Tessa Hessmiller, Founder of Kutoa, was delighted to have the opportunity to interview Paul Johnson, a successful travel blogger, online travel marketer, and owner of beautiful Lake District holiday cottages in England. Here’s what Paul had to say:
The Early Years
- Where are you from originally?
Paul: I am from Manchester, UK, but now live an hour and a half to the north of there, on the edge of the Lake District.
Paul: Prior to working in online tourism marketing and travel blogging, I was at University studying for a PhD in glaciology. It was whilst I was writing up my thesis that the World Wide Web really started to take off, and it served as an interesting distraction from what I was supposed to be doing! I’ve now been working with the internet and travel for almost 20 years.
A Passion for Travel
- How and when did you develop a passion for travel?
Paul: I don’t remember any one particular instance. I’ve always enjoyed travel – as a young child, we used to go on family camping holidays to France a lot. I enjoyed trying to speak French to the locals and trying different food – the more unusual (snails, frogs’ legs, etc.), the better!
- What is the most incredible place you have ever been?
Paul: That’s hard to call, but possibly Greenland. The landscape, the wildlife, the solitude, the people and their way of life… all incredible.- What are the top three destinations you still want to visit?
Paul: Iceland, New Zealand and more of the Greek islands such as Santorini.
- Were you always interested in luxury travel, or did you evolve from a rugged backpacker phase in your life?
Paul: My interest has evolved. Before I turned 18, I received a couple of travel scholarships from school and did solo backpacking trips, in Italy and Norway. Like many in their student days, I also inter-railed around Europe, camping along the way. I’ve also camped in sub-zero temperatures in Greenland, and today go on occasional camping trips with my family. A few months ago we went to Oban in Scotland and did a little island hopping, visiting the islands of Mull, Coll, Tiree and Staffa on a rib boat, and wild camped near Tobermory.
Becoming a Professional Travel Blogger
- When did you start A Luxury Travel Blog, and how was it getting started as a professional travel blogger?
Paul: I started it in December 2005, having already dabbled with (non-travel-related) blogging prior to that. It wasn’t easy to get it off the ground, but with time and perseverance (and very few related blogs at the time), I gradually made progress. Luckily I didn’t need to rely upon it for my income because we were already running – and still run – a successful internet marketing company for the travel industry.
- Where do you get your content for your blog?
Paul: All over the place! News, other blogs, travel publications, mailing lists, first hand experiences and so on. We also have more than 250 guest bloggers who are providing an increasing amount of content, too.
- How many years did it take before A Luxury Travel Blog became a reliable source of income?
Paul: I would say it’s only really started to prove to become a reliable source of income this year, but it has been growing steadily since it began.
- Do you have any tips for travel bloggers starting out?
Paul: As for tips, I would say a) persevere (most blogs give up too easily!) and b) find a niche – whether that be a particular type of travel or a particular geographic location (or both).
Views on Sustainable Travel, Ecotourism, and Going Green
- What is the most inspiring way you have seen travelers or hotel owners making a difference in their local communities?
Paul: When we honeymooned with CC Africa (now known as &Beyond), you got a real sense that they were giving something back to the communities where their camps were based. They have pioneered the re-introduction of certain species such as the black rhino and made significant investments into various African community development projects.
- How do you think the ecotourism and “going green” movements have affected the luxury travel market?
Paul: I think it has made the luxury travel industry much more aware of its responsibilities. The perception is possibly that the luxury sector pays little attention to environmental issues, but this is often simply not the case and in fact the luxury travel industry is often at the forefront of progress in this area.
Opening his Lake District Holiday Cottages
- When did you and your wife start your holiday cottage business?
Paul: We started Kendal Cottages in 2010. We purchased our first property – a lovely riverside apartment between England’s beautiful Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales National Parks – in January and opened in time for Easter that year. It has been doing very well since, enjoying an occupancy rate of 90%, along with lots of wonderful feedback.
- What would you recommend to others if they had to choose one path over the other: running a professional travel blog, or operating a luxury cottage rental?
Paul: I would say “why not do both?!”. There’s no reason for them to be mutually exclusive – in fact, they can even complement each other.
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