KERALA BLOG EXPRESS BOYCOTTED AND EXPOSED BY TOP INTERNATIONAL AND INDIAN TRAVEL BLOGGERS. GOD’S OWN COUNTRY?
Top International and Indian travel bloggers are exposing and boycotting Kerala Blog Express for a reason. The voting circus is just one of the few things which are wrong with Kerala Blog Express. For the uninitiated, Kerala Blog Express is an annual sham…errr……joke…errr….competition which has travel enthusiasts from across the world vie to be in the top spot qualifying on not merit but on their skill in buying and ‘begging’ for votes. The winners are gifted with a long trip on a bus which includes their visit to popular places in Kerala, stay in luxury hotels and resorts and of course lots of beer.
I participated in only 1 season of Kerala Blog Express (don’t remember which). When I realized that it is a farce, I stopped caring about it anymore. But every year, it raises its ugly head and I thought it was time I spoke up. This blog was supposed to be just my view on Kerala Blog Express. But when I discussed it online, I saw immense support for my views from the close knit travel blogging community. So I decided to include the opinions of the blogging fraternity in this post.
WHY I BOYCOTT KERALA BLOG EXPRESS. HERE’S EXPOSING KBE:
Top travel bloggers from India and many other countries have shared their opinion below (in alphabetical order) I am starting with my opinion which is a bit longer than others’.
HOW TO WIN KERALA BLOG EXPRESS? BUY VOTES. SIMPLE, EH!
It’s silly that the gullible participants even beg for votes. It is really easy to win Kerala Blog Express. You just have to buy the votes. My tip: Wait for the last day. And buy when the contest is just about to close. VOILA YOU ARE A WINNER!
In one of the season, my friend ABC was participating despite me warning him against it. He was leading when all of a sudden, genius folks behind Kerala Blog Express changed the last date to few more weeks. Who doesn’t like some extra free publicity,eh? So ABC tried again to win the contest by fair means, which is requesting friends and family to vote for him. Another gentleman called XYZ won it at the last minute by buying votes in bulk. Any fool can tell that even if all your friends and family start voting (again,lol) at the same time, it is impossible to reach that number. So XYZ finally did win the contest and openly boasted about buying vote in a drunken state in a bloggers event few weeks later. Sadly XYZ had some other commitments and had to cancel his participation, so that’s how my friend ABC was made a winner. We had taken screen shots too which I don’t want to find after a year and post here. I don’t want to make that effort. Well, actually you don’t even need to take screen shots anyways. It’s really easy to find out. Just go to their website (Pls google it) and see the drama unfold yourself. This is also the reason why 3 of the Top Bloggers listed below stopped asking for votes and have no intention of winning the contest once they realized the farce that it is.
EDITED: On Popular demand, I am sharing the screen shots from this year, which is 2018. These screen shots were taken on 10th January, 2018. As you can see a single contestant can manage to get 500 votes in mere 4 hours. Pls check the timing in screen shot and the number of votes against each individual. Yes, it happens that openly! Even if all your friends and family start voting (again, lol), even then it is not possible to get so many votes just when the contest is about to get over. AND THIS IS WHAT MY PROBLEM IS WITH KERALA BLOG EXPRESS!
XYZ also participated with me in another contest. I stood at 2nd position with a score of say 450 by using fair means. One of my friends was at 3rd position with a score of say 350 by using fair means. XYZ won the contest (again, sigh!) with say 1500 points. The huge difference exposes what means were used to win the contest. Since that day, I stopped participating in stupid voting based contests. I realized, honesty is not appreciated and dishonesty is celebrated in this world! I don’t want to waste my precious time competing with deceitful people whose moral compass is as good as that of a hungry mouse.
WHY AM I SPEAKING ABOUT KERALA BLOG EXPRESS? SOUR GRAPES?
You would argue that I can just ignore it. Why did I even spend an entire day writing this blog? I ignore KBE every year. But when close friends start inboxing me, requesting me to vote for them, I have to explain to them all over again why I am against Kerala Blog Express. I just wanted to say it here. So henceforth I will just give the link of this blog every time someone asks me to vote. I am just saving time for myself.
As far as sour grapes are concerned, sorry to disappoint you, I have zilch interest in vying for a contest which wants free publicity via the voting games and not based on my merit. Kerala is in India, for God’s sake. Being an Indian, I can visit the same places at my own pace with my own money. It’s easy and affordable destination for me. KBE is definitely not a journey of a lifetime for me! I love what Kerala has to offer and I have already been many times to the state. I have been to Fort Kochi, Munnar, Alleppey, Kovalam several times and loved it. But to visit Kerala again, I don’t want to stoop down to the level which KBE encourages me to. And be fooled by those who won by buying votes anyways. And since KBE has the criteria of selecting only 1 blogger from one country, that cruelly narrows down the chance to win it. So here’s one more reason why you should not waste your time and talent on Kerala Blog Express.
IS THERE A BETTER WAY KERALA BLOG EXPRESS CAN BE DONE?
Yes, of course! Why can’t they have a proper FAM/Familiarisation/Media/Press trip where participants are chosen on the merits of their credible writing, photography, film-making and storytelling and not on the basis of how many beer bottles they can shove down their throat in a day and how sexy they can look in the pool? That’s what seems to be the focus of KBE though! The people behind KBE should handpick talented travel bloggers and influencers after a through screening of their profile and oeuvre. That’s how big brands and PR companies I work with do it. Voting game should be done away with. Not only is it embarrassing to beg for votes but also heart breaking to lose out to unworthy participants who do not deserve and win on the buying power alone.
WHY ARE TOP TRAVEL BLOGGERS BOYCOTTING KERALA BLOG EXPRESS?
The voting game is earning Kerala and India more flak than free publicity. Most top Indian and International Bloggers worth their salt stay away from Kerala Blog Express for the reasons mentioned in this blog. In fact KBE is the butt of all jokes in Indian and international travel blogging community. The top bloggers look down upon it. If you look closely at the participants and winners selected in KBE, most of them have an unimpressive body of work. Some of them are good but a large number is not worthy of winning the contest. Unfair voting procedure gives advantage to the inept and incompetent participants who have no talent but perhaps enough money to buy votes. I have hardly seen any impressive blogs coming out of Kerala Blog Express despite the fact that I am connected online to most of the top names in Travel Blogging community. But then, the top ones don’t participate in KBE! So doesn’t it make sense to formally invite the right candidates which will result in better promotional content for Kerala? Maybe they need to learn something from Utar Pradesh Tourism, Goa Tourism and Madhya Pradesh Tourism whose selection of good bloggers for official Media trips have given them quality leverage and publicity. I was part of Madhya Pradesh Travel Mart done by Madhya Pradesh government. I loved the way they handpicked quality bloggers which had a positive impact on the tourism of one of the largest states of India. What stops Kerala from replicating that model?
Till this text, the views expressed are mine. I am sharing below what top Indian and international travelers have to say about Kerala Blog Express. Below are independent thoughts submitted to me through private messages and mails.
HERE IS WHY TOP INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL BLOGGERS ARE BOYCOTTING KERALA BLOG EXPRESS:
In alphabetical order
Blogs at: Next Bite Of Life
While the Kerala tourism board might have had good intentions with the Kerala Blog Express, it has become something more akin to a popularity contest. There is no deep thought put into the selection of bloggers it seems. It has become a matter of who can get the most votes. This, instead of being a “unique online campaign” as quoted on their website just feels stale. A shake-up in selection is needed. It should be all inclusive. Bloggers with big numbers as well as small (they will more than likely write better stories). From press trips l’ve attended, a lot of big bloggers just “show up”. Smaller bloggers are “hungrier” and do the work.
Blogs at: Breathe Dream Go
I’ve been travel blogging in India since 2005, during my first trip. I fell equally in love with India and travel blogging and have published hundreds of blog posts, thousands of social media posts and probably million of words. For years I’ve been enthusiastically promoting travel to India on many different online platforms. And for years I waited for the Indian travel and tourism industry to become innovative, join the digital revolution, and start supporting me and other early adopter bloggers. So I was very excited when Kerala Blog Express was first announced and I was one of the very first people to register. It didn’t take me long to realize that registrants were gaming the public voting and I became dismayed. I realized this was a poor way to attract professionals and in fact there was an outcry against voting contests for press trips in the international travel blogging community. After several years of running the KBE the exact same way, I’m sure the organizers must be satisfied with the results. But I’ve always felt they could do so much more if they did away with the public voting component.
Blogs at: My Trip hack
Every blogger who has at least one year old blog knows the value of every organic follower, newsletter subscriber or a blog visitor. These followers are people, who despite their busy lives chose to allocate some time to read certain blog content. With time it becomes a mutual cooperation: the bloggers provide beneficial information and in exchange they get readers. Both parties receive something.
Now, in the liking social media competitions, there are three parties: a blogger, a brand and an audience. How the cooperation works here:
A brand receives visibility due to new audience and promotion by the participants of the competition.
A blogger receives a possibility to win or lose competition, though it’s a competition, thus some will be winners, some not. Those bloggers who are taking part in it, assume this outcome.
But what does an audience get? They find out about the opportunity in which they can’t participate unless they have a blog. Secondly, they also have a chance to give their vote to the blogger they follow who will also not necessarily get this opportunity in the end. Out of all three parties, the audience is in the least favorable position. I don’t have anything pro or against Kerala Blog Express, but, in my opinion, the brand that targets to increase its audience should not undermine their trust.
This being said, this winter I’m finally going to Kerala by myself. It took me almost three years to visit it, but I have a peace of mind that I can explore this destination on my own terms.
Blogs at: Leave Your Daily Hell
Kerala has been on my bucket list forever, and I think participating in a press trip there would be mutually beneficial. Unfortunately, the ‘voting circus’ KBE have implemented turns off talented veteran bloggers like me, because it implies that momentary enthusiasm supersedes the years of experience we bring to the table. Frankly, a secondary destination in India should be asking me if I want to come, not the other way around.
HERE IS WHY TOP INDIAN TRAVEL BLOGGERS ARE BOYCOTTING KERALA BLOG EXPRESS:
In alphabetical order
Amrita Sen and Agniswar
Blog at: Tales of 2 Backpackers
We had started our travel blog because we loved travelling and I loved telling travel stories. Until very recently, we had never thought of the number game, followers etc etc. And yes, we too also fell into the rat race of numbers trying to gain more followers and likes. But suddenly realised that it is taking the love of travel blogging away – the very reason we started our blog. So we decided to take it slow now – the likes and recognition will come as we strive to work better and better. We took part in KBE this year, got disgusted with asking for votes, so have not promoted it anywhere. I guess someone took pity and gave us a single vote.
Blogs at: Quirky Wanderer
Why are not all the profiles approved at once? Why can’t there be one deadline date after which the profiles are shortlisted and open to the public? Why ONLY the vote system? Why so much partiality towards Foreigners? If foreign bloggers is the focus why not explicitly say that the TG is NOT Indians so the Indian travel bloggers don’t bother participating”
Blogs at: Obsessive Compulsive Traveller
I started blogging for the love of storytelling and travel. In 2007, it began as a hobby for me. Facebook and Twitter were not what it’s today. Nor was travel blogging that popular. I didn’t have marketing, PR and social media chalked out for me, yet I did receive some work I resonated with. I feel happy I worked for some and travelled a lot spending my own money. Around 2014 I registered for KBE but soon realized that it’s going nowhere as it is based purely on public votes and social media scoring. If one just starts a blog with everything planned and up the number game, the chances of getting through KBE is high. I realized I don’t fit in there even though I can understand that a brand needs the numbers for practical reasons. Besides, Kerala being my paternal native place, I have happily spent all of my childhood vacations there. So if I need to be there, I would rather earn it myself and spend my money to travel peacefully just as most of my other travels. Why run after something meaningless, when you are judged by your influence over the quality of work and skills you bring in. This is my perspective, please don’t take it personally or politically.
Blogs at: Pendown
KBE is a great concept of discovering God’s own country but the idea of voting ruins its charm. The organizers should come out with a better way of short-listing people. The voting system is flawed. I have experienced it personally in season 4 of Kerala Blog Express. Participants buy votes openly and it is easy to make out because the numbers increase overnight. I also believe that if they have to select only 1 or 2 Indian bloggers, why do they invite applications from all, it should be strictly for international bloggers. We would be happy not participating.
Blogs at: My Travel Diary
First of all, being a Travel Blogger from India, I find the Kerala Blog Express is worthless because of its voting system. They are judging the credibility of a blogger on based on votes which can’t be a valid judging criteria. Second, the dynamics of the voting system is flawed. Anyone who has registered with Kerala Blog Express can buy votes and beat any deserving candidate and sadly it’s been happening year after year. Unfortunately, Indian Travel Bloggers are given least priority in the whole process which is highly discouraging. Instead of the flawed voting system, they should formally invite travel bloggers from across the world to experience and promote the state. Every sensible and talented travel blogger should avoid the Kerala Blog Express. Because it’s not worth your time, talent and energy.
Blogs at: From My Window Seat
There is a lot of ambiguity about several aspects of the KBE campaign, so much so that it is being called shady in many influencer groups. Transparency of the campaign is one issue that is being discussed a lot amongst the travel bloggers. There is no clarity on why some profiles are approved right away while some take more than a week to get approval. Plus voting system makes it more of a popularity contest rather than a campaign to get quality travel influencers on board. On top of it, even the voting is not monitored and is actually a huge farce. Votes are doubling up in a matter of hours. Also, I have never really noticed any blog posts coming out of KBE, other than the social media updates
Blogs at: Life and its Experiments
I made a profile too but I am not very high on the voting phenomenon. Hence just left it there. I can possibly ask to vote once but I cannot keep asking it on every platform. Because I see people doing that, they are making so much effort and that’s when it hit me that it is not my cup of tea. My only concern is that why is voting an integral part of everything. How do you account for the authenticity of the votes? I might have not done anything worthwhile all my life just paid few bucks and got thousands of votes to boost my profile. That’s my only concern.
Blogs at: Panda Reviewz
Kerala blog express definitely sounded very exciting to me when I discovered it this year and I felt it is an opportunity to explore Kerala & that it would help me gain exposure for my blog. But the voting process kept me away. Initially I had mixed opinions on it. However I thought maybe they want to track influence of a blogger/influencer..so with the benefit of doubt I went ahead and took part it. After actively promoting it everywhere on my social media which reaches upto a lakh followers and my friend circle, I managed to gain 259 votes. But then I saw few random entries jumping from 50 odd votes to 2000 + votes in a matter of few hours.. I was like..is this a joke? And I definitely knew they were buying votes because I personally know a few people who messaged me asking if I’m interested to buy them too? What a fair contest! And what a joke in the name of Blog Express! It should be more of a “the one who buys the most votes wins at the end” contest.
Blogs at: E nidhi
I have expressed my thoughts in the below box:
Blogs at: Travel Books Food
It is interesting to see this debate every year. There is one side including both Indian and International bloggers who are against how Kerala tourism board conducts the whole selection/voting process. Indian bloggers are against them because there is clearly a preference for International bloggers and hardly 1-2 are selected every year. But this is not mentioned anywhere in the selection process that we are not their target group. I think the whole point of it not being a transparent selection process is what has got the entire travel blogging community at loggerheads. And then there are people who have been on the trip and loved it. Also, there are many who want to go on this trip. Which is why in spite of all the negative feedback surrounding it, it is still quite popular among the travel blogging community. Kerala tourism board may never get any of the top travel bloggers to participate but they get a lot of coverage every year. Which as someone mentioned is a really clever strategy. As someone who is originally from Kerala, I definitely do not agree with this strategy of the Kerala tourism board and that is why I will probably never apply ever again. (I did do that mistake last round but backed out when I realised the implications of the voting process) I believe that you will only get 80% of the costs reimbursed and the Kerala trip is so jam-packed with activities that you will have no free time to work on your other projects. If you are fine with all these said points, then it is a personal preference on whether to apply or not. But that being said, Kerala is a gorgeous place and there are many small businesses that will definitely benefit from your blogs.
Suruchi and Tashi:
Blogs at: All Gud Things
We were initially excited to know about the whole Kerala Blog Express thing but soon realised for good that what seems an exciting campaign is actually a damp squib. The whole concept and the so called bloggers literally “begging” for votes openly all over social media was such a put off and irritating. I really wonder how the quality of the content of the so called chosen ones will be decided just on the basis of votes compared to others. We too guess it is just a lucrative marketing opportunity these guys are riding upon with the participant bloggers as baits. IMHO it is not a good sign for the community and blogging fraternity on the whole.
Blogs at: Buoyant Feet
I stay away from the voting game be it for any brand so KBE never really interested me. I don’t understand why a blogger need to get shortlisted on the criteria of votes? What is the aim behind it and especially when you can buy votes to win. Apart from discrepancies, another thing which I always find strange in KBE is the lack of respect that they give to Indian bloggers. It is strange to see a state tourism board not valuing the potential of Indian bloggers. Rather the leverage is given to the international bloggers. Why ? To get more foreign tourist in? Do they know that foreigners read the maximum of Indian bloggers stories to visit a place than an international blogger? I feel a local’s perspective is always more credible. In case you are still adamant that international bloggers should get more leverage, then why not have two official media trips? One with only International Travel Bloggers and other one with only Indian travel bloggers!?
The view from my #SoulWindow is bogus!
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