The biggest difference between travel writers and travel influencers may surprise you

Everyone has been asking me to clarify the difference between travel writers and travel influencers. While I believe, to some degree, it’s pretty obvious and the two rarely merge, I thought I would focus on the impact these two have (and don’t have) in the world of travel because it’s not necessarily what you’d would think.

With the rise of social media (particularly Instagram), travel influencers have been popping up all over your feeds. They take amazing photos and offer great visuals on their travel experiences, whether it’s a luxury hotel or a beautiful destination. The higher their following, the chances of them getting paid are greater, so it can turn into a career.

Travel writers or travel influencers?

On the other hand, travel writers tell a great story, bringing you into the destination with their prose and offering a sense of authority on what to do, eat, play and sleep. Travel writers spend hours, weeks and even months reporting on a story, dedicating a lot of time while making sacrifices for their passion.

The main difference between travel writers and influencers

While it’s rare to see a travel writer with a huge Instagram following, you won’t find a travel influencer with a lot of knowledge behind they’re photos. Travel writers don’t need to take great photos for their stories (it’s mostly handled by the photo team for the outlet they’re contributing to) while travel influencers don’t have to know any history, culture or whether something is UNESCO or not as long as their photo gets a ton of likes (how do I know this? I’ve traveled with dozens of great travel influencers who have proven it. Getting the “perfect room service” or “standing on a balcony” photo is priority over facts).

That’s the biggest difference between travel writers and travel influencers, but there’s something a lot bigger. While I love the work of many travel influencers, they ironically have very little influence. I call them “visual storytellers” or, more traditionally, “content creators.”

Let’s say a travel influencer with 50K followers gets hosted in a luxury hotel and takes about three great photos. They’ll get a ton of “likes” but very few (if not any) of their followers will actually book that hotel. They can certainly inspire you and encourage you to travel, but most followers know they worked hard behind-the-scenes to get that hotel stay for free.

Friendly check-in with influencer

On the other hand, travel writers actually have major influence. They work for magazines that serve as experts and authorities. They want to inspire you through writing. They are too busy traveling, writing, pitching, exploring, researching, interviewing and editing to take photos so they can get the best stories to inspire readers to book certain hotels, restaurants, activities and dream trips.

The problem with travel writers, however, is that they’re a dying breed. At this point, with the state of the publishing industry, there are very few outlets that hire or even pay well, nobody wants to read long stories anymore and it’s hella competitive.

You see fewer travel writers these days because it’s hard to be one, so the art of travel writing is becoming extinct. They don’t have the platform that travel influencers have.

But what if travel writers and travel influencers were able to work together in some way? Do you think that will be the next big trend in how we read travel stories?

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