I know I took a long time in delivering my promised tips on scoring free press trips (or travel sponsorships) and I apologise for that. The problem is, I am one of those unskilled writers who need some inspiration, a fresh perspective perhaps before they can pen down their thoughts. And I got my inspiration just a couple of days few, hence I am writing.
What inspiration, you asked?
For my two-month long backpacking trip in Europe, which is starting in March, next year (two months from now) Zurich Tourism Board, Frankfurt Tourism Board and Budapest Tourism Board have already confirmed that they’ll be sponsoring my trip in their city. Though they’re not paying me any money, they’re offering a few days of free stay, transport, guided tour(s) and activities – in short, they’ll create an itinerary for me to explore their city. Isn’t that awesome? It sure is. Blogging itself is awesome, and rewarding too if you know how to do it right!
It has been a year now since I’ve been blogging. And I’ve already worked with over a dozen sponsors. In November I worked with 6 different travel brands – including a couple of hotels, a corporate group and a Tourism Board (Goa Tourism Board), which included activities and free stays worth over 100,000 Indian Rupees ($1,500).
But that doesn’t mean I always ended up lucky.
Getting Travel Sponsorships Takes More Than Just Impressive Numbers On Your Blog
As I started blogging, (in January 2016) I thought, “if I will keep writing great content, increase my blog readership and gain an impressive number of followers on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, I’m going to succeed. People will notice me, and travel companies will run after me asking if I can promote their brand”. Though I am not claiming that it was an incorrect way of becoming a successful blogger. But it was not entirely correct, either.
In the last few months (precisely speaking, after July 2016) I’ve realised that there’s more to successful blogging than just getting impressive traffic, or writing great content. I mean you sure want good numbers to for getting travel sponsors (or companies to pay you for advertising their travel-products on your blog) but if you’re investing all your time in improving the figures, and are not approaching the sponsors on your own — writing at least 10 emails per day — you’re not doing yourself any favour. You’re only losing the game, slowly, every day.
This particularly applies to new bloggers — those who are still taking the baby steps in establishing their identity.
So build a Minimum Required Traction on your blog (let’ say a couple of hundred pageviews per day and a few thousand followers on different social media networks) and start contacting travel brands and PR agencies! (I believe you’re already in the business of travel blogging, if not, read How To Start A Professional Travel Blog In 7 Easy Steps)
How Much Traction Is The ‘Minimum Required Traction’ Before You Can Start Contacting Travel Brands
Though there is no ideal size, I believe that once you start getting a couple of hundred page views per day or at least 5 or 6 thousand page views per month, and have at least over 1-2 thousand likes on your different social media networks like Facebook and Twitter, among others – you’re ready to approach travel sponsors.
Start Writing To Travel Companies And PR Agencies
Understand what kind of travelling you’re into. Search for the companies working in your niche (for example motorbiking, adventure travel, backpacking, luxury getaways etc) or Google for local travel boards, and starting pitching them.
Send them an email introducing yourself and your blog, and how you/your blog can help redirect your readers to their website and social media accounts. Be very precise with numbers.
1. Crafting A Right Email
Depending on your experience, craft your email. When I’d initially started approaching sponsors, my email often sounded more like a request — having no authority at all. Following a little introduction, I would use sentences like “Since I am travelling in your city next, I was thinking if you’d be interested in working with Footloosedev. Any help (regarding accommodation/activities etc) would be greatly appreciated”. And the template worked just well. I got around 30 percent replies to my emails – this makes 3 replies for every 10 emails. Not a bad figure at all.
I think it was because the term “any help” gave the other party the upper hand, from small startups to big companies, and they at least replied. Often, it wasn’t a very beneficial deal, but it didn’t matter. Because initially, it is all about scoring more and more sponsors and building your portfolio.
Once you work with a few travel companies/travel boards, edit your email and talk about your expertise as a travel influencer. Now you tell them ‘how your partnership can help them gain more customers’.
Tip: Keep your email short and crisp, and include all additional information in the Media Kit.
Read: How To Create A Media Kit For A Travel Blog
2. Write More Emails. Contact More Sponsors
Since July, the time I realised I should start pitching sponsors, I have been writing about at least 10 emails per day, when I’m not travelling. Some days I even write over 20 or 30. The point here is, when you’re new in the business, you got to reach out to people, and tell them who you are, and how you can bring value to their business.
I wrote about 50 emails for my Goa and South India trip – I found 5 sponsors.
I wrote about 50 emails for my Gujarat trip – I found 3 sponsors.
I’ve written about 50 emails for my upcoming Europe trip – have found 4 sponsors.
If it wasn’t for the first email from my side, I would still be travelling without sponsors. Again, most of the sponsors aren’t paying me for anything in return – because my followership still lacks impressive numbers, but they’re at least offering all experiences for free.
Update: I am back from my Europe Trip. I travelled for 58 days and only spent 70,000 Rupees (including my flight and visa costs). How did it happen? Because of free travels. Because of travel sponsorships. [Read: How I Travelled 2 months In Europe For Less Than INR 70k]
3. Sharing Details With Tourism Boards
When I’d initially started blogging, and found other bloggers, posting on Facebook about their sponsored trips with a state/country Tourism Board, I always thought that it would take at least two to three years, and a few dozen thousand Facebook likes, to persuade a Tourism Board to sponsor my trip. But I was wrong!
It’s true that top travel bloggers might get better prospects than you do, which can even include free flight tickets from your country to theirs, but working with tourism boards isn’t a tough deal to crack.
The first ever Tourism board I worked with was GoaTourismBoard, and it was when they were organising an annual blogging event, inviting a group of bloggers from across the world, to stay with them for almost a fortnight, and participate in different activities. Though my reach was not enough to what they’re looking for, they still offered me a sponsored Hot Air Balloon Ride In Goa and a few other activities, because they had space to fit-in another blogger – any extra exposure was good for them.
So, search for contacts of different tourism boards operating in your country, and of tourism boards operating in other countries and start distributing your credentials. [Further Reading: How To Approach Tourism Boards For Travel Sponsorships]
Give Blogging Some Time
Last but not least, blogging tests your patience like a slow, uphill journey. So be prepared for it!
Before I started blogging, I found almost 90% of (travel) bloggers claiming that it took them at least ten months before they started getting sponsored trips – while many lost the fight before they even turned 10 months old.
If you look at the industry at the moment, most of the successful travel bloggers out there have been doing it for the past few years – some for as many as 5 or 7 years, or even more.
Travel blogging requires a tremendous amount of work, as well as a tremendous investment of time and effort before you begin to see any benefits.
But on a bright side, remember that the travel industry is the fastest growing industry in the world. No automobile, no banking, no retail industry is growing as faster. There are hundreds and thousands of travel startups entering into every day – looking for new and cheaper means of marketing. And what could be better than promoting their brand on a website which is delivering its posts to a few thousand people, every month – almost 90% of whom are only interested to know about travel, right? And that’s when travel bloggers come into the picture. We Are Needed! And There’s No Denial To This Fact!
Further Reading: How I Make Money Travel Blogging