UDC 070


Pokazanyeva Inna Vladimirovna
Saint Petersburg State University
PhD student at the Chair of Television and Radio Journalism, Faculty of Journalism

While travel journalism studies in Russia focus mostly on press and media, little to none attention has been paid to the emergence of travel blogging and Travel 2.0, that have boomed in the last two decades, allowing regular users to become the producers of travel-related content. This article aims to explore the key concepts of travel-related content on the Internet and Travel 2.0.

Keywords: social networks, Travel 2.0, travel blog, travel blogger, travel blogging, Travel Journalism, travel writing, user-generated content

Category: Journalism

Article reference:
Theoretical framework of the travel-related UGC and Travel 2.0 in Russia // Humanities scientific researches. 2015. № 12 [Electronic journal]. URL: https://human.snauka.ru/en/2015/12/13234

View this article in Russian

In the recent decade, the surge in growth of Russian Travel 2.0 has occurred as advanced communication technology has become more accessible and widespread. With a possibility of self-publication in the Internet, many regular users have acquired a platform for expressing personal opinions.

Historically, the content of Travel 2.0 is linked to print, radio, TV, and web journalism. Before the era of widespread Internet, only the professionals had been educating people on travel-related topics, such as foreign countries, different cultures, traditions of the Others. That traditional paradigm has undergone significant changes since the professional journalists had to share a seat with non-journalists. First time in the history of mass media, regular people can play a more important role than professional journalists.

The roots of modern Travel 2.0 go far back into the past, to the birth of Russian travel writing. The earliest examples of Russian travel writing appeared as early as the 12th century in the forms of religious travelogues, or “хожения”. One of the first travelogues was “The Life and Pilgrimage of Danylo, Hegumen from the Land of the Rus” (Житие и хождение игумена Даниила из Русской земли) around 1106 CE to 1108 CE. The travelogue was written by the first travel writer from Kievan Rus and one of the first European travelers, who kept a written account of his travels while crossing the long distances on foot. Hegumen Danylo traveled to Constantinople, Cyprus, and the Holy Land; he explored the Dead Sea, Hebron, and Damascus.

From “The pilgrimage of Ignaty Smolnyanin to Constantinople” (Хожение Игнатия Смольнянина в Царьград) in the 14th century originated the genre of the secular travelogue that has finally consolidated in the Russian literature in the middle of the 15th century. The genre of “хожение” loses its religious connotation by the end of the 15th century.

New travelogues display the difficult paths in the unknown lands, reveal geographical and historical information about the different regions, display customs, traditions of the peoples inhabiting the lands. Afanasy Nikitin’s journey to India undertaken between 1466 and 1472 and narrated in “The Journey Beyond Three Seas” (Хожение за три моря) became the most famous example of the genre.  The author, a Russian merchant, was one of the first Europeans to travel to India. Afanasy Nikitin studied economy, religion, lifestyles of the population. His documented accounts provide a great source of information about India at that time.

Travelogue is one of the oldest examples of literature in Russia, which formed alongside with Russian journalism. Among the first examples of travel writing in Russia were “Journey From Petersburg to Moscow” (Путешествие из Петербурга в Москву) and “Letters of a Russian traveler” (Письма русского путешественника) by A. N. Radishchev, “Journey to Arzrum during the campaign in 1829″ (Путешествие в Арзрум во время похода 1829 года) by A.S. Pushkin, “Letters from France” (Письма из Франции) by D. I. Fonvizin, “Sakhalin Island” (Остров Сахалин) by A. P. Chekhov. “Sketches of Southern France and Nice” (Очерки Южной Франции и Ниццы), written in 1844 by M. S. Zhukova can be considered the first Russian women’s travelogue.

Out of all literary genres, travel writing to the greatest extent is based on a gamble and adventure. The content of travel writing reflects the sequence of events, incidents and meetings of the author during his travels. The author chooses the most important and interesting subjects, providing “multiple interrelated information about particularities of a destination, including, but not limited to attractions, facilities, infrastructures, and a more abstract value such as the overall atmosphere” [1]. 

Despite the great historical tradition of Russian travel literature, travel journalism mostly turned into lifestyle journalism, or feel-good journalism, by the end of the 20th century. Most modern travel guides and travel articles in periodicals are offering either standardized “where to” and “how-to” information or fun stories and anecdotes from the author’s travels.

To understand the current state of travel media and Travel 2.0. in Russia, we need to consolidate the terminology of the field of travel journalism.  

What is travel writing?

According to Tim Youngs, travel writing “consists of predominantly factual, first-person prose accounts of travels that have been undertaken by the author-narrator. It includes discussion of works that some may regard as genres in their own right, such as ethnographies, maritime narratives, memoirs, road and aviation literature, travel journalism and war reporting, but it distinguishes these from other types of narrative in which travel is narrated by a third party or is imagined” [2].

The key genre of travel literature is a travelogue. Autobiography, short essay, anecdotes about fellow travelers and locals usually assemble the core of a travelogue.

According to Eric J. Leed, travelogues are interspersed with personal observations and reflections in respect of the areas visited, forming a unique blend of genres [3]. Michael Kowaleski refers to its “dauntingly heterogeneous character”, and notes that it “borrows freely from the memoir, journalism, letters, guidebooks, confessional narrative, and, most important, fiction” [4]. 

As stated by Brisson and Schweizer, travelogues are the “hybrid works containing political and social analysis, mixed in with narratives of travel, adventure, and discovery”. The authors warn about the dangers of “dishonest” travel writers, who see only what they want to see, and present it to the world as a fact, corrupting the whole picture. They emphasize that the travel writer should take a responsibility for the presentation of other cultures, avoiding ethnocentric, imperialist approach and cultural superiority [5].

What is travel journalism?

Defining travel journalism at the current state remains a difficult task due to “the plethora of travel writing found on the web, in books, as well as television programs, Youtube videos, and smartphone applications” [6].

Travel journalism can be defined as the print or online texts of staff or freelance newspaper or magazine writers who travel to destinations to write signed (that is, by-lined) accounts primary for audiences of potential travelers [7]. 

Ben Cocking finds that “travel accounts are usually based on personal experience and, in this sense, travel journalism is often seen as subjective and associated more with the literary genre of travel writing than ‘hard’ news” [8]. The problem of sponsored articles and advertising applies the shadow of a doubt on the objectivity of travel journalism and makes travel journalism look like a less serious department compared to political or business journalism. According to Lyn McGaurr, travel journalism can be defined as “the signed accounts of individuals who have visited destinations and distributed their impressions to potential travellers through the mass media as printed, broadcast or online articles or segments” [9]. 

Hanush and Fürsich suggest that travel journalism should contain not only entertainment information but critical perspectives as well. According to researchers, travel journalism “operates within the broader ethical framework of professional journalism, but with specific constraints brought on by the economic environment of its production” [10]

The borderline difference between travel writing and travel journalism is that the latter is nonfiction and can be counted on as the truth.

What is travel blog?

Even though international academic research separates travel blogging and travel writing from travel journalism, there is a big confusion in the Russian academic research. Some Russian scholars and teachers of travel schools use “travel blogging” and “travel journalism” as synonyms. In fact, the term “travel-журналистика” is widely used in the advertisement of travel schools in Russia as well as in some scholarly articles. The difference in translation of the original term “travel journalism” adds to this controversy – there are at least four different terms circulating in the Russian academic field defining travel journalism such as “трэвел-жрналистика”, “тревел-журналистика”, “travel-журналистика”, “трэвэл-журналистика”.  

Michael Schudson and Chris Anderson consider the difficulty in conceptualizing blogging in relation to journalism. According to authors, boundaries between “insider and outsider”, “professional and non-professional”, “journalist and blogger” are blurred today and growing ever more fuzzy [11]. Daniel A. Berkowitz says, “blogs have begun to blur the line about who is a journalist and who is a source, and the role of sourcing has become equally ambiguous as a result” [12].

The position of blogging in journalism theory has always been controversial. Blogs are online journals, where users post their personal thoughts and emotions concerning different topics with some frequency. Puhringer and Taylor defined travel blogs as “individual entries which relate to planned, current or past travel. Travel blogs are the equivalent of personal online diaries and are made up from one or more individual entries strung together by a common theme” [13]. Travel blogs are usually being maintained by travelers to report back about the trips not only to friends and families but also to the virtual community. Travel blog as a form of citizen journalism is able to reach niche audiences that are too specific for the institutional media to meet.

Historically travel blogging in Russia originated from the platform of LiveJournal.com. The website was the first mean for exchanging of travel-related information among Russian tourists. The independent individual travel websites started to appear shortly after the rise of LiveJournal. Now, advancing to the world stream of Internet exchange, Russian users are spreading through all the international travel websites and Travel 2.0. 

Some researchers liken data gathered from review sites to data gathered from travel blogs [14], [15], which is not exactly correct – travel blog is a more complex, creative, and literary phenomenon. Besides portraying places and cultural identities, travel blogs self-present an author as a persona. 

It is important to emphasize that not all user-generated content about traveling can be considered travel blogs. According to Banyai and Troy, travel blog differentiates from other social media sites such as virtual communities (groups of people who exchange information and ideas through Internet bulletin boards and networks [16], e.g., Facebook, VK, Youtube, MySpace, etc.) and review sites (allow consumers to provide both qualitative and quantitative reviews of tourism products such as hotels, attractions, and other travel experiences [17], e.g., TripAdvisor.com) by the communication scope [18]. According to authors, travel blogs are “online diaries and stories meant to provide information and engage the reader in the travel experience” [Ibid.]. 

Despite their nonprofessional status, some bloggers manage to break through and publish articles in the traditional media. More than that, the blogosphere itself is becoming more and more professional. Some blogs keep the same levels of impartiality, objectivity, factuality as journalistic works.

Covering multiple topics about the travel experience, travel blogs have brought drastic changes to the industry of travel and hospitality. Now, users seek help in making travel decisions online, and travel blogs serve as platforms where travelers can reminisce and evaluate their travel experiences [19]. But even considering the long history of the domination of travel blogging in the online media, it seems that the paradigm has shifted and the future belongs to Travel 2.0. 

What is Web 2.0 and user-generated content (UGC)?

The term Web 2.0 refers to “the second generation of web-based services that have gained massive popularity by letting people collaborate and share information online in previously unavailable ways” [20]. Web 2.0 changed the way consumers engage with information on the Internet. Terms such as “User-generated Content” (UGC), “Consumer-Generated Content” (CGC), “Consumer-Generated Media” (CGM) are commonly used to highlight the pivotal role that individual consumers have in submitting, reviewing and responding to online content [21].

User-generated content (UGC) and peer-to-peer applications collectively known as Web 2.0 are different from any other types of the web due to its relatively unstructured, not managed by the host organization content. Instead, UGC is loaded directly onto the websites by users, with varying (usually minimal) levels of moderation [22]. There are various forms of Web 2.0 on the Internet, enabling Internet users to add various media content to websites, educating other users about products, brands, services and other special interest topics. UGC comes in forms of comments and reviews, photo and video sharing, blogs, forums, surveys and polls, chats, podcasts, etc. 

There are 4 key types of Web 2.0/UGC sites: 

1) Blogs, also known as Weblogs, or Web pages containing newsgroup-type entries, involving text, images and links to other “blogs” in a chronological order with the newest posting listed first; 

2) Wikis, or Websites that allow the user to easily add, remove, edit and/or change its content to suit their individual preferences; 

3) Podcasts, or The blogging of audio content (i.e. MP3 format) which is accessed on a user-demand basis; 

4) Social Networks, or Spaces on the Internet, such as MySpace and YouTube, that allow a group of friends, peers or like minded individuals to communicate, chat and share information on topics of interest [23]. 

Social networks and virtual communities (e.g., Youtube, MySpace, Facebook, VK, Instagram, etc.) can turn anyone into a journalist, reporter, and producer of the news agenda. UGC now is one of the primary sources of valuable travel content on the Internet. The old traditional media are still available but seem no longer being relevant to the interests and lifestyles of the digital generation.

Besides, the user has become a social influencer and marketing advisor. The trend of UGC also caught attention from businesses and government organizations, given them a chance to promote their products and services. Hence, the occurrence of different types of relationships between sender and receiver is obvious. There are 4 major types of possible applications: 1) consumer to consumer (C2C); 2) business to business (B2B); 3) business to consumer (B2C); 4) government to consumer (G2C), all of which may have important implications for tourism and destination marketing [22]. Nevertheless, the majority of travel-related UGC belongs to the C2C category.  

UGC is interactive, it always has a lot of contributors. Özlem Alikiliç argues that user-generated content is not a new idea [24]. The interactions between professional media producers and their readers, listeners, and viewers have had a long history, starting from the letters to the editor, the radio producers and television program producers to the radio show callings and musical request calls to the talk- and music shows. The new digital possibilities in media brought changes to the creation of the content. UGC can also be the result of the collaboration between media users and broadcasters. 

What is Travel 2.0?

Historically, traditional media (print, radio, TV, and web) had control over the information that reached consumers. The professionals of journalism have been in charge of deciding what content will be published or aired. Over the past few decades, this paradigm has been challenged by the increasing popularity of the Web 2.0, when both journalists and non-journalists were given the same platform to voice their opinions. 

Before the Internet era, there was mass tourism or version 0.0. With the formation of a digital society, a more flexible and more customer-centric model was born – Tourism 1.0 [25]. Travel 1.0 was linking documents and making them electronically available, allowing tourists to search tourism information. In the 21st century, the most tourism agents and services are available online, easily accessible due to the search engines. With the introduction of Web 2.0, the new gateway of communication became available, making the interaction between consumers easier. 

Travel 2.0 is the second wave of travel websites. Travel 2.0 is fully interactive and expands via UGC. The structure of Travel 2.0 website allows users to contribute to its content via images, videos, comments, reviews, and posts of all sorts.

In a narrow understanding, Travel 2.0 is a “program where travelers shop and book travel anywhere on any safe suppliers, provided that they are within budget and the data on their transaction and travel is collected in real-time by their company” [26].

In a broader understanding, Travel 2.0. is “wikis, mashups, and blogs that enable comments” [27].

Travel 2.0 can be identified in the following categories of websites:

•commercial websites with 5-star ratings for travel experiences (e.g., TripAdvisor.com, gogobot.com, etc.);

•other commercial websites (e.g., kayak.com, flickr.com/travel, Aviasales.ru, OneTwoTrip.ru, etc.);

•non-commercial websites (e.g., wikitravel.com, travelblog.com, travelrants.com, tripslog.com, youtube.com/travel, tripster.ru, forum.awd.ru, autotravel.ru, 402km.ru, etc.) [23].

Web 2.0 and Tourism 2.0 made a revolution in the Internet environment. Social networks can be seen as alternative or complementary sources of information diffusion, changing search engines properties [28]. Social media have been acknowledged as a more trustworthy source of holiday’s information than other resources available [29]. Thus, it became the most reliable mean by which consumers make decisions.

The widespread use of social networks and its growing power to influence caught the attention of researchers across the globe due to its potential marketing power. From the economic point of view, the growth of Travel 2.0 has inevitably impacted on the consumers’ researching and buying tourism-related products. It’s getting recognition from the PR-structures, that affects consumer destination decision making, and reshapes previous patterns, dominated by the traditional media.

The Internet opens a possibility for information to flow in various directions. Speaking about travel journalism 2.0, Bryan Pirolli emphasizes that UGC often becomes the primary source of information, while often lacking the reliability, transparency and the professional filter of journalistic endeavors [6].

Professional journalists still play the important role as the agenda providers, adapting to the new circumstances by partially going online. Traditional media understand that they need to collaborate with this new reality to remain relevant. Now, almost all Russian travel products (e.g., journals, TV-programs, TV-channels, etc.) are represented online, attracting a big number of followers on social media accounts. For instance, Russian TV-channel “My planet” (Моя планета) besides social media accounts has a website moya-planeta.ru, where users are able to post not only comments to the journalistic content but also their own content (e.g., articles, photos, etc.) at www.moya-planeta.ru/reports.


While drawing the framework of travel-related UGC in Russia, the connections between first Russian travelogues and current Travel 2.0 became visible. Travelers documented their foreign experiences to educate the readers on different aspects of culture, habits, and traditions of the Others, comparing “Them” to “Us”. However, the deeper aspiration behind the Russian travelogues has always been self-discovery, placing the educational and entertaining rational into the background. It echoes in the modern travel blogs, when travel writers reminiscent, compare, and reflect on the events and meetings occurred during their trips. 

The UGC and Tavel 2.0 have occupied a large space of the Runet, or the Russian-speaking part of the Internet. UGC now is the most reliable and credible source of information, because the recipient in one way or another is personally acquainted with the sender. Travel 2.0 not only reflects the personal interests of users but also affects greatly public opinion on tourism and traveling.

In the side effects, the absence of moderation on the Internet allows the uncontrolled growth and spreading of corrupted and mythic information. Amateur travel journalism and travel blogging is turning into a hip activity. The appearance of this new mean of freelancing leads to an increase in demand of real and virtual travel schools that teach the basics of text writing, photo/video shooting, and editing during the travels. Despite the infancy of the travel journalism theory in Russia, the number of travel schools in Russia grows each year, often leading to the distribution of inaccurate information, terminological confusion, substitution of the key concepts, and to the corruption of the whole theory of travel journalism. This way occurs the profanation of journalism education and the mythologizing of the field of travel journalism in the modern Russia.

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