by Guilherme Tetamanti
At the end of 2015 I was invited by a well-respected travel agency to a meeting. I confess I was suspicious; after all, the relationship between participants in the tourism market became somewhat strained after the appearance and natural rise of blogs.
Conventional media are losing ground, journalists are devalued and travel agencies are losing customers. These are controversial topics and increasingly more frequent since I became a blogger in May 2011. It’s a fact; blogs stirred up a market that seemed to have stagnated and this has generated a lot of sparks due to the constant debates that have been triggered.
But there’s nothing that can be done. It’s freedom of expression, capitalism, the law of supply and demand…all together and mixed up, working to develop markets. This picture, however, is not exclusive to tourism. Isn’t it the same situation with taxi drivers and transport companies in relation to Uber? In my view it is. And in the same way that the market for transporting people is adapting to the current panorama, players in the tourism industry are cutting back in praiseworthy fashion.
Travel agencies and bloggers
I arrived at the meeting on time. The invitation came precisely for us to discuss ideas about what we could do so that both sides, agencies and blogs, might begin working together to reap the rewards of any possible partnerships.
Agencies sell services, itineraries, and do everything in their power for their customers to have the best experience possible. Blogs share information. Obviously, many people who before had no idea of how to travel independently started eliminating the middleman and planning their own holidays.
On the other hand, the reach of bloggers who spread their tips around the various social networks incites a desire in people. Ah, my friend, after a mere mortal has been bitten by the bug and becomes addicted to travelling there’s no going back. Do you really think that’s bad for the market?
Yes, of course, agencies lost a few customers here and there. It’s the fault of the blogs, of the Internet, of the new world scenario, and this affected the market as a whole. What hasn’t changed is the fact that travellers have different profiles. Of course, many people discovered it would be possible to set off on their travels and spend a lot less. At the same time a lot of other people were impacted and felt the need to travel…independently or otherwise. There will be always those who want to hire a personalized service, even though they know there are other alternatives.
I leave you with a question: which is better; to have a slice of the market or increase the size of the cake?
The authority of blogs
In addition to talking generally about the travel scene during the meeting, we also talked about practical strategies that would enable bloggers and the owners of agencies to work together. I believe that authority is one of the keys to this issue.
Studying the behaviour of Internet users, I discovered that the rise of blogs is directly related to the authority its authors demonstrate with regard to the content they produce, i.e. the readers see that the blogger is a specialist in the subject. Obviously several factors have an influence when it comes to measuring this authority, like the age of the blog, its reach, the destinations visited, social proof, etc. But I don’t want to dwell on this topic in any great detail.
This means that people listen to the blogger and believe in the truth of the information supplied, but this did not come from my head. A survey by the ABBV (Brazilian Association of Travel Blogs), carried out with 40 associate blogs, showed that 70% of the readers use travel blogs as sources of consultation for choosing a destination. Travel agencies, on the other hand, represent the means which readers least trust: only 13% take into account the information supplied by the agencies.
It’s very true that the profile of the readers of blogs is that of largely independent and experienced travellers. But couldn’t agencies and blogs work together to reduce the discrepancy between these numbers? I think so!
How can we work together?
Well, since readers appreciate the authority and transparency of bloggers, why not bring this experience inside the travel agency? Is it really not feasible to hire a specialist to look after the content marketing strategy of a company?
These are profound questions and it may be that you, as reader, are not used to some of these terms. But I can assure you that every day the vast majority of bloggers study these topics to transform their platforms into veritable powers in the media. Some get there, others don’t! The truth is that nowadays a small proportion manage to live exclusively from their blog, which in no way throws into question the merit of all the others.
Analysing the market as a whole, wouldn’t it be good idea to support these people and take a little of this authority they have to the agencies? Finally, I see some ways of doing this and I’m working to put them into practise, leading to a real return for my partners. But perhaps only the recording of my meeting can explain everything here!
Guilherme Tetamanti is a digital entrepreneur and a member of the ABBV (Brazilian Association of Travel Blogs). He has been writing for Quero Viajar Mais (www.queroviajarmais.com) since 2011.
The opinions expressed in this text are the author’s opinion and do not necessarily reflect the position of WTM Latin America and ABBV as an entity.