Bloggers Get Amsterdam Junket

Using tickets and hotel stays normally reserved for the travel press, the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions is sending a group of 25 bloggers on a free trip to Amsterdam.

The promotion, "Bloggers in Amsterdam," was arranged through the BlogAds Network. Invited bloggers--including CityRag, AmericaBlog, TalkLeft, Slice NY, and Jossip--will stay for five nights in a five-star hotel.

The bloggers must agree to be interviewed by the tourism board, and provide the board with free ad space on their blogs; the board will use that space to highlight the trip. Each ad unit will be customized for the site on which it is hosted, featuring the bloggers themselves, and linking directly to their interviews with the tourism boards. The bloggers won't be required to write any blog posts about the trip.

Sebastian Paauw, Internet manager for the tourism board, said the initiative represents an extension of a long-standing pattern of sending mainstream journalists on trips. "Normally we send a lot of journalists to the Netherlands. We make full itineraries for them, and send them to Holland and show them around," said Paauw. "We're pretty convinced that Amsterdam is a good product. You can't send it to the bloggers to write about it, so we sent the bloggers to Amsterdam."

Henry Copeland, BlogAds founder, said the plan was conceived last month, and is not yet totally set. "The view with this stuff is if you spend too much time to overthink it, you kind of predetermine it too much--it's not fun," he said. "I won't say it's risky, but I think we're going to know a lot more two to three weeks from now."

Copeland said the tourism board gave BlogAds a lot of leeway to arrange the promotion. BlogAds selected the bloggers to be sent within its own network, and Copeland said the company may be conducting some or all of the interviews. BlogAds is also managing the promotion's Web site, BloggersinAmsterdam.com. "We're just sort of stirring the pot and seeing what comes out," he said. "They've been remarkably laissez-faire about it. Given what I've seen from advertisers, it's fairly unique."

According to Paauw, the tourism board of Holland has been shifting more and more of its budget away from traditional media, and toward the online space. "We pretty much stopped with TV ads or radio ads or branded ads," he said. "It just wasn't worth it anymore. Online, there are just many more possibilities."