I’m an airplane seat scavenger, picking up the newspapers and magazines other travelers have left behind.

THAT’S MY ONLY excuse for reading USA Today’s recent article, “Guests’ videos star in hotels’ online ads.”

The proliferation of websites that permit any user to upload video–among them, YouTube, Triporia, and TripFilms — has had an interesting, and perhaps unexpected, outcome: travel industry marketers are recruiting amateur videographers to push their products.

As journalist Roger Yu noted:

“Eager to capture the attention of Internet-savvy guests, hotels are becoming more serious about using online videos as a marketing tool. They’re encouraging and monitoring guests’ videos of their stays. They’re creating their own YouTube channels and other video content to showcase their properties and to launch new brands.”

At least one tourist-videographer has managed to snag a free 7-day stay at the Marriott’s Renaissance Ocean Suites in Aruba for the video he took merely as a memento of his vacation.

Marriott’s communications representation, Kathleen Matthews, is quoted in the article as saying, “We can’t be seen as controlling the content. Now we have to participate in the conversation.”

Umm. Yeah. Call me cynical, but how is fishing for users’ amateur videos and paying them on the sly for another video NOT controlling the content? Someone being offered an expenses-paid stay at a Caribbean resort might well feel pressured to produce a video praising the trip sponsor effusively, don’t you think?

Share your thoughts in the Comments below!

Photo: Salvatore.Freni (creative commons)