Gary Bembridge is a shining example of someone who has successfully blended his knowledge of marketing and corporate communications with his passion for blogging and podcasting. After 30 years of building global brands for international companies, he unveiled Tips for Travellers in 2005 and has been growing it ever since. Check out his portfolio site here!
Gary, you run the luxury travel blog and podcast, Tips for Travellers. Tell us a little bit about getting the site up and running and how you initially became interested in blogging/podcasting.
I started in September 2005. At the time, I was travelling the world for my job as a Vice President Global Marketing at Johnson & Johnson, spending about 2 weeks at least a month away from home. I always used to make sure I added a day or two either side of my work trips to explore the place I was visiting for work. I launched Tips for Travellers to share my learning and experiences about my travels.
Before I visited somewhere new, I would carefully research the place in great detail to make sure that I could get to see the most important things, and the most efficient way to do that in the limited time that I had available to me. I realized I had all this great information, and so decided to share it.
I started podcasting and posting videos on YouTube. I am a bit of a technology geek, and these were new and relatively unused vehicles at the time. They both took off. The blog started as the show notes and links for the podcast. It is only in the last few years that I started to put more content on the blog as I realized that the audience overlap between those that like to listen, watch and read was actually much smaller than I had thought it would be
Did you have any experience in travel writing before starting your blog? What advice would you give others who wanted to get their feet wet in blogging?
No, I had no experience in travel writing. I tend to focus more on my first hand, real life tips and advice than stories. I believe that this is what blogs can offer better than any other sources. That is my main advice to people looking to get started. Focus on finding a very specific aspect and angle, and provide really good and in-depth advice and tips for people with the same passions and interests around based on that insight and angle.
In your opinion, what’s the difference between writing a blog post and doing a podcast? Are there significant differences?
Not really. You still need to really research and know your topic. You still need to find your voice, and what you are bringing that is unique and different. You still need to think about structure, which means an engaging start, clear build through the middle and draw to a conclusion. You then need to edit and “polish”.
Personally, I find podcasting easier than writing. I still spend a lot of time on structure and messages, and think a lot about how to ensure you keep people engaged in a logical and interesting way. Podcasts that are made without the discipline and structure you put into good writing do not work, attract and retain listeners.
If someone asked you for advice on getting his or her feet wet in the industry, what would you tell this person?
(1) Do it because you love travel. You will probably not make a fortune or living from it alone!
(2) Think hard about what makes you different and unique. What is it that only you can bring to a destination, or you can do that others do not? The place you are writing (or podcasting or making a video about) will be very well covered. People are not waiting for anything more coverage. So what are you actually bringing that is new?
What are you hoping to do with your writing in the next few years and how do you see your income stream changing?
I do this because I love doing it. I see the direct revenue more a “bonus” to my main income. It is not a lot, but it does open doors to other activities and experiences, such as consulting I do on partnering with bloggers. I have also been approached to write a book.
I do think, though, that there is a greater chance for me to earn money by working with brands and places that I already love by playing a more brand advocate role and working with them to develop and run campaigns to promote places (and things like cruising that I love) to people interested in finding real insider advice and tips. Things that go beyond the brochure and advertising.
What was it like growing up in Zimbabwe and how do you think that experience impacted your passion for travel?
I grew up and went to school in Zimbabwe. I grew up through a violent period in the history of Zimbabwe. There were international sanctions and an armed struggle going on which ended white minority government (in Rhodesia as it was called then) and led to a “one man one vote” government. It was, though, a fascinating time as I lived through history and huge change. I think this made me inquisitive, challenging of the accepted ways, and open to change. I grew up seeing massive changes around me, as well as fairly unpleasant times. It gave me a sense of the importance of following your passions and living every day to the maximum.
My parents had moved there from the UK, and living so far away from Europe but knowing so much about it made me desperate to travel. As soon as I was old enough to leave and travel I did. I wanted to make sure I never missed out on anything. That is what still drives me to travel today. I want to experience as much as I can while I am alive, healthy and able. We never know when that can change. Never look back and regret not travelling and trying somewhere new is what drives me.
Gary Bembridge is a Global Marketing & Branding Consultant, and has been blogging, podcasting and making videos about luxurious travel experiences at Tipsfortravellers.com since 2005. He was born in Zimbabwe, and been based in London since 1987.
Interview conducted in June, 2013 by Kristin Mock.