Travel Writing Ethics & The Dilemma Of Complimentary Travel

Travel Writing Ethics
Updated: Feb 20th, 2022

Travel and Tourism Is One Of The World’s Largest Industries

In the global economy the total contribution was $7.6 trillion (USD) in 2016. And direct revenue from international tourism, according to, was $1.6 trillion.

That’s a massive industry! There’s virtually an unlimited supply of destinations and attractions around the globe. And along with these come a multitude of opportunities for travel writers.

Most published travel writers will receive, at some stage, offers of travel assistance (aka “complimentary travel” or “comps”). On a press trip or FAM Tour, the sponsoring Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) might even cover all expenses. The DMOs pay for our trips and we write about them—it’s a symbiotic relationship.

The challenge is, can we write objective articles after we’ve been comped?

These complimentary travel perks often cover everything from airfare to hotel and resort accommodations, transportation, and meals. Travel comps may also include private guides, spa treatments, and free entry into museums and tourist attractions and special events.

In other cases, a lesser combination of these expenses is covered. I’ve been on 100+ press trips of various stripes that ranged from having all expenses covered to just a few.

I can say that without having my travel expenses covered for my travel assignments, I would not have survived, let alone thrived in this business.

These press trips are an exciting part of travel writing! But, they come with some perceived ethical issues.

The main issue is, can we write unbiased stories after we’ve been pampered like royalty? The challenge is, can we write objective articles after we’ve been comped? Our stories shouldn’t read like advertorial copy.

Personally, I believe this issue is overrated. Despite what old school journalists say about how we cannot write an unbiased travel story when we’ve been comped—and how this is even a subconscious outcome—I don’t buy it.

Here’s why . . . .

If you check out your destination before you travel—via guidebooks and the internet—you’ll have a good idea of whether the destination is going to interest or intrigue you. I don’t visit destinations that are of no interest to me.

I’ve turned down dozens of press trips to places that didn’t look like they would float my boat. If my research shows a place has generated negative reviews, or if doesn’t seem exciting, I won’t go.

My article, Should Travel Writers Take the Freebies and Run? discusses these issues in more depth.


About Roy Stevenson 59 Articles
Freelance travel writer Roy Stevenson has had more than 1,000 articles published in 200+ regional, national, and international magazines, newspapers, trade journals, custom publications, specialty magazines, in-flights, on-boards, and online travel magazines. He's considered one of the most prolific travel writers in the U.S.A. His free weekly newsletter for aspiring travel writers is considered one of the most informative e-zines in the travel writing business. (Subscribe here: Roy has published seven eBooks on selling and marketing freelance travel articles. ( You can read Roy's full bio and see some samples of his work at his writer's website,

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