How to Get Free Hostel Stays AND Make Money as a Travel Blogger


Are you trying to earn money as a travel blogger? Have you heard about affiliate partnerships in exchange for free hostel stays? Or perhaps sponsored trips for travel bloggers that include free hostel stays? Perhaps you’re a travel blogger but totally new to all of this and wondering how it works. 
The good news: You have a great skill and hostels around the world need your help! What do we mean? Read on. 
[To jump to info about the high paying (15% commission) affiliate program for our hostel, Pacific Tradewinds, click here.]

Why hostels need travel bloggers 

As the race to be at the top of Google increases, so does the price to make it happen. Whether it’s incredibly expensive Google AdWords campaigns, driven up by high-end competitors, or paying marketing companies thousands of dollars to optimize a website, hostels are frequently left behind. 
Between the mom & pop old school hostels that do it for the lifestyle, and the more modern properties that still have limited resources, expensive pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns and SEO manipulations are just not a possibility. Budget accommodation often means budget marketing.    

How travel bloggers can help hostels with SEO

What many hostels don’t realize is the enormous opportunity to increase their PageRank (i.e. where they show up on Google) organically. This is where travel bloggers are worth their weight in gold. You see Google doesn’t just like information on a website, it likes to see unique content. This means that text copied & pasted across various websites is not helping. For example, putting a hostel’s description from the hostel’s homepage also onto every OTA. 
When a travel blogger writes an article, especially about their time at a specific hostel, it catches Google’s attention as content that is both new and different. Therefore, one reason travel blogging is great for hostels is that it’s unique writing great for SEO, which in turn helps that hostel land higher up in search results. 

Using a travel blogger to get the right hostel guests

Travel blogging also helps hostels to project the right message and the hostel’s atmosphere to potential guests. Google & SEO benefits aside, the writing about a hostel should be as unique as the hostel is. Whether a property is super chilled & laid back, a crazy party place, eco-friendly, or everything in between, the style of writing should reflect this. 
By using a sponsored stay with a travel blogger instead of simply a paid marketer, a hostel’s style will come out much more genuinely and authentically. With the vantage point of a guest experience over an outsider looking in, this writing will be far more relatable to the potential future guests reading it. This not only makes it great content, but also a better ROI for the hostel. They will be clearly showing what they have to offer while also attracting their ideal guests to book. 

Travel bloggers need to contact hostels

It’s clear how travel bloggers can help hostels. So why aren’t they pounding at your blog door for an exchange? The answer may surprise you. It has far less to do with a hostel not wanting the exposure from a blog, or a general resistance to giving free nights. Almost all hostel owners and managers are short on time. These are 24/7 business they run, and the to do list never ends. 
Many have also had poor experiences with “travel bloggers”. This is in quotes because these situations frequently involved travelers who may have had a blog or even a decent following but in some way soured the relationship and didn’t come off as professional or worthwhile. We’ve heard everything from delivering low quality content to overly entitled attitudes (for example, demanding more compensation than originally agreed upon). 
These two things combined mean many hostels simply don’t seek out travel bloggers to work with because they don’t have the time to weed through the ones just looking for a free ride and find those who are truly adding value to the hostel and budget travel industry. Which means it’s often up to you, the travel blogger, to seek out potential opportunities. 

How to find hostels for free stays as a travel blogger

Every hostel will be looking for something different, so the first piece of advice is to know your audience. If your blog has a certain style or theme to it, search out hostels that match this vibe. 
Secondly, keep in mind that hostels are inundated with inquiries for everything from reservations to jobs, so make sure your message doesn’t cause them more work (i.e. time). Be clear about what you are proposing, what you have to offer (pageviews, examples of similar work, etc.), and when you can come. 
Thirdly, be persistent but not overbearing. It’s not unusual for a first email to get missed in the mountain of inbox correspondence. If you haven’t heard back from a hostel after a couple weeks or so, and you will be in the area soon, reach out to them again. However if you don’t get a response or an offer, it’s best to not keep pushing. There are plenty of other hostels that may be a better fit and want to work with you. Search out other opportunities. 

Hostel affiliate programs for travel bloggers

One common way to make money as a travel blogger is through affiliate programs. These are partnerships where the blogger has a widget on their blog where guests can book a certain property, and the blogger will get a commission. Unfortunately, while popular, the hostel affiliate programs via OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) often pay next to nothing for the valuable work of a hostel blogger. 
Our hostel, Pacific Tradewinds, saw this happening and decided we could do better. 

Why travel bloggers can earn big at Pacific Tradewinds Hostel

As an accommodation provider, we’ve watched the price wars between OTAs get increasingly worse. Unfortunately as a result, the commissions they charge to hotels and hostels go up. Even worse, this often forces hostels to raise the prices to their guests, without any corresponding increase in value. At the same time, these OTAs are doing everything they can to reduce the income they pay to affiliate websites and partnerships, such as with travel bloggers. 
Several years ago, we stopped listing our hostel on some major OTAs because we did not agree with charging our guests more for the greed of these companies. By taking more direct bookings, we could pass these savings onto our guests instead, helping them travel easier and longer. We want to do the same with travel bloggers, and we think it’s important to fairly compensate those who put so much effort into helping travelers find the best deals on travel.
By joining our affiliate program, you can earn a 15% commission on the guests you refer. This is often 4x as much as you would make with an OTA affiliate! Since OTAs only pay partners a percentage of their commission, you end up getting almost nothing for your work. If you are lucky you may make 5% of the booking, but it’s often closer to around 3.75%. Why put that much energy into a program with such little payout? 

We offer other benefits as well, that no other affiliate program does:

We pay 15% commission for ALL nights for the lifetime of the guest
If the guest adds nights, the blogger will get paid for those as well.
If the guest comes back in the future, the blogger will get paid for those as well
Discounted rates for your readers via trackable links or customized booking widgets
So why do we do this? Simple. We care about the budget & hostel travel industry, and if we pay you directly, you’ll get more income and we can pass bigger savings to our guests. Our direct booking affiliate program is both generous and seamless to use, and it will provide you with reports and email notification each time one of your readers checks into our hostel. 

Where can I do my work or travel blog writing in San Francisco?

If you need a place to work while in San Francisco, ask us about our travel bloggers office.  We have a quiet room set aside just for travel bloggers. In addition, just down the street, we have video and audio equipment, external monitors and other free equipment for digital nomads and travel bloggers visiting San Francisco.
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