Last night’s debate in London, organised by FourBGB and TravelBloggersUnite, brought together bloggers and travel companies and (as far as I am aware) set a precedent in this respect. Both sides listened attentively and I think most in the room would agree that not enough is known about what one side might want or need from the other. Hopefully similar events in the future will eventually help address this.
Travel companies and tourism organisations often talk about the ROI (return on investment) associated with working with bloggers. Those who have invited bloggers on hosted trips will often go to great lengths to argue the merits of the returns that their organisation has enjoyed as a result of their efforts. Others cite their concerns about not getting a measurable ROI as a reason not to get involved with bloggers in the first place.
But what about the bloggers themselves? Shouldn’t they also be considering their ROI when weighing up the offer of a trip? If it is not to be taken as a free jolly then surely it should make financial sense to both sides. This is something I’m struggling to comprehend despite being involved in this murky world for over two years.
Let’s look at it from the blogger’s side. We’ll assume for now that bloggers are not reimbursed with hard cash for attending a blog trip (another topic for debate but let’s leave that aside here).
With no ability to raise an invoice for the time spent on a trip the return for the blogger must be realised in increased revenue from elsewhere. There is a cost in taking a week away from potential money-generating activities at home to spend that time doing whatever fabulous activities are on offer on a trip. If a blog is being managed as a serious business then a blogger must consider their time as one of their most precious resources; for any trip to be financially viable there should be a measurable return on the time invested in the trip.
Can a blogger point to a trip and claim increased ad revenues, higher levels of affiliate sales, more lucrative sponsored posts or greater sales of e-books as a result of their trip? Perhaps blogging photographers have an opportunity to sell their work from such trips and reap a financial return. I’m yet to be convinced that anyone can show a return on a trip that makes attendance on that trip a sound business decision, but I willingly stand to be corrected.
So if it’s not for the money then what’s the point? Well of course there are many good reasons for taking a blog trip; most trips combine great destinations with once-in-a-lifetime activities while the hotels and culinary treats on offer are completely out of reach on a self-funded trip. For many it’s also the chance to hang out with friends they’ve met online or on previous trips.
There is clearly an ROI on a blog trip for bloggers in terms of the experience at least. And that’s no small return; a life of fulfillment surely involves a rich variety of experiences. But for those who are trying to make a living from their blog and for those who see the main thrust of their relationship with the travel industry as one of trying to secure funded travel, I’ve yet to see the viability of such a business model.