Expert advice from Kash Bhattacharya

Kash was National Geographic Traveller’s Blogger of the Year in 2016. He is the founder of BudgetTraveller.org, author of the forthcoming Luxury Hostels of the World, and Director of Creative Concepts for the world’s leading travel influencer network, iAmbassador.

What is the key to a successful travel blog?

1. Be original. The first and most important tip to becoming a professional travel blogger is to be original. I came across a statistic recently, which said there are 152 million blogs out there. So there is a huge amount of competition for eyeballs on content. Besides travel blogs, you also have mainstream media outlets, plus YouTubers and Instagrammers. There is a wealth of content sources against which you have to stand out. To set yourself aside from the competition, you have to have an eye for original content. I started out writing a blog about budget travel and then realised that there were already a ton of bloggers focussing on this particular niche. It was only after two years I pivoted and started focusing on ‘stylish budget travel’. It was then I picked up on the trend of luxury hostels and wrote a guidebook about it.

2. Allow yourself to make mistakes and experiment. It takes a lot of trial and error to realise what works and doesn’t work on a blog. There are so many aspects you need to master for running a blog: writing, photography, SEO, maintaining a blog, mastering social media. This process takes time and means you will have to be patient with yourself and prepared to make a lot of mistakes.

3. My third and last tip is to learn how to take good photographs. As storytelling is becoming more visual, it is really important that as a content creator you try and be visual when sharing your stories with your readership. A good picture is worth a thousand words and a thousand likes, so it’s important you get the right shots for your trips. This means investing in a decent camera. I have a Panasonic micro 4/3rds camera, paired with a Leica f 1.4 lens, which takes fantastic photos. I also have an iPhone7, which takes fantastic photos and really good quality videos. If you are not confident about your photography, go to a photography class that will help you take your game to the next level.

How can social media help to build a blog?

The ability to share stories in real time and interact with fans via social media is what makes bloggers/influencers very attractive to travellers, brands and agencies alike. So it is really important that you master and build a following on one of the key social media platforms. I have a good following on both Twitter and Instagram. I prefer Instagram as it is a visual and fun way of sharing stories. Plus, there is a strong community aspect about Instagram and I’ve met some very creative and talented people via the medium. Now, thanks to the emergence of Instagram Stories, I can share small bite-sized moments from my travels. Snapchat is also a fantastic platform that offers rich possibilities. YouTube obviously is another really important platform and I’m hoping to start to build a following on that by doing more daily vlogs on future trips. Social media can be overwhelming and requires a huge investment of time when you start blogging, so my advice is to keep it simple and concentrate on one platform at a time, build your following and your community.

Can you give us two practical tips for integrating social media and a travel blog?

Use a scheduling tool like Buffer to share your content on social media channels. I often use Twitter and Instagram Stories to get feedback on potential blog post ideas, and also to gather tips for upcoming trips. I also often embed my tweets from trips, and pictures from Instagram, into my blog posts to give them an authentic feel.

What’s next for online travel media?

I see the media landscape getting more fragmented, with Google becoming the dominant force in travel planning and travel becoming more niche-focused: weddings and honeymoons, sustainable and ‘voluntourism’ travel, cruise travel, spa and wellness travel, leisure travel… We are going to see more niche online platforms emerge which make it easier for people to find the content they are specifically looking for. More travel brands will become publishers focusing on creating great content to build a more emotional bond with their community. Likewise, you will see lot of publishers like bloggers, who already have a sophisticated knowledge of what their readers need, creating their own travel products and tours to meet that demand.

Do you have two practical tips for self-publishing a book?

When I self-published my guide to Luxury Hostels of Europe, I hired a professional editor to check for any basic grammatical and spelling errors and to help me stick to the right word count. The other key thing worth spending money on is hiring a professional graphic designer, to create an eye-catching book cover. If you are wary of printing and distribution costs, I would also go down the print-on-demand services route, and use IngramSpark, who offer some of the most cost-effective methods of distribution for self-publishing a book.

Extract from The Travel Writer’s Way, copyright Jonathan Lorie 2019.