Looking for Reader Input on ‘Blogger Junkets’

I recently had a conversation with a well-known writer about some of the things that are offered by travel providers and their PR firms and that get turned down.

From some well known brands that you would be surprised actually ask.

Things like paid product placement along with ongoing commissions based on customers driven to the product through the writing. Aside from the fact that this person would lose their job…

It made me realize that I’m pretty darned naïve. First, the fact that these offers are forthcoming suggests that it’s going on a whole lot more frequently than I realized. Even though I rarely read blog posts noting that the content was sponsored.

Lots of travel bloggers that I read get comped trips.

The Points Guy, who deserves much congratulations for leaving his job and going full-time as a blogger and points consultant, is launching that stage of his life with a trip to Tokyo that’s being sponsored by Delta and Hyatt. Serious congratulations on Brian, and he’s staying at one of my absolute favorite hotels in the world, the Park Hyatt Tokyo. And not just because it’s the setting for Bill Murray’s phenomenal Lost in Translation but because the place has an incredible feel to it like few other hotels I’ve been in. I’ve only had lunch there, and it’s not all that conveniently located, but I’d definitely still choose that property in a heartbeat. I’m jealous!

Lucky recently took a trip to Argentina sponsored by Hyatt and American Airlines. It sounded like a phenomenal time! I remember he also got in on an early British Airways all-business class London City flight, which was pretty cool to have tried out right after launch.

Last month Cranky Flier was included in the business class cabin of Lufthansa’s inaugural San Francisco A380 flight.

Of course, all of these gentlemen are up front, disclosing when something is given to them, and I’ve always found their evaluations to be candid regardless of who was paying for the stay.

Me, I’ve never taken one of these junkets. My first thought was, why aren’t they ever offered? Though I guess they are, I just don’t wind up getting offered the ones that others are writing about. Usually those sound so much cooler! Though that isn’t even true. I was invited out to Hong Kong by Cathay Pacific for the unveiling of their new business class seats (which looks a lot like US Airways’ new business class!). I couldn’t go because of a work commitment, though I suppose I probably would have.

I was also recently offered a private plane to do a bunch of sightseeing in the Northeastern U.S. by a company that is trying to sell tour packages by private jet, promoting how efficiently you can do stuff in the same day like Niagara Falls and the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. I guess flying private is cool and all, but again I demurred because I didn’t see it as being up my alley and I had work travel constraints that precluded it anyway.

When I have been offered ‘stuff’ it’s usually been something that I’ve just given away. Sure, it would have been nice to have been a National Car Rental Executive Elite, but I told the National folks honestly that it would be better for me just to give that to my readers along with the free rental days and the Victorinox luggage. (Come to think of it, that Victorinox bag would have been really nice to have… and I don’t think the winner thanked me though I could be wrong, d’oh!).

Similarly, Hyatt had me give away Hyatt Place nights and personal assistant services, they offered me a similar package as I was giving away but just asked to give away that package as well.

I’ve given away Tom Bihn bags, Monster travel power strips, and plenty more. I do enjoy running these contests, and I hope that readers enjoy playing along and especially that the winners enjoy the prizes.

But I do wonder if I’m missing the boat here? Is there a gravy train and should I be hopping on it? Would I have more, better stories to report back to y’all, or would it compromise the trust folks place in my writings? I certainly don’t feel like Brian or Ben or Brett are compromised by taking a comped trip. I’ve never hopped onto a junket, ever, in the 9 years that I’ve been blogging. Should I?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. One more fact to consider:

    Taking a free trip will likely DQ you from ever working for the mainstream media (i.e. NYT, CNN, Conde Nast) in the future, either as a columnist or freelancer.

    Selfishly, I hope you don’t take the free trips (to keep your commentary as objective as possible), although I certainly understand the temptation to do so.

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