Travel Bloggers Get Paid For Selling Dreams

Travel bloggers are selling dreams paid by various tourism bodies. Promoting luxury, fast travel, and the most faraway locations messes up local economies and generates more waste and pollution.

We have been doing workexchange for a hostel to update their website and develop social media marketing. As part of the process, we reviewed their competition and other travel websites. We were surprised by our findings. When we started full-time travel and blogging in 2004, there were hardly any bloggers around. Now the Internet is full of glittering travel blogs selling dreams to their readers and spamming search engines.

Competition demands that travel bloggers offer all the time fresh content, make practical lists, and visit fancy places. This is the way to attract readers and make them return. To finance their travels, bloggers accept freebies from tourism boards, hotels, tour organisers, and sights. As a result, most blogs are paid advertisements with praising reviews.

A few leading travel blog sites acknowledge the corruption, but like always, making money justifies the means. Travel blogging and tourism industry do not tolerate balanced travel writing; they want value for money. Criticism is not fit for this purpose. Tourism is a positivist practice which is interested in numbers. It is OK for example to abuse animals if companies can make more profit that way.

The new elite of travellers

The travel budgets of those travel bloggers who have revealed their income are lavish. They spend more than their readers. Travel bloggers are jetsetters with a backpack and tourism sales reps in T-shirts and shorts.

Travel dreams become nightmares if ecological footprints are considered. Promoting luxury sights and hotels, fastest means of travelling, highest classes and the most faraway places not only messes up local economies but also generates a lot more waste and pollution compared to slow travel: taking time, living with locals. But travel bloggers can’t afford to mind on their footprints. Without the most exotic stories there are not enough readers meaning no more freebies and paid advertisers.

We are grateful that we can stay away from that scene. Thanks to designing websites as work exchange for hostels and hostels (we get free accommodation and food), we don't need to peddle useless products such as World Nomads travel insurance to our readers and friends. Our modest income comes from our published digital nomad, global nomad and travel books, and for that we owe a big thanks to our readers and publishers.

See also: Generic travel blog generator.


grasya said…
point well taken. after 10 years of blogging, i have recently monetized my hobby. its great that advertisers support me for my dreams to travel.. im still careful of not spending too much carbon footprint and falling into traps of having freebies in return of fake product praises so thanks for the reminder ^_^
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Grasya!
I agree and disagree (as it seems a trend between us :))
We are fairly new (in the last year) to blogging. We don't advertise on our blog or make any money from it and we are 100% honest with any experience we have, of course if we have a bad experience we will write about it and if we have a good experience we write about it.
We have had sponsored stays at hotels or sponsored tours in the past and have always been honest.
We are not trying to sell a dream because in my opinion it gives the reader a bad "taste in their mouth" if they complete the same tour and have a terrible time!
Melissa Adams said…
I beg to disagree with your holier-than-thou attitude. After outstanding press trips hosted by iAmsterdam (following TBU Rotterdam) + Ottawa Tourism (following TBEX Toronto), I'd like to think all the bloggers who participated, as well as myself, will generate more than insipid brochure copy about our experiences. Sure, some blogs are monetized (mine's not...see for yourself @ If the content is brilliant, even if inspired by a "lavish" press trip, who cares?
The world would be a dull place if everyone agreed about everything and there could not be any development and changing views. Thanks for disagreeing, we value that a lot.

Do you tell to your readers that it was a sponsored stay? You don't feel gratitude or owe anything to the sponsor? Would you have visited those places without sponsorship?

We have noticed that whenever we feel gratitude or owe something, it is much harder to write about negative things.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Good for you. It seems you are doing well. I am happy when I see that fellow bloggers have success in what they do.
Your blog is looks very nice. Thanks for stopping by and hope to see you again and around!
Hey! I agree (:P) The world would indeed be very dull!

Yes where applicable we will tell our readers at the each of the post if it was a sponsored stay or trip or tour.

Most of the time we plan to visit somewhere we will contact places to see if they would be interested in working with us, so to answer the question, yes we are planning to go there, if we plan to work with a company or not.

While it might be hard to write about a negative experience, this is after all a personal blog, we have the disclaimer on the website and will always be honest, otherwise that's the point?

Of course with that said, we will focus of the positives as well unless our experience was utterly terrible (like our stay at the Mantra in Samui!)
Hi Sam,

that's cool, wish all travel bloggers would do as you. We were filming last year a mini documentary series for the Finnish television and were thinking about filming one episode from an eco lodge. We selected a place in Morocco based on their web site. Later we re-checked it and they had taken out all eco stuff. When we asked them what happened to their website and advertising eco-friendliness, they just kept dodging the subject so we cancelled the shooting there.

We contact also the places but do it as work exchange. Sometimes we do them marketing stuff but strictly under their name, not ours.

Writing anything negative is very touchy issue in travel writing. We should be talking only about positive things. In 2005 we got attacked because of not writing solely positive travel blogs and got a few death threats for insulting someone's beloved home country or favourite travel destination. That did not change our writing style. Nowadays people appear to be more tolerant.

We write balanced stories but prefer a bit more critical than positive tone. That way people will be happily surprised instead being disappointed. The is the general problem with expectations. Read that story about Mantra in Samui. You were failed by high expectations. Yet another good example of bad marketing. If you were expecting a sleep in the airport and got there instead, you would have been happily surprised.

I must concur with you, however, at the same time, I wouldnt put bloggers down for selling themselves out a little bit... As long as it lets them travel longer and further at the end of the day.
Yes, as long as it is done openly so that readers can judge themselves what is paid advertising and what is not. You have cool blog, the look & feel reminds of a bit of Deus Ex Human Revolution. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and hope to see you again!

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