E4 | Travel Influencer Secrets with Hrish Thota

E4 | Travel Influencer Secrets with Hrish Thota

SPEAKERS: Angela Carson, Hrish Thota

Angela Carson  00:10

Good morning. Good afternoon. Good evening and welcome to always get lost the podcast about life and travel abroad. This is Episode Four. I’m Angela Carson, your host. And I’m incredibly excited today to be speaking with my old friend Hrish Thota, who I met in 2011. In India, when we were both food bloggers or ish, I always thought was pretty awesome because he was the first person in India to have a verified Twitter account, which I know seems stupid, but if you work in social media and do what I do, that’s pretty cool. He’s India’s top family travel blogger. He has 130,000 followers on Facebook 40,000 on Instagram, he has been working with brands as a A social media influencer as well. For the past 18 years. He’s worked with over 200 brands. And his current passion is traveling with his wife and their seven year old son reviewing fun things for families to do around the world. I’m super jealous of fresh. He’s actually been invited to blog by Gold Coast Australia Tourism Board, Taiwan, Philippines, Singapore, he’s worked with air asia, Dubai Tourism Board, South Africa, visit Britain, Goa tourism, Sri Lanka, tourism, Hong Kong tourism and many many more. So the focus of today’s podcast is basically to travel influencers swapping secrets and advice. And I would like to just put on the record right now, both Hrish and I hate the term travel influencer. It just sounds I don’t know. It is not good. But it’s much easier than saying, you know, I’m a travel blogger. I have a YouTube channel. I’m active on social media and I’ve podcast but for all intents and purposes, it does apply. And that is what we are calling today’s podcast episode. If you’re looking to become a travel influencer, we are going to be sharing tips on branding on your media kit, how to pitch how to get collaborations. We’re also going to be sharing funny stories of like reviews gone wrong. The first time we were flown out for review, which is always an epic thing for a blogger YouTuber, kind of a milestone, and we’re going to talk about our most lavish collaborations. Now I am coming to you today from the seaside cove I was last week. I live in the Riau Islands in Indonesia. And it looks like it’s about to storm so I’m a little bit worried about the sound. Hopefully Mother Nature will cooperate and this is going to go smoothly. But if you do hear birds or any other wildlife out there, just know you are sitting on the seaside in Indonesia with me. So let’s get right into it. And welcome Hrish Thota. Hey, it’s nice to see you. How are you?

Hrish Thota  03:10

Angela Nice to see you too. How are you doing?

Angela Carson  03:13

I’m good. I’m good. Oh, wonderful. How are you? family?

Hrish Thota  03:17

Yeah, they’re doing good. Yeah, just just just holding on because no travel is possible right now and just we are working from home.

Angela Carson  03:25

Alright, so today we are going to spill the beans and tell the truth on what it’s like being a travel influencer. And I in the intro, I explained to you and I both hate the term travel influencer. It just sounds. It just sounds wrong. But it’s easier than saying, Oh, I have a blog. I have a YouTube channel. I’m on social media. I’m podcasting. I’m

Hrish Thota  03:47

Right. Absolutely. 

Angela Carson  03:48

I think if we try and be as truthful as possible that maybe not out particular hotels when we’re talking about our horror stories. We’ll keep Keep it safe.

Hrish Thota  04:02

Absolutely. So yeah, we are more of travelers I would say and then we are sharing experiences. So that Yeah, influencers have been really bitter. I mean, the word has been really abused by a lot of people. But I think we are trying to create content around travel and at heart, we are all travelers.

Angela Carson  04:20

For me, I always try to say, because my channel isn’t about me so much, but I, I always try to say that I help people make travel decisions. Yes. So that’s how I view my channel. And you and I both, we met I don’t even remember where we met in 2011. in Bangalore, do you remember the event?

Hrish Thota  04:41

Yeah. I don’t remember exactly which event that was, but I think we collaborated more during that Guns and Roses concert, which was really successful. That was so much fun. Oh, yeah, that is because that was like, you know, childhood dreams come to, you know, come true actually. Because, you know, having grown up listening to consumers, as me Again, seeing them live, you know, that was a wonderful moment.

Angela Carson  05:04

Yeah. For all of you listening, I was actually the Social Media Manager and digital marketing manager for Guns and Roses India tour in 2012. I toured with the band, I was the person doing the PR generating the videos for social media and all that it was such a blast. Hrish has such an amazing face. And I tagged him in to help me promote the concerts, which was a big success. Yeah, thanks again for that though. That was such a fun sign. Oh, that was great. All right. Well, I want to start with how we each got started. So how I actually don’t know the history of how you started your channel and how you how you Yeah, the path that you took.

Hrish Thota  05:51

So yeah, basically, I started blogging in around 2001 when I was just out of college and I was just New to Bangalore and I had met some technology friends of mine. And they were basically talking about this new thing called logging, which is coming up. And there used to be a website called Live journal. So there, this was one of the earliest blogging platforms and people used to add each other as friends and they used to blog about, you know, what’s happening with their lives. And then it used to be in a very community kind of a format where you could see each other’s blogs, and you could follow each other and that’s when I started blogging and it was mainly about the kind of as I was discovering the culture of Bangalore because I was new to Bangalore, I was discovering the pop culture of Bangalore, I was discovering discovering the music scene, I was discovering the culinary, you know, treasures of Bangalore, and I was even looking out for the different travels that I could do from Bangalore. So that’s when I started my blog and I started sharing content there and slowly I started connecting with other like minded people in Bangalore and we started having blogger meetups, and then this became like a year. What year was this was, this was 2002 actually 2002

Angela Carson  07:12

That’s amazing. That’s amazing.

Hrish Thota  07:15

So, it was more of a passion than more of a working or a vocation kind of thing. So, and then we decided that okay, I mean, I started blogging and then over a period of time, I started building a follower database and, and I was also as new social media platforms came in, like, you know, at that time, there was awkward my space. And then I started, you know, putting out my content on these platforms also. And then that was like, that’s how it grew. And as new platforms started coming in, like Facebook and Instagram over the years, I started adopting my content to these Guys, and then I started ensuring that, you know, I still put up relevant content. That’s why over the years Also, I’ve still not lost my passion for the same. And I’ve been still wanting to, you know, create interesting content so that my followers enjoy it and they want to replicate it also.

Angela Carson  08:18

Yeah, I think it really helps when it’s not your job. Because you and I both do it as a passion. We both have day jobs that we really love in digital marketing and, and branding. And so to be able to do it as the thing that de stresses you or that makes you happy outside of the stressful, you know, workplace, I think, I think really helps, because it’s not my moneymaker. And it’s not your moneymaker.

Hrish Thota  08:45

Right? Yeah, that’s helped a lot because there’s no pressure on that you are trying to create content, which are really low. And then you are obviously trying to, like you said, trying to help others to plan their trips and itineraries. And then Tell them about what they can do best in a place, and then let them do that.

Angela Carson  09:05

Yeah, well, I started in Bangalore as well, but it was a decade later than you. Because I, I started my first blog in 2011. The day that I moved to India, I had jetlag, and I couldn’t sleep, it was the middle of the night. And I was thinking to myself, okay, I’m in this new magical world, I’m either going to have these insanely long Facebook posts, or feed, you know, sending email blasts to family and friends, every couple of days, or I can set up a blog. And because I had worked in digital marketing my entire career, my companies I’d worked for, I always would oversee the blog, that was part of my department. And so I knew WordPress, on a basic level, and I was able to go in and set up a blog in the free WordPress and video Getting Angela carson.wordpress.com and then I just started writing every day about what I was experiencing and in my life since I moved to India. And finally one Indian blogger found me her name was pencil girl back then. And pencil girl found me and just consumed my entire blog, and then shared it on her channel. And then other people found me. And I was just writing about, you know, I went apartment hunting today. Oh, they don’t serve wine at restaurants here. It’s really weird. Oh, you know, I got hit by a cow today when I was walking. Oh,

Hrish Thota  10:42

you know, it’s just, I don’t I think I used to enjoy reading your blog posts, especially with your driver. He was like very healthy driver. She was so helpful and software almost became like a family member to you actually.

Angela Carson  10:56

Yeah, my driver Shiva. When my blog got more popular and I changed it to, like normal, you know.com blog, he actually had a little part on that blog. Because most of my blog posts, I would write things as I saw them. And then I would ask shivah about them. And it would be like, you know, Valentine’s Day at my daughter’s school, they’re sending roses and chocolates to friends you can pay you know, X number of rupees and you send something to your classmate. And I remember telling shivah and she was like, oh, Madam, no, we do not want that. You know, we do not want our daughters to have attention from anyone. That is not correct. That is not accepting. I was like, Whoa, okay, I didn’t realize that. And I would take that on board and then

Hrish Thota  11:49

different things, but like, it’s

Angela Carson  11:50

not that it’s right or wrong, but this is the way it is the international school. And Shiva says that this is really not welcome, generally speaking in the end Culture and explain why and it made the post more interesting I really did.

Hrish Thota  12:04

Yes Yes absolutely. So it gave a different perspectives from both your side and from his side and that was really wonderful to read because it made a lot of interesting read and and I think also your your your stories about IPL parties were like legendary.

Angela Carson  12:22

It okay so my blog actually stopped being a personal blog once I got friends in Bangalore it took me about two, two months to find friends. I ended up writing about Sunday brunch because Sunday for every group of friends I had they went to Sunday brunch every week. And it was always a different place, but it was three or four places and you just cycle through them. And all of a sudden they started having increased blog traffic because people were typing in, like where’s the best Sunday brunch in Bangalore. And I remember seeing that I was like hell, I got to get more of these posts. So I contacted the Taj hotel and I told them, I said, Oh, you know, I’d like your PR managers email, please. And I emailed her and in five minutes, she called me back and you’re doing something that no one else is doing. We would like you to visit all of the Taj properties in Bangalore, go to brunch, have champagne with your friends, pick as many as you want will pay for it. And just write about it. Like awesome. And that is when my blog stopped being a personal blog and became a food blog which eventually became a travel blog. So you went from having a sorry, what was the name of the journal?

Hrish Thota  13:34

Live journal

Angela Carson  13:36

live journal So you went from live journal with some was it just your name? How did you brand your channel?

Hrish Thota  13:43

Yeah, that’s so many funny story, Angela, because when I started the blog, and I initially thought like blog meant something which you could do along with your, you know, group of friends and all that. So, what I actually did is I created one with the name of my college, which is Then pay college so that’s why my brand name dem pay stuck with me bangaloreans started knowing me by that name 10 pay and then over the period of time as I created my you know, other, you know, identities on other social media platforms that name start actually. So that became like, you know, my identity and then I was like, I but over a period of time I realized that like general was not sufficient enough, I was like, Okay, let me move into WordPress and that WordPress was started I would say around 2008 or 2009, I started WordPress, and I got my own, then like more potempa.com so I bought the domain and my college has done a college.com you know, first, that’s it, I took it first. They didn’t really realize and they didn’t even care about it. So they still in touch with me and I, I keep in touch with the teachers and all that they know I have a.com but they don’t really care because they got the template college.com so they don’t really worry about that. But yeah, and I was started I started blogging about my different, you know, like, like I started.

Angela Carson  15:08

That’s amazing. And is your so your brand then is different from your blog to your socials?

Hrish Thota  15:16

I’ve been I’ve been calling it as demp a travel blog. So because my name still, you know, no, I’m still known by MJ. So I’m calling it as adempiere family travel blog. It used to be a lifestyle blog, mostly more into the family travel blog, and then focusing only on the family travel time, predominantly, but also sometimes talking about maybe parenting or talking about, you know, food or something like that sometimes.

Angela Carson  15:43

It has started to rain here. Hopefully you guys can still hear me. Yeah, yeah, with my brand. Um, you know, I started in India and I used to be Angeles bangalore.com. Yes. And it was the number one blog in Bangalore if you typed in Van galore blog it was number one, five years. That’s right. And I was so proud of that. But when I moved to China, I was fucked. Because you can’t take Angeles, Bangalore and make it a blog about asia travel. And I realized at that point, what a big mistake I made by kind of micro niching my channel name down so when I moved to China, I also realized the Angeles Bangalore had my personal blogs, but it also had my luxury travel or travel, travel reviews. And so the same person who’s reading my personal blog, which is now x, fat, Angela, and it’s been x Angeles since I left India in 2013. Those people don’t necessarily want the luxury travel reviews and videos. And so I split the blog at that point. And I’ve gone through a couple renditions with the travel blog. But when I started this podcast, I realized that everything was getting really messy. I set up the new always get lost YouTube channel, and Instagram and Facebook. So it was just a friend of mine came and just said, What are you doing? What are you doing? It’s like you need to stop this, you need to have one website, that’s Angela Carson, and put everything in it. And then keep your travel blog, keep your expert blog, but run your podcast through your main personal branding website. And keep just one set of Facebook, one set of Instagram, and one YouTube. So that’s what I’ve done. Now as I went through after all these years, I’m finally Angela Carson, on YouTube, on social media, and I have the website set up as well. And it feels quite good to have liberated myself of you know, the Additional exposure media channels and it’s it’s less work to to streamline things. And yeah, so I’m going to keep the two blogs, my one website that has the podcast and then everything else, and YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, all the same Twitter as well.

Hrish Thota  18:22

I think that makes more sense so that you know, all the content can be found at one place and they are able to see that and, of course, you could have different things like you know, you’re talking about expats, you’re talking about expat life. You’re talking about travel, luxury travel. You could have multiple sections in the same website. I think that is fine. I think so because some of the best content has been created for you. And I think that’s still very relevant, actually. So I think that

Angela Carson  18:49

Yeah, I’m not to the point of putting everything on Angela-Carson.com. I’m still going to keep the two blogs that that seems like a really I’m a little bit About that, just because yeah, just because I have that fear that not everyone wants the same thing and that those a personal blog is very personal at times. Yes. And I think that brands like Marriott and Taj, they wouldn’t want to go on to my sight when they’re checking me out unnecessarily see some of the real life moments that I share in my personal blog. I feel like from a from a branding perspective, at least as a travel influencer, it’s still smarter for me to have that luxury focus on luxurybucketlist.com, it’s really important because new new influencers when they’re starting out, trying to find a.com that actually has available social media channels as well. It’s tough. It’s really tough exercise to go through and finally find something that feels on brand for each person and is also worth available and isn’t already taken. Yeah. You and I were talking before we started recording that. What people don’t know. Are you okay with me divulging the secret?

Hrish Thota  20:13

Yeah, sure. Okay.

Angela Carson  20:14

So I think that one of the things that people don’t realize is that we travel influencers, we never pay for any of our travel. I was telling Hrish that the last time I actually paid for a hotel, it was one night, I had a one night delay in my flight in Vietnam, and I paid for one night of a hotel in Hanoi. So any of the any, can you hear the thunder?

Hrish Thota  20:42


Angela Carson  20:44

All right. Welcome to Indonesia folks. What people don’t often understand is that for travel influencers, our content is what if it’s a barter system basically with a brand and they look for What you can give them and then they offer up something that is a win win. So if you’re a very powerful influencer, you can charge thousands for your time and just to offer a brand access to your audience face. But for me, I don’t have a very big channel I’m just very good at SEO. So my videos often land at number one. So for Four Seasons Maldives Kuda Huraa my videos number one for the Ritz Carlton Langkawi, my videos number one on YouTube, and that has value. So I don’t charge for me going and reviewing properties. I like to stay objective. So in case something is quite hiccup, or there’s a big problem, I can talk about it. But it’s wonderful to have the trips that we do and the experiences that we have just in in, in exchange for you know, moments. on our channel. Yeah, indeed,

Hrish Thota  22:01

I think that’s what I also look for barter collaborations where I am able to add value to the hotel where I am talking about some of the aspects of the hotel which you can’t really find elsewhere. Many hotels are looking at barter collaborations, because they look at the value that we can provide to them,

Angela Carson  22:24

because you actually with barters you’ve sent me because you and I have over the years we we we introduce each other to different brands and we support each other in that way. And you’ve had barter agreements that are just wow, like so detailed.

Hrish Thota  22:43

Yeah, I felt that you know, it was worth it because I felt that that kind of experience which is like you know, thousands of dollars and then you know, you are actually spending so much time and they are spending time you know, taking care of you and ensuring that your interest is wonderful. So I find that you know it It’s important to mention the kind of deliverables that I do on all the social media platforms. And I also mentioned that you know, what are the kind of the, as features of these social media networks that I would be using like I would be doing an Instagram Live, I would be doing a Facebook Live, they’d have value and add value because that content as well is favored by the algorithm in Instagram and Facebook. And because they favor it, you get more views on that type of content. So it’s, it’s a boost for the brands to have you doing that I do have mix and match all of these things when I’m offering to a brand and the brand clearly sees that what are the kind of value that they’re getting out of the collaboration with me, so then they go ahead with that and that really works very well also because they also know what is coming out of it. I know what are the things that I should not miss out. Of course, I like to go for a vacation or I like to enjoy it also. But I also have these things that Okay, today I need to shoot this stuff. So that is stunning. have laid out for me. And then the rest of the time I you know, I just enjoy the scenic views or the activities and all that that I do that but it gives me a structured approach which helps me and helps the brand also.

Angela Carson  24:13

Yeah, I found that doing live check ins and showing people kind of going because I have a I have a fabulous selfie stick, which took me a long time to actually love, love love but it’s leather and beautiful and it works for the luxury travel space. And so i’m i’ve i’ve learned to not be embarrassed by doing the live videos and I’ll go from outside the property in up the elevator show people the room and give like a mini room tour is a live check in. And that seems to be content that people really like because you get a first glimpse of things before the experiences really start

Hrish Thota  24:52

that gives them like as if they feel of they’re there with you and they are also seeing that what’s happening. As you’re discovering new things, so they like like that. All right.

Angela Carson  25:04

Okay, so how about we swap funny stories of reviews gone wrong? Like your worst the worst review? Like just tell us what why they spilled the tea give us the dirt.

Hrish Thota  25:18

Sure. So yeah, I mean, without revealing much details about the brand because I don’t want to be like, you know, blacklisted by them for the future. But I would say that one of the recent reviews where I actually visited North India, and it was during the harsh winter. So what exactly happened is that I, I went to the place and then it was started raining heavily. And then, you know, we were like, this is like screwed up. And then when we landed there, it started snowing heavily there because it is a very high point and our vehicles couldn’t reach this. So you know, we were stuck at we were stuck without accommodation For the night, and then we were like, wondering what to do because it wasn’t

Angela Carson  26:04

worth it. Where do you sleep if you don’t have accommodations for the night?

Hrish Thota  26:08

Yeah, at that point we didn’t have but then because we then we were, we were told that we might have to, you know, go back to the nearest town, which would take us around for hours in the Delta light kind of thing. So this was really bad. But luckily, they found some homes which are like made something like which are made for road construction kind of thing. So these were made for engineers who are doing the road construction. These are how, like, basically, like shipping containers, homes made out of shipping containers kind of thing. They didn’t have, you know, they didn’t have heating, and they have, you know, proper, you know, you know, facilities, no, no food and all that facilities was not there. So we were, we were asked to stay there, but then We were like okay what else we could do you know we couldn’t get we should be better to stay there then going another four hours in the dead of night to the nearest town and even then check for some lodges or something like that which may not be really good so we just had to spend the night there and we just took the blanket and you know just put it very tight snugly you know, we put in

Angela Carson  27:22

all your clothes on from your suitcase?

Hrish Thota  27:24

all the layers. Yeah, I didn’t, I didn’t even take off my you know, you know, a fleece jacket that I had on I just slept with that fleece jacket on. I put in, I didn’t even take anything off because I was like, whether let me just leave like this. Rather than get to, you know, some frostbite or something like that later. So, that was really pathetic. I think, I think the organizers they don’t need they need to at least have an eye on what is happening over the weather and then you should they should have made some kind of, you know, alternate arrangements. They didn’t even do that, you know, I was really disappointed. But then some of the other activities which are They’re kind of made up for it later on. So

Angela Carson  28:02

that’s Yeah, that’s a rough night though. Like you would never put yourself in that situation willingly as I was

Hrish Thota  28:09

like really dread. I was really thanking my staff that I didn’t get my family there because I just came alone but there was somebody who got their daughter who was about 10 years old and she was really miserable. So yeah,

Angela Carson  28:24

that’s bad. Yeah, well, mine. Okay, mine. I will also not divulge the hotel brands because it’s a major, major hotel, five star hotel brand in Asia. I thought I was going for a review at this hotel that I was really excited about. And they had told me that there was going to be this like kids pool opening up at their sister property next door and what I also go to that for an hour or two, you know, on one of the days, I was like, sure, sure that sounds great. But it turns out that the PR team, all they wanted me for was for the Kids pool. And I don’t have kid friendly content on my travel channel. It’s just not my not my style. And so I was so excited about the hotel review that I thought I was there for. And when I checked in, I kind of realized that something was wrong because you know how it is normally. There’s someone waiting for you. And Hi, Miss Carson, this person. Oh, great. You know, we’re so excited to have you. There wasn’t really any of that. I checked in normally. And in the room, there’s generally a handwritten note, with a bottle of something to drink and some fresh fruit. There wasn’t any of that. And as I went through the review, everything was a hiccup.

Hrish Thota  29:45


Angela Carson  29:46

the room that they put me in. I could literally hear the people above me pee. It had to be a man. I could hear him urinating in the bathroom. Like every time he peed. I can hear every moment of his stream. That was disgusting. So the room was just not the one that they normally put their their journalists or travel influencers in. And when I went for the first meal, the table they had set aside for me had bird poo on it. And none of the dishes that they brought were good enough for food photography. You know, when they, yeah, they know you’re eating and you’re shooting photos and video. Yes, like they make it beautiful and perfect. It’s like, they sent me a bowl with sloppy soup all around the edges. You can’t do anything with that and the rest of the dishes just didn’t look plated. They look like food plate, you know, plop down on a plate. So it was just hiccup after hiccup and then I finally realized the next day at that event that that’s all they wanted me for. So after that, I I’ve stopped agreeing to do the extra events. I don’t really want to do to make sure that I’m there for the right reasons because that was just a waste of my time I the review was so terrible I ended up sending them all my notes and they asked me to please not post it. So I wasted all that time shooting video all that time in my time as well. And for nothing. All right, so it does get better once you establish yourself like you were saying the brands start to reach out to you. So when was the first trip that you were flown out for? Because for me that feels like a milestone like when you when you hit that and they actually want to invest in flying you someplace that that means that you’re worth that you’re worth the investment on their side. So where was your first trip where they flew you out someplace fabulous.

Hrish Thota  31:50

So I would say this was to Philippines actually so nice. Yeah, I was contacted by Philippine tourism and they flew me down to Philippines A six nights seven day you know fam tour which is like really, you know, unheard of in general times because generally they try to cram a lot of things in just at night or so. Yeah. By the time and here they are itinerary was very flexed out one where you had a lot of flexibility and you could do things at your own pace and just do a lot of things that they have signed up for. And then you’re just exhausted by the end of it and you don’t have the time to shoot the content that you want. And actually, so that was really wonderful because they took us to some of the place like they took us they put us up for two nights in Boracay islands which are really beautiful. Then they took us to there was this El Nido resorts which is in the middle of the sea and it’s like a private island with only the resort and nothing more wonderful with you know, like they have their own son Sunrise tracks on the island itself on top of the mountains behind me on top of the hills behind the resort and then they have these their boat speed boats which take you from around that to catch the first rays of sun. So those kind of really exotic places and they have these monitor lizards roaming the island like nothing, you know, it’s like, it’s it was like in a very exotic holiday and this was like, and they gave us a lot of time to just relax and then just spend more time there and then talk about the places then just, you know, rush up and see a lot of touristy places. So they wanted us to relax and do the luxury part actually. So that was wonderful, actually. So I think that’s one of my, one of my highlights one of the best trips that I’ve been flown to what year was that Parrish. This was 2015 Yeah. Oh nice.

Angela Carson  34:03

Yeah, my my first was in 2016 and I was a digital nomad at the time around Southeast Asia. Right. And I had been putting out videos a couple couple times a week and always five star really fun. And I I was contacted by the Sarawak Tourism Board which is on Borneo on the Malaysia side of Borneo. So it’s either Sabah or Sarawak and Sabah is where the orangutangs are. And Sarawak

Hrish Thota  34:37

I went to Sabah last year actually.

Angela Carson  34:40

Oh nice. I’ve never been I I was supposed to go right when the lockdown happens. So but yeah, Sarawak Tourism Board actually contacted me it was very exciting. And they said look, we’d like to fly you out for a week and we want you to go to the moon national park with a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And it was a collaboration with the Tourism Board and with Marriott, and Marriott put me up in on the coast in Mary. And then they flew me out in this little It was a prop plane that went to mu Lu and mu is a rain forest destination. You can’t get there by road. And it’s such a tiny airport that the airplane has to do a turn around at the end of the cul de sac and come back and there’s literally enough space for two airplanes. And Mary picked me up in this van didn’t have windows and was really scrappy, but kind of felt very jungle II and the place was amazing. It was one of the most relaxing stays because the property itself it’s the only luxury property In moolah, the rest are kind of backpacker backpacker properties. And this one I had, again, a villa on not a villa, but my room was on stilts but above kind of a low lying. Oh gosh, what is that where the frogs have lily pads, there were lily pads all below and they had a wonderful itinerary for me. It was days spent exploring the rain forest, and caves and going on like one kilometer jungle walks but that you would walk on a suspended rope bridge through the trees. And it was just, it was amazing. It was such a wonderful first experience and I was happy that it wasn’t a fam trip. It was just me. So I I was able to customize the experience a little bit.

Hrish Thota  36:51

Yeah, I remember that. I think that was wonderful. I remember those pictures and videos that you had put up. I was really jealous of you. You know. It was like a wonderful That’s like my dream come true. So you know with those resorts looked so perfect and the entire area itself yeah like you were saying Sarawak is one of the most beautiful places of Malaysia and not much explored by anybody actually because generally people go to the mainland Malaysia which is Kuala Lumpur and then maybe Langkawi they might go but you know, they never visit much of Sarawak and Sabah and all that. So these are like really wonderful exotic places. Actually, I think

Angela Carson  37:29

it it was honestly my favorite trip of 2016. And I travelled non stop for months, and I went on a cruise from Singapore to Thailand. I, I was I was around a lot and that was my favorite and it stayed my favorite until about 2018 I think. So that was that was really special, but it just it felt so nice to be for them to initiate that it really did feel a bit like a milestone, like Yeah, I finally made it. Well, so I thought before we get to the tips for anyone looking to be a travel influencer, we’re going to talk about the media kit, pitch email, how to get started social versus blog versus YouTube. We could share one last story and that’s the most lavish collaboration that you’ve had. And that could be a travel experience or a luxury product if you’ve been given some thousands of dollar you know, some some amazing product. So tell us your most lavish collaboration

Hrish Thota  38:32

I think the most lavish collaboration that I’ve done was last year when I went to Australia, and so I visited Gold Coast and so I collaborated with Gold Coast tourism, which was really lavish because they took care of our entire stay for two nights and three days and we were put up at a on the we were put up in a hotel on the coast, you know, overlooking the beach, and then we were also given access to a lot of wonderful activities, which are there, like you know, we went up the one to one tower, which is the tallest tower in southern hemisphere, we went there with wonderful views of the entire Gold Coast. We went hot air ballooning, which was a amazing experience because we’re learning as you know what I’ve been running around sunrise, so he got up at 3am or something like that got ready. Yeah, we were drone Drew. We were driven out at around you know, at around four 4am to the place and then we boarded the hot air balloon and then we went and as we were growing up the hot air balloon, we could see the sunrise around the plains of Gold Coast. We did the aqueduct tour which is like good for children. Basically, it’s where they take you on this you know, bus which converts into a boat when it goes into the water. And then we also did an Outback adventure trip which is like a Beautiful extravagance The show where they show that you know, it’s like cowboys and how outbacks used to live in Australia so it’s with proper dinner with the steak and you know the best of the food of Australia and all that which is there and the wines of Australia. So that is their main your Indian So what was the steak did they serve before did they serve an alternate or they gave chicken actually chicken as an alternative? Yeah, okay. So they even had a vegetarian option for Indians because they see that a lot of Indians come to gold Coast’s also so they had vegetarian options also. And apart from that, they also we they gave us access to the some of the best amusement parks are in that part of the world. There is a Warner Brothers movie world is there there is SeaWorld which is there. So SeaWorld, which is that influence and so these very good amusement parks are so they gave us access. So it was like a very good three to four day trip to Gold Coast. And our entire family was taken care of. So, you know, it and including my parents, actually. So I traveled with my parents for the first time too. And they were like, you know, we want to showcase the how even grandparents can enjoy with their children. So, yeah, you know, with the grandchildren. So that was one night where the entire family could enjoy this entire three day trip. So I think that was one of the most lavish collaborations that I’ve done with a Tourism Board actually,

Angela Carson  41:30

that does sound really really fun.

Hrish Thota  41:32

That sounds really fun, whatever years.

Angela Carson  41:35

Okay, so I have a bunch that are travel related. But I thought since you talked about travel, I’ll talk about stuff. Okay, as a travel influencer, you can also collaborate with brands for products. You do it a lot with technology products, because you I do light of your lifestyle brand. Yes, I do it with travel products and gear. So I’ve actually done collaborations. For my camera, my mic, like most everything I have has been a cloud collaboration. So when I was on that trip during the cruise from Singapore to Thailand and back again, and then I went to Mulu with the Sarawak Tourism Board, I noticed that the wheel on my luggage was starting to wobble a bit. And I was a digital nomad on a super budget at the time. And I remember saying, Okay, I’ve got to fix this. Let’s see in Malaysia what the best luggage company is or you know what, what’s out there, that’s fabulous. And so I ended up emailing RIMOWA, which is a really spendy luggage brand. And they were really trying to make a push in in Malaysia. And I just messaged them and said, Look, this is me, this is my channel. I need a new piece of luggage. Are you interested to corrupt collaborate, this is what I would offer you. You know two videos, one in stores. shopping and then another one three months later doing a checkup. And they came back and said yes, so the piece of luggage, there’s videos where like at the start of the trip, I have this red, you know piece that I had bought that I really liked but was falling apart. And then at the end is this shiny silver rimowa luggage that cost $1,200 for the single piece.

Hrish Thota  43:28


Angela Carson  43:29

It’s going to last so long. And it just, it looks great for luxury travel. It just looks amazing. And so I’ve done, I’ve done those types of collaborations even with my gear bag, there’s a camera bag company called Billingham. And I’ve done collaborations with Billingham for my gear bag and that is like a $450 camera bag.

Hrish Thota  43:54

So the stuff

Angela Carson  43:55

is also fun, and all of my videos that I’ve done for billing him And rimowa rimowa my video is number one worldwide, even in Germany where they’re headquartered. So I am pretty proud of all of that. And it’s actually on YouTube. It’s the content with the highest cost per view. So I get paid the most for those luxury product videos, I get paid the most for those for Ritz Carlton. There’s certain brands that I have the highest cost per view. And so it’s, it’s beneficial to find within your niche, those types of products that not only help elevate your brand status, help you not have a wonky wheel, you know, when you’re traveling, but you you generate more revenue as well, from that type of content once you’ve identified that it’s something that has that potential.

Hrish Thota  44:55

Right And certainly, yeah, I also feel that you know, finding the right niches actually very important even for upcoming bloggers that we are going to talk about the next actually, you know, like, you know, because what what you generally feel is that entering at this point of time Is it correct or not? Because there are a lot of people already so if as long as you are able to find the right niche for yourself and then stick to it while creating the content rather than just, you know, doing a lot of other things, that helps a lot actually.

Angela Carson  45:23

Yeah, the niche down, niche down to rise up use the theory. Yeah, that that is really important because you can’t just set up, set up a channel and just be you and post about everything. There has to be there has to be a niche today. It’s too saturated, saturated out there. Alright, so let’s give some tips to anyone looking to be a travel influencer. I want to talk about the media kit because I think most people starting out, don’t understand the importance of actually having content and having your your channel be populated already and have some following But they don’t understand about the media kit, and how important that is. So mine is quite visual, yours is quite text base. Do you want to share a bit about the media kit and how that is an important factor for brands making a decision?

Hrish Thota  46:16

Oh, yes, I did. I think media kit has been really influential in me getting a lot of collaborations because, you know, I started realizing that you know, brands want to see what are the kind of things that your work before and writing it in an email is okay, but you know, having it in a PDF with, of course, some text, text should be there, but also having screenshots of your previous collaborations talking about the brand said your work before, maybe some screenshots of some of the activities that you did before some of the maybe some media coverage that you have got all those things helps a lot in your media kit. So I think that’s very important. That media kit should cover what are the things that you have done before and Even if it is not, with regard to collaborations try to show it what you are good at. And because that is the just the that could give you an edge over somebody else who doesn’t have the media kit, or who doesn’t have enough collaborations.

Angela Carson  47:15

Yeah, I also in my media kit, I have a couple of because I do mine his slides, and then save it as a PDF. And on one of my I have a couple of case studies, where I show like for the Sarawak Tourism Board, they hosted me for a full week. And what I produced was x, y and Zed content, and it generated, like I had one I had my first viral video on Facebook on that trip, and it had 325 shares. Wow. Yeah. And I didn’t boost it. It was I ended up going to a night market when I was on that trip and I filmed everything. And people just loved it. It was within the community. It wasn’t external. But that still helped, because it was shared so much that the filtration of it or around, but I put in the results, basically when it’s, it’s for the good ones, and ones that will, you know, brands brands that people will respect the results for.

Hrish Thota  48:22

Right. Absolutely. Yeah, I think that that’s really important also, I think showing the results showing some kind of what is the kind of value that the brand also got from the collaborating with you is something which helps a lot as

Angela Carson  48:35

well. And the other thing you had mentioned the email, because the email is vital without the email, there’s no start. They’re not going to engage with you on social media. You need to send the email to the public relations department, or in some cases, it’s the mark comm manager. And for me, because I don’t have a big channel, like your your pitch email is very different to my pitch email because we both feel In each other’s pitching emails, mine is like, if you go to YouTube right now and type in the following, you’ll see my videos are number one. And then I have four seasons, Maldives, Kota, her, you know, I list all of these brands that are like, ooh. And then I say, I’m interested to collaborate. This is what I’d offer. And I keep it small, like I don’t, I’m not too lengthy in the, like, I want to collaborate part, you just have one sentence, two sentences, that’s good. And then I list what, what I would deliver. And then from your side, it would be great that that that and then I put bullet points of what I expect from them. And then just you know, if you’re interested, it’d be great to speak. Here’s my contact details. Have a great day. Right? That’s how I do mine.

Hrish Thota  49:48

Yeah, mine is quite similar, actually. I mean, I of course, talk about my follower base, which is that I talk about the different operations that are done in past so that kind of gives me credibility to, you know, tie up with me. And then also I talk about the deliverables that I’m going to give, and what are the expectations that I’m having from that, for example, especially if I’m looking at from a family angle, because I covered it from a family aspect, I also talk about, you know, I will be traveling with my wife and my seven year old son, and then, you know, the, we would be looking at some kid friendly activities also that we can do and all that. So then they also show up, like, for example, when I recently collaborated with Westin Bali, they told us that there is a Kids Club, which is there also, on premises on the resort so that you could keep your children there while you go ahead and enjoy some, you know, adventure activities on the seashore or something like that. So those are the things that I like to pitch in my mail. And I think mail helps a lot rather than just a messaging on the social because it gives a kind of, you know, credibility and it gives

Angela Carson  50:59


Hrish Thota  51:00

yeah, it’s very professionalism, user professional touch to the entire collaboration.

Angela Carson  51:06

Yeah, I 100% agree with you, it does make a big difference. And the media kit, because I’ve always worked in marketing and comms, I know how to package myself up. So even though it’s a small channel, I can showcase in the right way so that it does look like I because I do generate value. So it’s, you know, just, it’s shining a light in the in the right spots and, you know, hiding, not hiding the negative but just not shining a bright light on those. You know, I launched my first video on YouTube in 2012. It was my first hotel review, and it was Taj Taj was so happy working with me after that Sunday brunch, a trio of blog posts. The TAs Yes, one four was opening up and they want To promote it. And so the my youtube channel started.


I used

Angela Carson  52:06

to have this Sony Coolpix camera. Because in India I went to so many parties every week I was at one or two like parties where I was in an evening dress or cocktail dress. And so I have these tiny persons. So I took around the Sony Coolpix and that’s what I shot all of the photos from my blog with. And when they checked me and they checked me into this beautiful suite, and it was a Sikh gentleman who checked me in so he had his like elegant turban, and he just looked so wonderful. And my very first video is a room tour. It’s fuzzy as fuck, it is super bummed blurry. I’m moving around the whole time so it’s very annoying. But that was how I got started on YouTube which I still love going back and looking at that like room tour I I walk people through the air conditioner settings and look at the stupidest things that I would never do today. But it was,

Hrish Thota  53:05

yeah, YouTube. That’s fun. That was fun. That’s how you got started. And it’s always good to look back and how we started and how far we’ve come.

Angela Carson  53:13

Yeah, I really made a mistake, though, by focusing on the blog and not the YouTube channel. Because in 2012, I had focused on the YouTube channel instead of my, my blog. Can you imagine? Because for years up until 2016, really, I put out a few several videos per year. And that was it. I just know, that’s what I really didn’t i didn’t realize I didn’t know, I didn’t know. But

Hrish Thota  53:39

I’ve been realizing also that in YouTube, I think, if you put content more regularly, like once a week or something like that, that works much faster, and that helps you. YouTube also promotes your content. Much more that’s how it works. But I think yeah, I think still your content is really wonderful in the luxury space so that I think can help admission that

Angela Carson  54:01

I have so much fun with it too, because it’s just such a joy. It’s my favorite hobby. And I think that comes. I think that helps that it’s not my, like we said, you know, it’s not our moneymaker. So we get to just be joyful with it. Right? Because it’s not work. Yeah, you have responsibility, but it’s Yeah, it’s not work. So if someone were starting out today, what would you recommend doing just Instagram or a blog or YouTube or what? What would you do if you were starting out today?

Hrish Thota  54:36

So like I was saying, I think it’s very important to find the right niche for yourself. So if your example if you are doing travel, don’t do like, you know, just couple travel that everybody else is doing. Maybe you are focusing on backpacking, or maybe you’re focusing on luxury travel, and maybe you’re focusing on family travel. So those are the kind of things which are still very you know, niche kind of aspects. So I think you focus only on that drive Don’t try to put content which is irrelevant to the, to that branding that you have got. And also I would say, yeah, I think YouTube if you have got time on your hands and because it takes a lot of time that people don’t realize that YouTube they, they think that it’s very, you know, just putting up normal videos, but in the normal videos, trying to edit it and trying to make it relevant, trying to make it catchy, so that in the first five to 10 seconds, a person is interested and doesn’t skip to another video, that is something very important. And if you are putting in YouTube, which the key is consistency, actually. So it’s very important to put it to every week and try to put content which is relevant to the particular time of the year at that moment. So for example, in India right now there is there are a lot of festivals which are going on, so if you could put content around that or if you are putting content around so the Latest things which are happening around the world. So those would be those would be pushed by YouTube much more. So if I was starting right now and if I had time on my hand, I would say that I would start with a YouTube channel and then try to create niche. Also in India, what something is really working is a vernacular languages like so somebody’s creating it in Tamil, Telugu, Canada, any of these local languages that is working much better than Hindi, because everybody, there’s a lot of content in the actually. So I would suggest that actually,

Angela Carson  56:31

Oh, that’s interesting. Yeah, I I wouldn’t start a blog today. If I was starting either I would start a YouTube channel, and then try to focus more on Instagram than Facebook, but also have a Facebook page. And I would definitely because you see these new bloggers who start or sorry, you see these new YouTubers who start and they don’t take the time to learn how to do a frickin video and it’s just It’s so painful to watch. It’s just impossible to watch. So I think I would invest in hours of YouTube tutorials because there’s so many great YouTube channels that teach you how to make amazing videos, how to edit amazing videos, you know, tips and tricks and this and that. So back when you and I started, we just used to write, and then we learned SEO. And you know, that was really helpful. And then it’s video. So we learned little by little and made our mistakes earlier on, but today, you can’t start a channel and make those mistakes. It’s you have to you have to spend a bit of time to get up with the technology.

Hrish Thota  57:47

Right? Absolutely. I think you need to look at what are the tips which are available or about creating interesting videos actually because even the very important that even your cover photo should be very interesting for To write as a title what you write is it description is very important so that YouTube recommends your videos to people who are seeing similar videos. So that’s very important like, I will take an example where recently, Sunita, my wife has a YouTube channel and I was helping her create the video about our trip to Pakistan from Amritsar, we crossed over to Pakistan to see a guru Torah, which is a seeker force of worship. So this is the only time that Indians are given the opportunity to visit Pakistan because generally Indians Pakistan, knees don’t get along well. So you know, so I created content. So that’s where I put I put the title as, you know, taking my six year old son to Pakistan, and that was like a very interesting title and because people were curious to see why somebody is taking her son to Pakistan and then you know, so they started following my wife’s channel and then suddenly from around regularly, her channel gets made 1000 views per video this, this video got 65,000 views. And then a lot of Pakistanis, there was some 500 comments By Pakistanis where they were talking about the, you know, they were really happy that Indians are coming to visit their country and they felt that it’s a step towards the peace talks that we are doing. So I think that was really wonderful. So I think it’s very important that I would credit virality of the video to the content that I put up the you know, the description that I put up about Indian visiting Pakistan, and also about, you know, the cover picture that I used where my son is crossing on the border, a borderline border between India and Pakistan, actually. So I think that’s something which you need to work on the videos rather than just put up a video for the sake of it actually.

Angela Carson  59:52

Yeah, it really people need to understand about SEO, and I think there are tools like to buddy But are very helpful for especially for new youtubers to kind of get a feel for a title, how well is that title going to perform the hashtags that are embedded in the metadata? You know, where is it going to land on the page and realize that it’s unless you’re a super famous person who launches a channel you then you can post whatever the hell you want and however the hell you want it. You know, your fans are going to watch because they love you already. If not, yeah, you need to you need to educate yourself before you get started. But if we can do it, anybody can do it. Yes. I’m still amazed at how how much this is my favorite hobby. I mean, I love traveling, but I there’s something about shooting and editing video and telling the story that way. It’s just, I love it. I love it. Yes,

Hrish Thota  1:00:59

that’s right. Even like, you know, growing up, I didn’t travel much, but I wanted to, you know, like, since I became independent and started working on my own, I wherever possible, you know, I used to like, I remember, I used to work in Accenture in 2005 when I went for my first trip to us, so I went to Florida, Miami and so what I did is that I extended I packed my manager, my us manager that you know, I just want to extend my trip by three days because it was just a two day conference and you know, going for a two day conference all the way to the US doesn’t make sense for me. So I was like, you know, I just want to extend that three days can you just please give me a chance and then she not just approved that she in fact, allowed me to stay in the same hotel, the conference hotel for two more nights and Oh, that’s so nice. Yeah, that was sweet of her and then I just went ahead and then visited all the places you know the Everglades and then I visited the South Beach and

Angela Carson  1:01:58

that is night and day difference. I mean Miami, South Beach and and Bangalore are like, Whoa, it could not be because Bangalore is so conservative and South beaches so not that had to be like, like what you see in the films, right? Yes. Yeah. I mean to life. Yeah. And the Lamborghinis and the Ferraris and all of

Hrish Thota  1:02:22

that. Yeah, all those things are going on at South Beach and that yeah, it was like an amazing experience actually that like that. That also so it is it has always been like you know, trying to take time out of work also in trying to do what I really love actually, which was travel nice,

Angela Carson  1:02:41

but it has been so fun talking to you. Can you please tell everyone what they should be looking out for on your channel and share your social media so people can follow you.

Hrish Thota  1:02:50

So you can follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook at Dhempe Travel Blog. And you know, I share a lot of travel content about different things that you can visit, not just in India, but also around Southeast Asia and sometimes across the world. And also, I talked about a lot of lifestyle products and all the different kind of food that you can explore in India and across the world actually

Angela Carson  1:03:20

nice. I’ll put links for everyone down below as well for you.  definitely check out her is just content is very, very fun, especially if you’re a family. It gives such great ideas for things to do and for parents to showcase their child on social media in a different way as well.

Hrish Thota  1:03:36

Absolutely. Absolutely. Thanks a lot. Angela.

Angela Carson  1:03:38

Thank you so much for your time. It was really nice to see you please say hi to Sunita for me.

Hrish Thota  1:03:44

absolutely. All right.

Angela Carson  1:03:45

I send a big hug to you guys. Bye Bye. Take care.

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