Despite an increasingly blurred line between the two, travel bloggers and travel journalists are seen as two very different entities.
Despite an increasingly blurred line between the two, travel bloggers and travel journalists are seen as two very different entities. With online media dominating and overtaking the print world, one has to wonder whether travel journalism is still relevant in such a rapidly changing scene. Yet, what role does travel blogging play and can it actually coexist with journalism?
Travel blogging has been around for years, but has seen a huge rise in popularity recently as people realise what a great tool it is to connect with like-minded people. Anyone can blog, you don’t need to be an eloquent wordsmith to write an engaging and exciting pieces, you just need a focus. With so many travel blogs out there, the best have chosen an angle and stuck to it, such as luxury travel, over 30s travel, gay travel and budget travel. This specialism caters for a specific audience, and as such allows people with similar interests to interact, create a community and share views and ideas.
The travel industry has caught onto this and recognised the potential of blogging. Press trips and campaigns are commonplace in collaboration with top bloggers, with word spreading much faster online. The posts on blogs are immediate and tell us what is going on in the world right now. Blog posts are rarely lengthy, and thus an easy read. Information is quick and snappy, essential when people’s attention span when reading online is surprisingly short. But this does not detract from the quality. The writing is fresh and, unrestricted by marketing and advertising contracts, does not shy away from being honest about the blogger’s experience.
Almost every blog will have posts about a crappy hostel, a trip which went horribly awry or how a popular destination might actually be overrated and disappointing. Travel blogging is a necessity in an age where people want information fast. It is the perfect way for writers to get their name out there and build a community of people with the same interests. But that is not to say travel journalism is irrelevant.
Travel journalism serves a very different purpose. Rather than recount an experience and reveal snippets of advice in shorter blog posts, journalism takes the reader on a more literary journey. But, travel journalism needs to change. There’s no denying the creativity of writers who find a plethora of ways to rewrite tired clichés into beautifully intricate and illustrative language. But rigidity has set in with articles becoming increasingly formulaic and predictable. So many travel pieces wax lyrical about the positive experiences of a location, but few dare to wander off-piste and write a truly honest review.
Melinda Stevens, the editor of luxury travel magazine Condé Nast Traveller, may have written a questionable piece ranting about Ryanair, but it was refreshing in that it shows she is not afraid to flout convention. And more people need to take a leaf out of that book. The occasionally scathing piece, which flags up negatives as well as positives, offers readers a far greater and more accurate insight than the uncritical trailblazing so familiar in travel journalism.
It is no wonder the majority of travel journalism adheres to such a positive style of writing when so much content dictated by advertising and tourist authorities. Although, there are magazines which avoid such associations, like Wanderlust, whose mission statement claims it “aims to inform and inspire…we never guarantee positive coverage.” More need to take this attitude. Yes, people read travel magazine, supplements and publications to be inspired to travel or to see the world through someone else’s eyes, but we are perceptive enough to realise not everything may be as rosy as writers may want us to believe. Indeed, some writers may not have a negative experience when researching a piece, but when they do it should not be ignored. A piece about a location which is utterly dull could be just as interesting if the writer can weave in anecdotes and humour. One only has to read Paul Theroux’s work to get a flavour of someone unafraid to dig beneath the surface and experience what most ignore.
Nonetheless, there is no denying travel journalism’s importance. Rather than recalling facts in a hard news style, travel journalism opens up the world through personal experience. People enjoy travel journalism as a form of escapism and exploration. It opens the world up to those who may not be able to travel, or provides new angles angle on well-trampled destinations. Travel journalism is by no means irrelevant; it just needs to be more engaging, interactive, interpretive, and most importantly, honest.
Travel blogging is not far from this and has become extremely valuable, especially as a social media tool and as a platform for aspiring travel journalists. There is no reason why the two can’t interact, and even learn from one another.