Booking.com Winner Cameron Phillips Hits the Road

by Jill Gleeson

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday August 28, 2018

In his first vlog from the road since winning the position of "Chief Booking Officer" for Booking.com, Cameron Phillips' charm, energy, and charisma shine through. Phillips, 23, who recently graduated from UCLA, beat out thousands of other contestants to score $50,000, which he'll use to visit as many of the quirky lodgings on the company's new "Book the U.S." list as he can manage.

The three-part, two-month trek, which began on July 16, is taking Phillips from Florida to the Midwest, down the West Coast, and along the East, wrapping up in Alaska on September 22. There, Phillips will be staying at the nifty Borealis Basecamp, which offers domed cottages with transparent ceilings allowing guests to peep at the Northern Lights from their bed.

Keeping It Real

Phillips initial stop was as jaw-dropping as his last will be. As detailed in that first vlog, Phillips (accompanied by his equally winsome boyfriend) bunked at Miami's Villa Casa Casuarina, more commonly known as the Versace mansion, where Gianni Versace was gunned down on his own front steps.

According to Phillips' video entry, the hotel may have retained some of its previous owner's glamour factor, but the staff was (and bedding) was lackluster. If it's surprising to see a brand-hawking influencer (Phillips has more than 50,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel) give up the dirt, it's all part of Phillips' plan to stay "raw and authentic."

"From the beginning Booking was like, 'Yeah, we want you to be honest,'" Phillips says. "It's a delicate balance, and at the end of the day, I don't want people to think I'm ungrateful or non-appreciative of the opportunities I have, especially with this."

Why Him?

Phillips moved often as a child -- from the San Francisco Bay Area to the mountains of British Columbia, to Tampa, Florida and then on to Los Angeles. He's traveled Europe, too, hitting countries like Croatia, Spain and Sweden. But what makes him an expert? Why should we follow the travels of a middle-class white kid, LGBTQ or not?

Phillips reiterated that he wants to "share more raw experiences in the stories. I think there's so much more to visiting a place than seeing the big tourist icons, like the Bean in Chicago, or Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, or even the Versace Mansion in Miami. Sharing more than just a tourist site, that's really where I'm at right now. That's why I would hope someone would be following me, to experience that."

For his part, Pepijn Rijvers, chief marketing officer for Booking.com, mentions Phillips "passion and excitement for travel" as a factor in his selection. And then there's the demographic Phillips hits. "With millennials increasingly choosing experiences over material items," Rijvers notes, "we were also looking for someone to highlight the diverse experiences that can be had using Booking.com to this important travel audience."

All About Adventure

Whether or not Phillips increases his respectable social media numbers (his Instagram has a little more than 21,000 followers), and joins the ranks of the big-time influencers, he knows he's got it good. Maybe the Booking.com gig is his way of sharing it?

"I really just want people to be inspired to have an experience," Phillips says, "whether that's hopping on a flight to Asia, or doing a month-long road trip, or going for a hike in some unknown park in your city. There's so much in the U.S. That's really the whole point of this trip. You can have crazy adventures all over this country without ever leaving it!"

Jill Gleeson is a travel and adventure journalist based in the Appalachians of Central Pennsylvania. Find her on Facebook and Twitter at @gopinkboots.