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Travel Journalists – The Black Sheep of the Travel Industry

Hotel review of travel journalists with notebook and pen. Image by

The Travel Journalists are Coming

The lodge manager gave me a smile and a small nod, as I said good morning to him. His face immediately went back to the worried expression he had had before I entered. His mind was somewhere else, and the slight discomfort was surrounding all the lodge.

He saw my questioning look and said: “We have a group of travel journalists coming today.” He smiled sheepishly. He didn’t have to say more. We both knew.

The Fear of Contamination

Hotels and tour agencies fear travel journalists. Everyone in the tourism industry knows it – at least everyone but the journalists themselves. But why?

Their standards are higher than most ordinary tourists’ and they are much harder to impress!

Travel journalists are used to receiving a little extra attention when they are invited to try out travel products and services. They get room upgrades, extra wide smiles, requests are met, names and titles are remembered. They are used to receiving special treatment, and perhaps begin to expect that as their journalism careers progress. Put simply, their standards are higher than most ordinary tourists’ and they are much harder to impress.

If hotels have a slight fear of travel journalists, they are terrified by the thought of hosting a group of them. One comment about a dusty spot on the floor, squeaky noises from the aircondition, or an under-cooked carrot can contaminate the conversations, and soon everyone is adding up on the pile of things that could be improved at the hotel. A group of guests with negative impressions of the hotel is bad enough. Now imagine what a group of journalists who spread these sentiments can do to your travel business.

The Pen of Truth

When the travel journalists put pen to paper and publish their reviews in public media, that’s when their tourism hosts learn their fate. It’s a bit like that moment when you receive your exam score and learn whether or not you dodged a bullet; that is, until the next time you’ll be put on trial.

As the travel journalist writes his or her review, it will guide readers’ impression of the hotel or tourism service, and be a big influencer in their travel decision-making. This is why the tourism industry needs travel journalists. They present an opportunity for them to showcase what they are about and to communicate this to a much bigger crowd of potential guests. Engaging with travel journalists presents risks and rewards.

A Moment of Phew!

The travel journalists hurried on to their next item on their busy travel itinerary. This group had been forgiving, nature had shown them extraordinary wildlife to write about, the guide’s jokes had caught on, and the mood had been pleasant throughout. The lodge returned to equilibrium and once again smiles were warm and the atmosphere was jovial. The reviews would surely be good.

This time!

A New Era of Travel Experts

We are in a new era of travel reviewers and experts. The judgements of fellow travelers have become monumental in our travel choices. We perceive fellow travelers as honest and unbiased in their reviews of hotels and travel destinations. As reviewers and travel bloggers have taken over much of the functions of traditional travel journalists, the power once held by the latter is diminishing.

However, instead of pampering a group of travel journalists once a while, hotels are now being weighed, reviewed, and evaluated by everyone all the time.

Maybe the travel journalists were not so bad after all?

How to Deal With Travel Writers?

There is not much information on the actual perception of travel journalists within the travel industry. There is however a very interesting talk about travel writers by Mark Chesnut where he examines the evolution of travel journalism, the increasingly blurred lines between travel journalists and travel bloggers, and how to find good travel writers.

Have you encountered travel journalists or bloggers? Feel free to share your experiences below.