28 Nov Travel Bloggers that Rock! Interview with Paul Johnson from A Luxury Travel Blog
I currently see travel blogs going from strength to strength as I feel travel-related businesses are increasingly realising their worth.
[box]Paul Johnson is the principal blogger at A Luxury Travel Blog; a travel blog which focuses on the finer aspects of travel. He has travelled extensively over the years and has stayed at some fantastic places! Paul’s blog came to my attention because most travel blogs tend to be focused on the budget end of the scale as opposed to luxury, and his blog is the leading blog in this niche, so perhaps he can give some insight into what it takes to create a successful travel site. [/box]
Paul, you work in online tourism marketing, but you also write A Luxury Travel Blog. How did you get the idea for the blog and do you do it more for business or pleasure?
I’ve been involved in the tourism industry for over 20 years now and was a partner in a luxury self-catering (vacation rental) business in the UK which, in the early 1990s, won the English Tourist Board award for ‘Best Self-Catering Accommodation in the UK’. Since that time, I’ve watched with interest at how the luxury sector has evolved and how high standards have reached. The planning of our honeymoon to Tanzania in 2003 fuelled my interest further and 2 years later A Luxury Travel Blog was born.
Luxury travel seems to be a bit underrepresented in travel blogging, why do you think that is?
It is indeed and I’m not entirely sure why. Most people don’t make a great deal of money from their blogs, and yet travelling in luxury can be costly. Maybe there’s something in that.
Writing about luxury travel, you must have stayed at some incredible hotels! Where’s the most luxurious place you’ve ever stayed?
This is such a tough question to answer as I have been lucky to stay at so many wonderful places. I could choose one of many but will plump for Mnemba Island where we spent the last 5 or so days of our honeymoon. It’s a private island off the north-east coast of Zanzibar. You take off your shoes, hop on a boat and don’t put your shoes back on again until you return to Zanzibar – barefoot paradise at its best!!
What’s the most far flung and exciting place you’ve visited on your travels?
The most far flung would have to be West Greenland. In the mid 1990s I did a PhD in glaciology and went on two research trips to the margin of the Greenland ice sheet, about 20 miles from a small town called Kangerlussuaq which, at the time, had a population of around 200 people.
Your niche is luxury travel now, but when you started traveling did you ever do the whole backpacking scene?
Yes, very much so. I solo-backpacked around Italy at just 16 years old, and around Norway a year later. During my student days, I inter-railed around Europe – like many students do – and as already mentioned I backpacked in Greenland where I had to carry my own tent, provisions, etc. and camp in sub-zero temperatures miles from civilisation. So yes… I’ve ‘roughed it’ a little!
You’ve worked in the travel industry for over 20 years, how did it all start out?
My parents bought a self-catering business when I was around 16 and I used to help with that. One summer, as a student, I got a job distributing tourist literature for a small tourist board where we lived, and that began to snowball as tourist attractions wanted me to distribute their literature also. Within a couple of years, I found myself distributing over a million leaflets to hotels, B&Bs, restaurants, tourist attractions and the like. Then the Web suddenly came along and captured my interest – it was a good distraction from the task of writing up my PhD. I created a website for my parents’ business, and was then asked to create one for this small tourist board I’d been distributing literature for. Then the larger, regional tourist board wanted me to do one, and so it went on!
You’re the Director at The Dedicated Partnership Ltd, which runs over 200 travel websites…how do you juggle the demands of running a business with travel?
I am mostly involved with affiliate marketing for the tourist industry nowadays, allowing me to work from anywhere. Our popular UK hotel website is an example of this. This has been a very conscious, deliberate decision that has happened gradually over the years. It allows me greater flexibility, and means that I can juggle my business with other aspects of my life such as travel and spending time with my family.
As of last year, I’m also a Director of Kendal Holiday Cottages Ltd. which offers luxurious riverside apartment accommodation in the town where I live. It’s perfectly situated between two of England’s most beautiful National Parks – the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales. Take note those of you who visit the UK but rarely get further than London!
What would be your advice to anyone trying to make a business out of travel blogging?
Persevere. You’re unlikely to see significant rewards from travel blogging in the first 12 months, possibly longer. Don’t try to monetize the blog straight away, but instead focus on your content and building a following. Use social media to widen your audience and be sure to interact with and get to know other travel bloggers.
There’s a lot of debate at the moment about how travel bloggers can create an income and work more with tourism boards and PRs. Where do you see travel blogging heading in the future?
I think it depends on the type of travel blog. If you want to commercialize the blog, then it probably helps to liaise with tourist boards and PR companies. But I’d say the relationship has to work both ways. Travel bloggers want meaningful relationships and don’t just want to be bombarded by press releases. As for the future, I currently see travel blogs going from strength to strength as I feel travel-related businesses are increasingly realising their worth.
What would you say are the key elements for creating a successful travel site?
Create something that is truly useful.