Active on social media
  • Some travel industry experience
  • Travel industry experience
  • SEO copywriting skills
  • Africa travel experience
  • Worldwide travel experience
  • Large social media following
  • Travelled in the last 6 months

Interpretation

This research has achieved its primary objective of uncovering the characteristics that matter most to travel companies when hiring travel writers or bloggers — by producing an ordered list of characteristics ranked from most important to least important.

However, there is more to this research than just an ordered list: 

  • The research helps content and marketing managers hire better writers and bloggers. By knowing what their contemporaries in the industry look for, managers can hire with greater confidence.
  • Travel writers and bloggers now have a checklist of 5-10 things they simply must get right. For example: if their portfolio does not reflect the quality of their work – then it’s time to upgrade their portfolio. Or if a writer is slack at meeting deadlines, then it’s time for them to start delivering on time.
  • Many travel writers and bloggers will gain peace of mind. Some characteristics, like the need for a relevant qualification, scored very low in the research. The research suggests that it’s far more important to write well with a unique voice, than it is to hold a degree or qualification.
  • Lastly, the research highlights that not all travel companies share the same views on all characteristics. Thus, it is vitally important that travel writers and bloggers research the companies they’d like to write for before engaging with them. Writers should find out what drives these companies. Does the company care more about great stories or incredible photos? Does SEO matter to them? How important is social reach and a prominent social following to them? These uncertain areas should be addressed on a per-company basis.

Bottom line for travel writers and bloggers: Get your ducks in a row. Don’t sweat the small things. Find out what matters to the company. Then deliver. 

 

About the Author

Andre Van KetsAndre Van Kets is an outdoor-loving Capetonian with a deep passion for Africa, travel, technology and marketing. He applies these passions on a daily basis to the online travel brands that form part of the Discover Africa Group: Drive South Africa, Overlanding Africa and Discover Africa

Connect with Andre on Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+.

 


Download the PDF: Research into the characteristics that travel companies look for when hiring or contracting travel writers and travel bloggersDownload the PDF version of Research into the characteristics that travel companies look for when hiring or contracting travel writers and travel bloggers

 

Networking. Learning. Laughing.

That was my overwhelming experience at the 2013 Getaway Travel Bloggers Conference in Woodstock yesterday.

With 120 attendees (mostly independent or travel industry bloggers/marketers) and 15 awesome speakers from all corners of the digital/travel wagon-wheel, notebooks were crammed with “do this when I get home” tactics and plenty of nuggets of inspiration.

As a wannabe writer, I learnt. As an online travel industry member, I was proud.

I had the privilege of sharing my thoughts on what bloggers need to be aware of when working with travel companies:

 

Working with travel companies:

#1 – Know your blog’s most important metrics, so you can gauge your level of success on a local and international scale.

#2 – “The dream” is to be sent on exciting all-expenses-paid writing assignments, right? To achieve this level of travel blogging nirvana, you need to keep one thing foremost in mind: the company footing the bill, wants a return on their investment. If they don’t get it, you won’t be getting the call-back. ROI FTW.

#3 – What are the things that matter most to travel companies when contracting, commissioning or hiring travel bloggers? A 20-point questionnaire answered by 25 marketing and content managers at some of South Africa’s leading travel companies reveals what matters most, and what doesn’t matter much at all.

 

UPDATE – read a detailed analysis of the travel writer / travel blogger research.

 

Two key resources for travel bloggers:

Discover Africa Group blog skills  - a simple self-evaluation form that allows bloggers to evaluate their own travel blogging awesomeness.

http://moz.com/tools/seo-toolbar – A free browser plugin (for chrome or firefox) that allows you to “look under the hood” of your website (and anyone’s website for that matter) – to find important metrics like number of links pointing to a website, age of a website and the domain authority of a website.

 

We’re on the lookout for a brand champion with experience in content creation, community engagement and online marketing.

You should have a massive passion for travel and Africa.

Here’s the intro to the job description:

 

Discover Africa Group is on the lookout for an analytical-slash-creative person, ready to take ownership of our online travel brands, all the content we create and engagement with our growing community.

As the BC&C Manager you will bring our travel brands to life. You’ll inspire people to travel and most importantly, ensure that they feel 100% confident in planning and booking their African travels with us.”

 

Read the full job description and apply here: Brand, Content & Community Manager.

 

On the lookout for a brand champion

Posted by dalene, January 25th, 2013

At Discover Africa Group, we welcome guest posts, so we decided to draw up a few guidelines to better help your chances of seeing your article appear on one of our travel websites (which we would love).

General Direction

  • We’re looking for useful content that our readers will appreciate.
  • Use personal experience examples wherever you can to better illustrate an area of expertise.
  • We’re looking for new content that hasn’t been on the web before.
  • Please don’t violate any copyright laws. Let’s play nice.
  • We’re not a fan of promotional articles.

Preferred Southern Africa Article Themes

We love content that surrounds the specific locations and destinations we deal with.

  • If you’re able to contribute the following based on them – great!
  • Personal road trip experience stories 
  • Travel route reviews 
  • Destination reviews
  • Travel tips and tricks 
  • Camping or caravanning advice 
  • Travel How-To guides

Initial Contact

Please send an email to greg[at]discoverafricagroup[dot]com, addressed to Greg Meyer, our online marketing mind. In this email, please include:

  • An introduction to who you are.
  • Which website you would like to contribute your post to: Drive South Africa, Discover Africa, or Overlanding Africa?
  • The title of the post you’d like us to feature.
  • Bullet points outlining your topic.
  • Your proposed guest post in a Word doc.

Article Tweaks

We may recommend some changes be made to your article. Don’t worry — it’s a good thing — we just need to smooth out a few rough edges before publishing.

Guest Post Tips

  • Come up with a brilliant title.
  • Make the article scannable.
  • Use subheadings and bullet points where possible.
  • Word length: 500 – 1500 words.
  • Please proofread and edit your post before sending it to us.
  • Include an author bio for your author profile page with your guest post.
  • You may include one link to your website which will appear on your author profile page.
  • Please don’t include affiliate links.

Enjoy writing your guest post! We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Posted by Andre Van Kets, December 6th, 2012

The Content Strategy Forum 2012 was held at the Spier Conference Centre in Stellenbosch earlier this year. The event was attended mostly by content / digital / marketing strategists, with presentations from some of the world’s leading minds in digital, web — and specifically — content strategy.

The event certainly opened up my eyes to the importance of considering content VERY DEEPLY before starting any web project or making any major changes to websites.

My main content strategy take away points from the event were:

1. Content strategy requires teamwork
2. Consider content AND the people that create your content
3. Match your writing to your audience’s literacy level
4. The Five W’s (and H) of content strategy
5. Voice and tone matter
6. SEO is not dead
7. Break your content into chunks
8. Get your developers to wrap your content in metadata
9. Get your developers to embrace web standards (and HTML5)
10. Build platforms that allow users to tell their stories

I’ve written more about these points here - http://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2012/11/28/content-strategy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Andre Van Kets, September 14th, 2011

What do you get when you apply some of world’s best engineers and user experience experts to a multi-billion dollar global industry?

This: https://www.google.com/flights/

Read more here – http://insidesearch.blogspot.com/2011/09/early-look-at-our-flight-search-feature.html

And here - http://www.tnooz.com/article/google-launches-flight-search/

Big questions on everyone’s lips:

Will Google take a big bite out of the online flight booking pie?

How long until they start offering flights to Africa?

Only time will tell…

What do you think?

Posted by Andre Van Kets, July 28th, 2011

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) recently released the first edition of their South African Tourism Industry research report titled Making room for revenue – South African hospitality outlook: 2011 – 2015.

The tourism report presents historical data from 2004-2011 and projects trends for the next 4 years up to and including 2015.

All key hospitality industry factors are covered: visitor arrivals, bed nights, revenue, average room rates, room supply and room demand. The effects of the global economic recession and the 2010 FIFA World Cup are also discussed.Steep decline in South Africa Tourism arrivals: 2010-2011

Steep decline in South Africa Tourism arrivals: 2010-2011

Of the tourism industry’s current suffering status we’ve heard many differing opinions like: Mayday, Mayday – Cape hospitality industry ship is sinking. Others are a bit more optimistic saying that we’re doing ok, and maybe its just time to re-think South Africa’s Tourism Industry approach.

Whatever your personal view, the exact same graph viewed through a slighly different lense (long term trend highlighted in blue) indicates that the upward trend we saw for tourism arrivals to South Africa pre-World Cup, is expected to continue through to 2015.

Upward trend for tourism arrivals to South Africa expected to continue

Upward trend for tourism arrivals to South Africa expected to continue

Well, that’s what the guys at PWC are saying.

And I agree with them.

What do you say?

Posted by Andre Van Kets, July 22nd, 2011

In a (somewhat) surprising move, Google has removed all 3rd party reviews from appearing in Google Maps and Google Places search results.

There’s been an ongoing battle between TripAdvisor and Google for some months. The popular travel review site has asked Google time and again to remove their travellers’ reviews from the results Google displays.

We can only assume that the sudden decision from the Googleplex last night (21 July 2011) is related to the recent launch of Google+.

 

Google Maps and Google Places no longer show TripAdvisor reviews

Google Maps and Google Places no longer show TripAdvisor reviews

 

Posted by Andre Van Kets, July 20th, 2011

I really enjoy spotting special Google logos.

Especially when I learn something (geekishly cool) from the logos like: Jules Verne’s 183rd Birthday, Les Paul’s 96th Birthday or Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s 110th Birthday.

 

Google Holiday Logos

Examples of past Google Holiday Logos

 

 

It’s very seldom that I actually get excited at the PROSPECT of Google paying tribute to someone or something by adapting their logo for a day…

So let’s just say I was rather disappointed to find that there was no Google logo for Madiba on Mandela Day.

Maybe they’ve got a policy of only commemorating departed heroes? Or maybe Mandela Day isn’t such a big thing overseas yet? Or maybe the guys at the Googleplex need some prodding and poking?

Regardless.

I think Mandela is worthy of a special Google Logo. Don’t you?

On a positive note, our team did commit their 67 minutes of duty in honour of Madiba. We even got a mention on the BBC news Africa website. Nice one!

And kudos to the printing company around the corner from our office in Cape Town. I spotted their equivalent of a “Mandela Google Logo” when I popped out for lunch on Monday.

 

 

Mandela Day Google Logo Replacement Image

Mandela Day Google Logo Equivalent

 

That cheered me up.

Happy birthday Madiba. Google logo or no Google logo, we love you.

Posted by Andre Van Kets, June 29th, 2011

We’re looking to hire a junior developer with sound XHTML/CSS/JavaScript/PHP skillz and some exposure to ExpressionEngine (or other CMS’s like WordPress, Droopal, Jumla etc).

We will  accept someone looking for a dev environment where they can learn all there is to know about EE on the job, in a team which includes one of SA’s early adopters of EE, Luke Hardiman.

Good starting salary. Potential for growth. Position available immediately.

Interested? Contact Andre

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