No Sweat! Tips For Shaping Up Your 2012 Tourism PR Program

Their bags are packed and they’re ready to go. Yes, tourism is on the upswing for 2012, but competition is stronger than ever because savvy consumers have an increasing variety of vacation spots and deals from which to choose. When determining where to go on their next vacation, most look to recommendations from objective sources – reviews and ratings from people like them and stories written by professional travel writers – rather than destination websites and travel guides.

You’ve probably already made sure your brand’s online presence is up to date and you’re likely monitoring consumer reviews about your destination. So, today, we’re focusing on how to best connect with travel editors and writers to generate editorial coverage about vacation experiences in your area.

The travel media relations environment has changed over the past several years. Here are some of the important factors shaping tourism PR today:

  • Fewer editorial pages and fewer editors. Notice how your local daily newspaper seems to be shrinking a bit more each year? As newspaper advertising revenues declined, staffs were reduced along with the number of pages. While nearly every major U.S. daily newspaper had a travel editor in the past, today there are only 12 full-timers, according to Ken Shapiro of Travel Age West.
  • Freelance travel writers are writing a significant share of travel editorial. With fewer writers on staff, travel editors are commissioning freelance articles as well as running syndicated stories.
  • Familiarization (fam) trips are not a panacea. To ensure complete objectivity, most top-tier travel magazines and metro dailies do not allow their writers to accept sponsored trips. Freelancers and bloggers often do participate in press trips but need to disclose in their stories they were hosted in order to meet Federal Trade Commission endorsement guidelines.
  • International media are still fascinated with American vacations of many types. Press trips continue to be popular with international travel writers. The more unique the experience, the better. Expect to cover all expenses for such fams.

With that in mind, here’s a PR fitness program designed to generate media coverage of your destination or hotel. No heavy lifting required.

  • Rely on press releases only for bona fide news. You’ll probably have the best luck attracting the attention of the editor with a concisely written email tailored to the specific interest of the media outlet you’re contacting.
  • Cultivate relationships with freelancers, especially those in your immediate region. Arm them with information on trends that help them garner assignments from top regional and national media.
  • Create news. Provide a new experience, like this ski resort offering the chance for a group of friends to own the mountain for a day.
  • Package vacation experiences in a fresh way. Respond to what’s happening in today’s culture, like a depressed economy, by crafting a list of free activities in your area.
  • Expand your view and think beyond the boundaries of your business. Include information about other attractions opening in the area and nearby regions in your pitches.
  • Offer a hotel media rate. Although not a new practice, enabling visiting travel writers to pay a media rate enables them to be objective -- and it extends small travel budgets.
  • Reinvent your media trips so they’re more interactive and customized. Create a sense of community among the writers invited on research trips and provide each with unique experiences. See Newfangled Fams Inspire Media Relations Makeovers, for examples.

As the year unfolds, additional techniques for getting your tourism PR program in shape will emerge. Have you had a recent success? Please share your tips by commenting below. Thanks.

Tags: pr, travel
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