White Lies of Travel Writing
According to the BBC, tourism is one of the fastest-growing industries worldwide. Viral travel videos and articles overwhelm our social medias. However, those viral travel articles may contain some white lies. In this article, I discuss the little white lies and bias of travel writing and how to determine if a travel writer is genuine.
Sponsorship and Bias
As consumers, we want honest and unbiased reviews. However, travel writing comes with unique, and sometimes, unavoidable biases. With traditional journalism, writers are compensated for their work by a publisher. However, travel writers are often sponsored by a company, such as a hotel or tourism board. A writer may be provided with monetary compensation. They may also be compensated with free goods and services. In exchange, the writer will construct an article and promote the experience on social media.
To clarify, this does not mean that all travel bloggers are dishonest. It simply means that the possibility of bias is present. A blogger may feel pressured to paint an otherwise mundane experience as a positive one. In the worst-case scenario, a blogger may feel pressured to present a negative or unethical experience as a positive one.
You may also see the term “affiliate link”. This means certain links in an article may provide the writer with compensation if their reader purchases items through the link. For example, a blogger provides the link to hotels.com in their article “Best Places to Stay in New York City”. If the reader books a stay through the hotels.com link, the blogger will receive a small portion of the purchase. Affiliate links are a great way for bloggers to be compensated for their writing. However, keep in mind that they may not use the affiliated companies for their own travels. Consider the example above. The travel blogger may prefer booking directly with a hotel rather than using a third-party website.
Freelance Travel Writing
Some travel writers will construct articles about destinations that they have never even been to. This tends to happen in the freelance world. A client may provide the freelancer with several topics and a tight deadline. The freelancer will then research the topic online and create content from this information. For example, they may be given the topic “The Most Beautiful Waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest”. They can use websites, such as TripAdvisor, to compile the list quickly. Rather than visiting all the waterfalls in the area, they use the reviews of others to decide what locations will make the cut.
How to Find an Honest Travel Writer
To find an honest travel writer with genuine reviews, you have to be aware of how the business works. If you see “#sponsored” or “#ad”, the travel writer has been compensated for their work by a company. This is how travel writers afford to do their job so it comes with the territory. However, it is something the reader should be aware of. My biggest piece of advice is to avoid articles that only give the facts. Find a writer who gives you advice based on their own mishaps; find a writer who tells a story–the good, the bad, and the ugly.
In conclusion, travel writing usually contains an inevitable bias or white lie. As a travel blogger myself, I can confirm that these practices are commonplace in the travel writing industry. Therefore, it is imperative that you find a travel writer whom you can trust.
Who is your favorite travel writer and why? Let me know in the comments!
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