The Future of Travel Journalism


The Future of Travel Journalism


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Media experts discuss the place for travel journalism at a time when travel is at a standstill.

With travel grounded, where is travel journalism headed? We polled over 300 travel journalists worldwide to uncover the role of media in reshaping the way forward. CatchOn’s Director of Strategy, Virginia Ngai confers with our international media panel: Claire Irvin, Head of Travel at Telegraph Media Group; Paul Brady, Articles Editor at Travel+Leisure; Mark Orwoll, travel adventurist and prolific freelance journalist; and Fiona Kerr, Features Director at Condé Nast Traveller.

Travel Writing is Not Dead
Despite ongoing travel restrictions, print subscription and online readership for travel publications have gone through the roof, proving that “travel is so deeply ingrained in people’s lifestyles and personas these days, it is difficult to detach from our everyday lives,” says Brady.

Furthermore, observing an increase in reader engagement and hence the need to sustain the consumers’ growing appetite for travel writing especially in print, Brady urges, “We, as an industry, have an opportunity to show people the value that we add to their lives.”

The panel also notes how publications have pivoted to talking about destinations in a more timeless way. Some titles including Condé Nast Traveller and Travel+Leisure are taking a two-prong approach with domestic travel content that caters to those looking to travel in the very near future, as well as covering interesting international stories about places that readers can dream about visiting in the long term. Taking a broader stance, Irvin notes, “Travel is the basis of our social stories, it is the basis of so much conversation and passion, all emotions live here and therefore there is a place for all kinds of writing with travel.”

“People have more time these days, we don’t need hit-and-run journalism,” agrees Orwoll, “There should be storytelling in an old-fashioned sense … stories that will open your eyes to look at a destination in a different way.”

How People Will Travel
Our experts foresee their readers choosing to take trips closer to home in the near future, “not so much a fear of disease but a fear of travel disruption,” Brady surmises. We’re looking at the renaissance of road trips (especially in America) and travelling to “destinations where they feel distanced from other people,” adds Irvin. However, come end 2020 and early 2021, our panel anticipates a massive appetite for long-haul travel and consumers taking the big-ticket trips that they want to do but never got around to doing.

Luxury tourism will also experience a revival, especially given its advantage of a naturally distant set-up with few guests, amazing in-room dining and amenities. “People are looking to travel in a way that makes you feel comfortable and safe, and money buys you safety and space,” posits Kerr. At the same time, Orwoll foresees “a shift in definition of what luxury tourism really means.”

Amidst fears of rising xenophobia, Bradly is confident that cities will welcome Chinese travellers with open arms again, adding that “the global travel industry is built around walls coming down and one way for the industry to come back is with 400 million people ready to spend.”

While horror stories about cruises as pandemic petri dishes have hogged the headlines for the past few months, Irvin and Brady are confident that “cruises will come roaring back in a big way.” Compared to the other areas of the industry that are hell bent on competition, cruise companies are choosing to collaborate while amplifying their marketing efforts and lowering their prices.

The break in the clouds
Amidst the fall-out there will be some positive takeaways, “hopefully there will be a green lining in terms of sustainability, the end of over-tourism and more respectful travel,” predicts Kerr.

“I think we will realise that travel is important, it matters and the way we do it is critical to our well-being,” muses Brady, especially in the US where vacation days are often left on the table, people will see the value in recharging and disconnecting in a few years. On the other hand, with social distancing keeping everyone apart, Irvin foresees that immediately afterwards, “rather than people going away to disconnect, you might see people going away to connect again, albeit at a 2m distance.”

Having been in travel journalism for over 30 years, Orwoll observes how travel has become such an innate part of our lives and concludes that while “there were always changes immediately following the trauma, things always got back to more-or-less normal.”

Virginia Ngai

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