World Hum’s 2009 Travelers of the Year: Travel Bloggers
Speaker's Corner: Yes, travel bloggers. Here's why they deserve our second-annual award.
12.28.09 | 10:58 AM ET
When we surveyed the world of immersive travel last year, one person stood out for calling attention to the joy and power of travel: Matt Harding, creator of the beloved YouTube sensation, Where the Hell is Matt? So last December, we named him our first-ever World Hum Traveler of the Year.
This year, we haven’t been quite so moved by a video. No single person or piece of travel writing has captivated us in the same way. But we noticed a different kind of phenomenon taking shape in 2009: the rise of travel bloggers.
Sure, travel bloggers—like travel blogs—have been around for years. But this year, travel bloggers began organizing in new and increasingly prominent ways—and as never before, they were treated to many of the same perks (and some of the same scrutiny) as traditional big media travel journalists.
Travel bloggers were in the spotlight at major new media conferences—both at BlogWorldExpo in Las Vegas, where they convened a panel, and at SXSW Interactive in Austin, where Sheila Scarborough and Pam Mandel drew a standing-room-only crowd. Travel bloggers also saw the rise of a conference devoted entirely to their work: TBEX, short for Travel Blog Exchange, held in Chicago in July. Kim Mance and Debbie Dubrow presided over a group of more than 120 bloggers, whose energy and passion for travel was hard to contain in one room. (Next year, TBEX will expand to two days in New York City; World Hum will participate.)
Perhaps the most intriguing development of this past year, however, was the growth of fam trips, or press trips, aimed exclusively at travel bloggers and prominent travel Tweeters. Not long ago, these trips, in which the bulk of expenses are covered by tourism boards, airlines and travel companies, were offered almost exclusively to magazine and newspaper travel writers who were on assignment for big-name publications. No longer.
Travel bloggers and Tweeters this year lounged on Hawaiian beaches, traipsed across the Lido deck of cruise ships and explored Mexican villages at others’ expense like never before—experiences they chronicled on blogs and in Tweets. The trips revived old debates about the ethics of traveling at the expense of a travel operator—only now, not surprisingly, the arguments raged in new kinds of media and forums, including Twitter.
These debates highlight another notable development: the injection of many new and passionate voices into the world of travel storytelling. As much-loved publications fall by the wayside and change hands, travel bloggers are experimenting with publishing models and using rising technologies to push the boundaries of travel storytelling.
Finally, in 2009, travel bloggers gave back as never before. Passports with Purpose founders (and travel bloggers) Beth Whitman, Michelle Duffy, Mandel and Dubrow, who raised roughly $7,500 for Heifer International last year, this year generated more then $26,000 in donations for the construction of a school in Cambodia. Many of their contributors were other travel bloggers.
Conference panels, junkets, ethical debates, passionate storytelling, epic journeys, philanthropic efforts—for all of these reasons, we tip our hats to travel bloggers this year.