IT’S ALL ABOUT THE PERQUISITES
Did you ever wonder if what you read is all true, partly true, sort of true, not true, or bought and paid for? Some blogs are egocentric, some blatantly commercial, and some masquerade as news but are really just P.R. They are bought and paid for by commercial interests and the praise that they get in return.
Tour companies, travel agents, journalists, and others with an audience all are in a position to trade favors with interested parties – it may be tit for tat, or advertising, or just plain scam. But believe me it goes on and is not reported to the client, reader, patron, or believing citizen.
One classic example from our little town should serve as an example of how this works. The West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce recently had an article in the local “newspaper” and begged for money to bribe “independent voices” “to get the word out.”
This quote should give you some idea of the perquisites that are given to these “independent voices:”
“There are some days at the Chamber of Commerce where we seem to spend a majority of the day on our knees begging for donations in order to assist travel writers, major media and tour operators. Donations of rooms, meals, tours, food, gift items, bags and bows, even bottles of water make a huge difference in our ability to have these folks come to West Yellowstone-they are independent voices for us to “get the word out” about what a great destination we are.
In a small community like West Yellowstone, our Chamber Marketing budget is small and already allocated. So, when unexpected groups of tour operators, magazine or newspaper writers, photographers, web travel writers, radio talk show hosts, or television producers call and ask for help in setting up their trips. In turn, in order to take advantage of these opportunities for West Yellowstone, we have to reach out to you, our community.”
The list of “Independent Voices” is extensive:
- Kurt Repanshek, Travel Arts syndicated writer writing about West Yellowstone as the “best gateway to Yellowstone.”
- David Sason writing an article on Montana meeting sites with a focus on West Yellowstone.
- Utah freelance writers working on a November/December article for Salt Lake Magazine about winter vacations in West Yellowstone.
- Carol Calicchio with JohnnyJet.com, the most popular travel planning website in California.
- Steve Cannon with KIDK-Channel 3 exploring the Painted Buffalo Project.
- Sam Dalton with Boomeradventures.com who will be creating a web page about winter activities for boomer travelers.
- Steve Pastorino with Fodor’s Travel Guide.
- Eric Peterson with Frommer’s Montana and Wyoming Guidebook.
- Eric and Sue Hansen, representing Oregon-based newspapers and Northwest Travel magazine, writing about birding and our birding trails.
- Salt Lake City-based Western Leisure with a Chinese FAM tour including eight tour operators from the largest tour companies in mainland China.
- Terry Mansfield with majesticradiotours.com who is creating a web site with downloadable radio spots about West Yellowstone.
- A German journalist & a photographer representing Markische Allgemeine Zeitung, a large daily German newspaper.
Now then, with all this mutual back-scratching going on I wonder if what I read in, and hear from these commercial blogs, travel guides, TV stations, travel magazines, and tours is a product of journalism or just plain hype?
In the interest of full and honest disclosure, I have not received a bottle of water, free room, complimentary bicycle, free meal, discounted film, complimentary Internet connection, or any bribe or other compensation from the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce. Would that the entities above would disclose how much baksheesh they received.
At least I know that my site visitors are smart enough to take with a grain of salt anything that they read in a travel magazine or commercial blog.