Travel journalism continues to boom as international tourism receipts top $1 billion annually, according to World Tourism Organization figures.
So, how do you successfully pitch your travel destination or tourism-related product or service into this exceedingly lucrative news hole?
Here are three tips for doing precisely that, straight from some of the most influential travel journalists in the business:
1. Swim upstream: Pitch against seasonality. Reporters are already seeing an onslaught of seasonal press releases geared to summer holidays such as Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, says National Geographic Traveler’s Chris Elliott.
“It’s true—we have an appetite for that,” he concedes, “but the biggest successes we see involve PR people bucking the trend and not trying to compete with the seasonal glut.”
2. Deliver data—reporters thrive on research. Tourism media outlets are hungry for stats, saysPaul Brady, consumer news editor at Condé Nast Traveler. “There’s a lot of room for real data in our coverage,” he says. “For example, PR people who can provide the impact of big data analysis on travel will get our attention.”
Detroit Free Press travel writer Ellen Creager agrees: “No more ‘10 Best’ lists, please! Instead, pitch scientifically collected and reputable data about real travel trends,” she suggests.
She cites Dr. Stephen Leatherman’s work as an example of objective assessments. Known as “Dr. Beach,” he visits beaches worldwide and ranks them based on 50 factors. Because journalists know his lists have been well researched, they are more likely to cover his compilations.
3. Put clients in context. Don’t be so focused on your client that you miss the larger story, Brady advises.
“Successful pitches come from PR people who connect the dots and have a larger worldview of where their clients fit into trends,” he says.
Beth Harpaz, travel editor for the Associated Press, agrees. “A PR person pitched me a story about a Memphis hotel, which isn’t something we’d cover because it doesn’t speak to a regional or national trend.”
Yet Harpaz jumped on the story when she realized the hotel was part of the Memphis Pyramid, an abandoned sports arena.
“It’s now being renovated, with developments including a pro shop, an observatory and the hotel,” she says. In addition to evolving into a major regional destination, the site also illustrates a growing national trend toward commercial site reclamations.
Brian Pittman is a consultant to Ragan Communications and webinar manager for PR Daily’s PR University. Paul Brady, Ellen Creager, Chris Elliott and Beth Harpaz shared more behind-the-scenes pitching insights in the PR University webinar, “Top travel media and bloggers tell PR: What to pitch, how to win big coverage .”