There’s a debate brewing in the travel (or perhaps more specifically miles/points) blogosphere about comped trips/hotels/flights/etc. Gary started the discussion with a very well thought out post, asking if he should accept comped trips. The Frugal Travel Guy followed it up by saying he would never accept a comped trip.
I find the whole debate interesting on a few levels. First of all, I don’t get a whole lot comped (by that I mean that I’ve met a bunch of travel bloggers that travel a ton and never pay a cent for anything). I recently got a trip to Argentina comped, which was great, though I clearly disclosed it with every installment. Also, let’s be clear about something — it wasn’t a traditional vacation. We were literally touring wineries both days from early in the morning till after midnight. It was a blast, though far from a relaxing weekend.
Sure, subconsciously people are no doubt influenced when a stay is comped. No one tries to be, though certainly you subconsciously take a different approach when something is free. And I’ll be the first to say that this should be considered when reading a review of something that was comped.
But there are many cases where a blogger being comped things can actually work out positively. For example, I was comped a stay at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore during my most recent trip. The hotel usually goes for around $400/night, not something I would pay for a casino hotel. At the same time, the hotel was one of the most physically stunning hotels I’ve ever stayed at (though service is a different story, and I’ll get into that during the review). In one way or another, everyone “wins” from seeing pictures of the hotel, the amazing infinity pool on the 56th floor, etc. Along the same lines, I’ll report on the service, or at times service failures, of which there were a few. Before I stayed there, it’s not a hotel I necessarily wanted to stay at. Rather, it’s a hotel I wanted to learn more about, and hopefully that’s what I can accomplish through a report of the place.
All that being said, what I find interesting is that some people are totally opposed to comped stays but have no issue with referral bonuses. I have no issue with either, as long as they’re disclosed. But with a referral bonus you’re being directly paid for recommending a product, while you’re not being paid a dime for a comped stay. I’ve not once had a credit card link on this blog which got me any sort of a referral bonus (which probably makes me an idiot), though I know at least subconsciously I’d be slightly biased in my credit card recommendations if I were paid varying amounts based on which card I recommend. If there are two cards I find great, would I rather refer the card that gives me a $2 bonus (for example) or a $10 bonus?
Anyway, just my opinion. Like I said, as long as everything is disclosed, I don’t have a problem with it, be it a comped stay, a referral bonus, or just about anything else. Readers are always free to skip over any particular installment/review, since I realize not everyone finds every review helpful. I get bitched it for just about every review I write, so I can certainly take it. 😉