What do travel companies look for when hiring travel bloggers and writers?

Travel writers and travel bloggers dream of getting paid to do the two things they love most: travel and write.

NB: This is a viewpoint by Andre Van Kets, co-founder and director at the Discover Africa Group.

However, even in this digital age where content is the new currency, few companies are willing to foot the bill for travel writers’ hedonistic adventures in exchange for stories, photos and videos.

So what exactly do these companies — mostly travel publications and travel companies — look for when hiring travel writers and travel bloggers?

Recent research conducted with twenty-six companies in South Africa’s tourism industry shows that travel companies look for writers and bloggers that:

  • meet deadlines
  • understand the travel brand’s objectives
  • respond well to critique
  • are punctual with emails and correspondence.

Research also shows that writers should:

  • have excellent grammar and spelling
  • have a unique voice
  • have first-hand experience of the destinations that they are writing about
  • have a portfolio of their previous work to earn the rights to travel on someone else’s dime.

Here is a detailed description and the findings of research done to uncover the characteristics that travel companies look for when hiring or contracting travel writers and travel bloggers.

Research objective

To discover which characteristics are the most important for a travel writer or travel blogger to have, when working with travel companies.

Research method

Thirty-three companies within the South African tourism industry were approached to be a part of the research project.

Twenty-six companies from various sectors of the South African tourism industry responded:

  • three flight booking websites
  • four accommodation booking websites
  • five online travel companies
  • three tour operators
  • five hotels / lodges
  • three tourism bodies
  • three digital agencies (these agencies are responsible for content and marketing on behalf of travel companies)

The people who responded were marketing managers, content managers, social media managers, PR managers, editors, online editors and business owners — all of whom are responsible for hiring travel writers and bloggers at their companies.

The research survey consisted of twenty characteristics that a travel writer or blogger may possess.

For each characteristic, the respondents were asked to rate the relative importance of the characteristic by choosing one of these multiple-choice options:

  • Not necessary
  • Handy to have
  • Great to have
  • Essential

The survey included two open-ended (optional) questions:

  • Is there anything else in particular you look for in a travel writer or blogger?
  • Is there anything that puts you off hiring a travel writer or blogger?

Research findings

Finding A – The relative importance of each characteristic:





















Finding B – Travel writer and blogger characteristics ranked from most to least important:

The relative importance of each characteristic was calculated by assigning a value to each response:

  • Not necessary = 0
  • Handy to have = 1
  • Great to have = 2
  • Essential = 3

We have then summarised the value of all responses for a particular characteristic to create a “total score” for each characteristic.

The total score for the twenty elements were then compared with one another and ranked from highest to lowest: from most important to least important characteristic.


Research conclusions

The research shows that some of the most important characteristics a travel writer or travel blogger should have are:

  • The ability to meet deadlines
  • A good understanding of the travel brand’s objectives
  • A portfolio of work
  • Good grammar and spelling
  • The ability to respond well to critique
  • Punctual with emails and correspondence
  • Have a unique voice when writing
  • First-hand destination experience for places writing about

The research also indicates that the least important characteristics for travel writers and bloggers are:

  • Some form of marketing experience
  • Basic HTML skills
  • Photoshop or similar photo editing skills
  • Relevant writing course or qualification

Some characteristics had a mixed response from survey participants. They were either very important to some and unimportant to others, or they were viewed with indifference by most survey participants.

  • Active on social media
  • Some travel industry experience
  • Travel industry experience
  • SEO copywriting skills
  • Africa travel experience
  • Worldwide travel experience
  • Large social media following
  • Travelled in the last six months


This research has achieved its primary objective of uncovering the characteristics that matter most to travel companies when hiring travel writers or bloggers — by producing an ordered list of characteristics ranked from most important to least important.

However, there is more to this research than just an ordered list:

1. The research helps content and marketing managers hire better writers and bloggers. By knowing what their contemporaries in the industry look for, managers can hire with greater confidence.

2. Travel writers and bloggers now have a checklist of 5-10 things they simply must get right. For example: if their portfolio does not reflect the quality of their work – then it’s time to upgrade their portfolio. Or if a writer is slack at meeting deadlines, then it’s time for them to start delivering on time.

3. Many travel writers and bloggers will gain peace of mind. Some characteristics, like the need for a relevant qualification, scored very low in the research. The research suggests that it’s far more important to write well with a unique voice, than it is to hold a degree or qualification.

4. Not all travel companies share the same views on all characteristics. Thus, it is vitally important that travel writers and bloggers research the companies they’d like to write for before engaging with them. Writers should find out what drives these companies. Does the company care more about great stories or incredible photos? Does SEO matter to them? How important is social reach and a prominent social following to them? These uncertain areas should be addressed on a per-company basis.

Bottom line for travel writers and bloggers: Get your ducks in a row. Don’t sweat the small things.

Find out what matters to the company. Then deliver.

NB: This is a viewpoint by Andre Van Kets, co-founder and director at the Discover Africa Group. Follow on Twitter.

NB2: Research background – the survey was conducted in July 2013 by Van Kets and used Google Docs forms. Respondents were contacted by telephone to explain the research background. A link to the online survey was emailed to all participants. All survey responses were submitted online. The findings of the research were originally presented at the 2013 Getaway Travel Bloggers Conference in Cape Town, South Africa.

NB3: Laptop beach boat image via Shutterstock.

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About the Writer :: Viewpoints

A founding principle of tnooz was a diversity of viewpoints from across the spectrum. Viewpoints are articles by guest contributors from around the travel and hospitality industries. The views expressed are those of the author. and do not necessarily reflect those of the author's employer, or tnooz and its partners.



  1. Thomas Crook


    Nicely done study. One question for you: did you ask the respondents how many (if any) travel bloggers they have previously hired? It would be interesting to see if the responses you got varied according to previous experience in hiring bloggers. Admittedly, you likely don’t have a large enough sample size to detect a statistically significant difference, but some themes might emerge in qualitative responses.

  2. Jeremy Head

    There’s a huge gap in your research. Traffic. The litmus test of a blogger’s usefulness should be how much traffic their blog attracts. That’s it. You’re not even beginning to make the most of the relationship if you don’t consider the audience they bring with them. Blimey… any one with half a brain can write some decent copy and file it on time. If a blogger has a blog that deliver’;s traffic then most of the rest follows by default.,

  3. Lindsay Young

    I’m so pleased that this kind of study was undertaken, as I think one of the biggest challenges for travel bloggers (not travel writers – I believe they’re categorically different) is consistency. There are no barriers to entry, so the industry is largely unregulated. Having a framework I’m sure will be helpful for them.

    That being said, one of the major things I think this list is missing is professionalism. I’ve worked with / attempted to work with a good number of bloggers and the first thing I’m looking for is professionalism. There are a few in particular who have conducted themselves so poorly and acted in such an amateur way that there is no way I will ever work with them (their work is amateur too, so it’s not like I’m really tempted).

    Every pitch should be considered equivalent to a job interview. What’s the first thing you want to convey in an job interview? Professionalism. Second? Knowledge of the brand and an idea of what their objectives and deliverables might be. Third? Suitability.

    I would argue that marketing experience is more important than this study indicates, however you’re right in saying that all marketers are looking for something different when hiring. For me, marketing experience will give bloggers better insight into what our deliverables and objectives are, and give me the kind of pitch (complete with relevant data, not just any ol’ data) that is going to make me take notice and know that they’re a suitable match for the brand and our goals. And if it’s presented in a professional manner, we’re golden.

    Thank you for doing this study and starting the discussion. I think it’s important for both sides to have this kind of information out there. We need to acknowledge that travel bloggers aren’t going away, but they need to acknowledge that in order for the industry to take them seriously, they need to be more professional, better behaved, and more knowledgeable about us and how they can enhance what we do. Just like a job interview.


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