After an incredible buffet lunch at the 5 star Mainport Hotel as part of the Travel Bloggers Unite (TBU) conference in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, we divide ourselves into groups to talk a bit more about the niche we’re most interested in. There is a Luxury, Adventure, Native Language and Budget Travel Room and I decide to join in on the last one. Time for TBU YOU!
Budget travel is not just about money saving tips, it’s about value of money
Kash Bhattacharya (Budget Traveller) leads the panel and starts a great group discussion about the (budget) travel blog opportunities and misconceptions we sometimes face. He is joined by Kate McCulley (Adventurous Kate), Michael Tieso (Art Of Adventuring), Carol Driver (TNT Magazine) and Jane Meighan (Runaway Jane).
We talk about a lot of things, but the one thing that stands out for me is that a blogger tends to wear many hats and that there is a variety of projects we can work on. We are both writers and publishers and we have to keep being creative to get noticed.
Budget travel is not just about bringing money saving tips anymore. A lot of companies seem to think that budget travellers don’t have money to travel, but that image is not correct. Most budget travellers look for value of money instead of just cheap travel options alone and they do have money to spend. Actually, the average spend of travellers have doubled in the last 10 years!
People just want to get the best experience they can get and spend their money differently than the travel industry is used to. Kash is the perfect example of this, as he just started a very successful ‘Luxury Hostel’ section on his budget travel blog!
“We have to lose this idea that budget travel means staying in crappy hostels.”
It seems that terms such as ‘backpacker’ and ‘budget traveller’ are misunderstood by quite a few people and we must actively try to rebrand these words to create a more positive image. People use ‘independent traveller’ or ‘flashpacker’, but it’s really about creating more awareness for this type of travel that will help.
If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it
In the discussion about making money directly from your travel blog, we talk a lot about branding. The idea that my blog really is a brand is something I always had in mind and as I’m at that point now where I get offers for sponsored posts and paid links a lot, I have started thinking about the direction I want my blog to go in. Kash strongly suggests to turn offers down if they don’t feel right, if they don’t match the brand you’ve designed, or integrity might be lost. He tells us to be honest to ourselves and I’m glad he says that as I feel like I should take a part in this, but I don’t really want to!
Adding the fact that Google will soon start punishing sponsored links and posts, bloggers will have to become more creative (even more?) to connect blogs and companies. But it can be done, we can give more value to a piece of content in various ways.
The key is to have a conversation with the company / tourism board you want to work with and to negotiate. On-going relationships can be formed. You can even become a brand ambassador. Normal journalists don’t normally cross to other platforms, but as a blogger you can use Social Media real time and bring so much more value. Just make sure you only pitch to companies of activities you actually like to do and write about.
Photo Credit: Erik van Erp on TravelNext
Budget travel is something for all ages now
A budget traveller is associated with young backpackers most of the time, but this is another misconception we must educate companies about. The 30+ age group, pensioners and even families travel on a budget and make more a less the same choices as the younger travellers do. We have to start thinking about an older demographic too when talking about budget travel.
The terms ‘budget travel’ and ‘luxury travel’ are just really hard to define. Because where does budget stop and where does luxury start? It totally depends on what you want to save money on and where to spend it personally. A couple of companies seem to understand this shift in budget travel. They offer ‘family rooms’ in traditional backpacker hostels, or upscale their hostels to fit more types of budgets.
Especially when it comes to accommodation, hotels and hostels have to step their game up a bit, as with projects such as AirBnb and Couchsurfing, value for money seems to become the standard and people take more initiative in finding the best way to spend their money while travelling.
Bloggers need to offer more practical information – and be honest
As a lot of bloggers still mainly write about their personal experiences on the road, they need to start thinking about what their readers want. And that is practical information about the costs of a service or activity. You really need to become your own editor and check your facts. Take responsibility if your aim is to be a professional.
To keep their narrative tone and still provide practical information, Carol from TNT suggests to add a fact box to the bottom of the article that covers essential information. Answer the ‘who, what, where, why and how much?’ questions and you’ll gain a lot of interest to your articles. And of course, you might not know everything, but that’s ok. Engage with your readers and companies to share their tips too!
“Cover your basics and people will stay on your blog longer, up your game and you will become an authority.”
Another thing to consider is the ethical side of blogging. If you had a bad experience on a trip (sponsored or not), you should make this know to your readers and don’t lie about it. With social media, your readers have incredible power and when you are selling lies, they will know. This affects your credibility as a blogger. Don’t keep (negative) current events out of your blog either. Use it and offer solutions, be positive.
Last, but not least, be aware that as a blogger, you do have a big influence. No matter how big your site is. Think about it, says Melvin from Traveldudes, who just walked in. With 2000 followers a month, you’re no longer have just your family and friends reading along, with 20.000 you’re pretty much running a local newspaper on your own. With 200.000 readers, you are the New York Times.
Action Points: How do (could) you provide your readers with tips to create value of money? What companies and projects could you link to that idea? Write them a pitch! And don’t forget to add practical information (fact boxes) to your (previous) posts.
You can read all tweets from TBU Rotterdam back under the hashtag #TBURTM
Time for you to think about all this, while I go and sort the rest of my thoughts out! Will come back to you with my recap of things learned at the second day of TBU Rotterdam. There is so much more to share with you! Feel free to leave a comment with remarks and/or questions.
Read all my posts about TBU Rotterdam 2013:
- Visiting a travel blogging conference as a newbie: TBU Recap
- Why my brain exploded at TBU Rotterdam – Day 1 Morning Sessions
- TBU Rotterdam Recap – Niche Blogging: Budget Travel
- Practical Blogging Tips From TBU Rotterdam – Day 2 (Before Lunch)
- Practical Blogging Tips From TBU Rotterdam – Day 2 (After Lunch)
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