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

 

3 Comments to “Research into the characteristics that travel companies look for when hiring or contracting travel writers and travel bloggers”

  1. Amazing report Andre. Really insightful stuff!

  2. Bryan Milne says:

    Very interesting, encouraging and true to what I have experienced. Thank you!

  3. @Stuart and @Bryan – thanks for the encouraging feedback.

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