In order to offer readers robust, regularly updated travel coverage, in an era when media outlets are fighting to survive, Uproxx often works with tourism boards (and, in certain cases, tour operators, brands, and hotel properties) to help support our writers when they’re on the road. Much has been made of this issue over the years, but the modern media landscape and tight travel coverage budgets virtually necessitate that virtually all outlets in the travel space (NatGeo Traveler, Afar, Thrillist, etc.) send writers on FAM (familiarization) trips and accept private hostings or discounted press rates. The numbers just don’t crunch otherwise.
Without these sorts of trips, nearly all travel writing as we know it would be unsustainable. It would no longer be done by people who were “traveling” per se (thereby losing much of the propulsive momentum of the genre) and instead become the domain of people living in a particular place — people who didn’t have to deal with flights, hotels, etc. Though local insight is often fantastic, the 1st person travelogue would surely be missed. I know I would miss it. Any remaining 1st person narratives would be written solely by the few privileged media outlets who have the cash on hand to support such endeavors.
Historically, there have been two consistent arguments against press trips, private hostings, and discounted media rates:
1. It skews the perception of the writer.
2. It creates a shallow depth of global travel writing.
To speak to the first point: No one visits the mainstream travel outlets to learn where not to go. Thus, we don’t approach the genre as critics. We try to convey what feels exciting and fresh in the world of travel. If we don’t like something — a food experience, a travel excursion, etc. — then we don’t cover it. As such, we only send writers on trips after clarifying with all parties: “If this is a bad experience or we don’t find substance for a story, we’re not publishing a piece.” Further, we do not accept any form of monetary compensation in exchange for coverage.
As for the second point, it does hold some water. But to assume that this completely cripples the available travel writing is to underestimate the money-saving abilities of young, hungry travel writers and their desire to bucket trips together in order to pay rent. Israel has a well-funded tourism board, whereas Palestine does not. My own first press trip was to Israel nearly 15 years ago, but I extended the trip on my own dime to see Palestine. I deeply enjoyed both destinations and covered them both in long-form magazine articles. Point being, travel writers love to travel and a hosted experience is often a gateway to find more stories.
This is a complicated issue that deserves discussion and one that I’ve thought about quite a bit. At the end of the day, I hope you’ll choose to trust us, as we are un-charmed by free monogrammed towels and much more interested in delivering personal, passionate pieces that resonate with our audience.