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.
To discover which characteristics are the most important for a travel writer or travel blogger to have, when working with travel companies.
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:
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:
The survey included two open-ended (optional) questions:
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.
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.
The relative importance of each characteristic is expressed in the graphs below.
Graph 1: Relevant writing course or qualification
Graph 2: A portfolio of work
Graph 3: Perfect grammar and spelling
Graph 4: Unique voice
Graph 5: Own quality photos to go along with their copy
Graph 6: Photoshop or similar photo editing skills
Graph 7: Active on social networks
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.
The research shows that some of the most important characteristics a travel writer or travel blogger should have are:
The research shows that the least important characteristics for travel writers and bloggers are:
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.
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:
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.
Andre 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.
About Discover Africa Group
Discover Africa Group is an online travel company that owns and operates some of Africa's top travel websites.
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Discover Africa Group supports the work of the Tourism Community Development Trust in local communities in South Africa.