Almost from the moment The Resort at Isla Palenque started to move from fantasy to reality, we have been online, talking about it. Originally entitled “Voices of Eco-Development,” the Isla Palenque blog was born mere weeks after plans began for Amble’s premiere eco-resort.
From a marketing standpoint, this might have been a tad premature. But it seemed obvious to share all we were learning and loving about the process of bringing a dream to life on an undiscovered island in Panama. If you can keep quiet about something like that, then hats off to you.
Over the past two years, we’ve witnessed the rise and fall of several networking sites, realizing along the way that we don’t always have to jump on the bandwagon or ride the fluctuating trends if they’re not the greatest fit for our message.
The time has come at last – to scare the birds off Twitter’s rooftops with our shouts of excitement, to share our exhilarated status with the Facebook world, and to pin our hopes of welcoming discerning travelers all over Pinterest – we are preparing for the much-anticipated opening of The Resort at Isla Palenque later this year!
With this imminent event on the horizon, it now feels quite natural to fully participate in the online travel community. So we’ve jumped in, and for the most part, things have been going swimmingly. But as we take notes from the seasoned experts, there are a few things that trouble us about the way certain travel writers are using social media.
Travel Writers Who Misuse Social Media
A disclaimer, before I launch into this diatribe: I understand that Facebook and Twitter are instrumental to finding and maintaining an audience in the digital age. And I also recognize that, to a degree, “putting yourself out there” is required for career-building in any industry, perhaps more so in the travel industry.
For starters, social media can be addictive. These outlets can distract from the writing, as well as from genuine immersion in place, both of which will ultimately undermine quality travel journalism. Imagine a travel writer visiting Rome, spending chunks of precious time in the hotel room on a laptop or busy on a smartphone instead of engaging with the colorful characters in the Piazza Navona. That’s not an account of Rome I wish to read.
Worse still? When travel writers use social networking sites more in an effort to open doors for themselves and less to open a window onto the world for others. By this, I mean a travel blogger who uses Facebook and Twitter to pursue free hotel stays and comped meals rather than to host conversations with their readers and fans.
“As a travel writer, the focus should always be on the passion for travel and experiencing new places, not the perks that may arise on the side,” says Kyle Ellison, travel blogger and creator of kylethevagabond.com.
A reevaluation of priorities may be in order for the travel blogger who puts self-promotion ahead of connecting with their audience. Losing touch with the online travel community is a fast track to losing your following, and some of the most popular travel writers would do well to note this.
We were surprised by some of the ways individuals rejected our invitation to join the Island Intern Contest Panel of Experts. It was disheartening that our request for help in guiding a group of ambitious hopeful travelers was met with demands for some serious compensation from several of the travel bloggers we contacted. What happened to the idea of an online community centered on a particular passion? Coming from the resort developer, this may seem a surprise, but when we log into a social network, we don’t expect to find that it’s really an online marketplace.
Some of these people who have their priorities in the wrong place are setting themselves up for a rude awakening – and with how quickly things move these days, it could come as soon as tomorrow. Longtime industry leaders still prize journalistic integrity, and for good reason: an opinion that has not been purchased has value; purchased opinions do not.
A travel writer’s primary responsibility is to satisfy the demand for original content that inspires its readers to travel or to see their travels in a meaningful way. The coveted occupations of self-styled travel experts wouldn’t exist in the first place without an enthusiastic audience seeking “the inside scoop” on destinations around the world. It becomes difficult for any travel writer to meet this demand when they allow social media use (or misuse) to get them sidetracked.
And 11 People Who Don’t
On a more positive note, I’ve relished the opportunity over the past couple of weeks to feature a group of travel professionals successfully avoiding these pitfalls: our Island Intern Contest Panel of Experts. Each of these standout individuals provides a positive example to our Island Intern hopefuls on how to have meaningful conversations about travel via social media without allowing it to compromise their creative output. These 11 experts will weigh in on candidates to inform the selection of this year’s Isla Palenque Island Intern, providing a free lesson in the art of navigating the globe and the social media landscape to aspiring travel journalists.
The panel includes inspiring adventurers Leon Logothetis and Kyle the Vagabond, womens’ travel pioneer Evelyn Hannon, award-winning journalists Andrew McCarthy and Boyd Matson, wildlife cinematographer Andy B. Casagrande, travel editors Kim Mance, Eva Holland, and Jen Leo, and Jetsetter’s social media guru Jon Goldmann. The final panel expert is Benjamin Loomis, founder and president of Amble Resorts.
These leaders have demonstrated their knack for survival in an increasingly competitive industry. It comes as no surprise that such seasoned travelers were able to quickly find their way around the Tweetdeck and the Timeline, seamlessly incorporating new media channels into their efforts to promote meaningful travel. As some of the busiest people in travel today, they had every excuse to turn down Amble Resorts’ invitation to join the Panel of Experts for the 2012 Island Intern Contest. But their unhesitating acceptance truly touched our team here at Amble Resorts.
“In an age where digital response rules, human connection still makes a big difference,” said Emily Kinskey, Amble Resorts’ Marketing Manager.
This outstanding group will evaluate Island Intern hopefuls to help us with the challenge of choosing an intern who embodies a combination of global awareness and cultural sensitivity, social media savvy, and a good old-fashioned adventurous spirit. Even as tech-savvy Millennials constantly rewrite the rules and invent new job descriptions for old occupations, it’s encouraging to see travel industry leaders embracing the new without discarding the core concepts of good travel journalism – truly connecting with people and lending a helping hand to inspire the next generation of advocates.