As we emerge from nearly two years of travel restrictions, many tourism businesses are anxious to promote their destinations and tours and to start getting some travel press.
One of the best ways to do that is by hosting travel journalists or influencers on a press trip (aka FAM, for familiarization), which should be an integral part of your tourism PR and travel marketing program. Great press can inspire your target audience, position you as an expert in your niche and even help with your Google rankings (tourism SEO). So it makes sense to spend the time to get it right.
There’s not really a bad time to do a press trip, but some times are better than others. I generally recommend hosting travel writers in your low or shoulder season, when you have capacity and bookings are not as full. If you have space on a trip that’s already running, the extra cost of bringing a journalist along might be minimal, so it’s a really low-cost investment with potentially high long term returns. On the other hand, hosting a journalist in your peak season might mean turning away a paying guest, so unless they’re from a super high value media outlet, and absolutely can’t come at any other time, plan FAMs for low and shoulder season.
But if you’re hosting press in the offseason, can you still give a journalist a great experience to write about? If conditions are poor they might not be able to do a positive story on your business. So always try to find the right balance between available space and a great experience.
When you commit a spot to a writer, you should always try to honor it. Here’s why: they’ve likely gone out to their editors and gotten an assignment and that in itself is a lot of work. That editor has committed and put it on the schedule and maybe even made up a contract for the writer. If at the last minute you sell the spot, you’ll be burning bridges with that travel writer and if the writer is also working with your Destination Marketing Organisation (DMO), you’re burning bridges with them too. Don’t think of the money you may be losing by giving up a booking. Instead, see it as a powerful marketing investment in your business.
Are there complimentary businesses you typically work with? Accommodation partners, shuttle bus companies, restaurants or other non-direct competitors? If you’re organizing a travel press trip, get some of those partners on board. They can share in the expense and the resulting coverage.
And here’s the thing: if you’re trying to get financial support for your FAM from your DMO, they’re typically WAY more likely to support this kind of project than a press trip for just one tourism business. Show them you’re ‘promoting the destination’ not just your own tour operation. The way DMOs think is ‘a rising tide floats all boats’ so bring a bunch of operators together, create a cool itinerary and invite some topshelf travel media and they’d be crazy not to support it.
If you’re hosting a writer on one of your scheduled trips, along with paying guests, it should be whatever the duration of your trip is, 5 days, seven days, whatever. If you’re doing a group media FAM, a good guideline is 3-4 days. This will give you enough time to show off your tour products, fit nicely into most people’s schedules and be less work and cost than a week-long tour.
Sometimes it can make sense to host a travel media-only FAM with no paying guests. Here you’re bringing along a group of journalists from different media outlets and giving them all the same experience in order to get a significant amount of press. A group FAM can range from three or four writers up to ten or more. These can be very useful for new product launches and are often preferred by DMOs and tourism boards.
The advantages of group FAMs include tailoring your experience to press, not inconveniencing regular guests who may be less interested in some aspects of a press tour, and having travel experts along so you can ‘try out’ a new tour product and get feedback before paying guests arrive. Group FAMs can also build a lot of ‘buzz’ quickly and get your prospects excited to book your new offering.
If there’s one big drawback to running group travel press tours, it’s that one size does not fit all. By trying to simultaneously serve a bunch of different travel journalists, they may not get the most out of the FAM.
For this reason, I find many top tier journalists and publications simply won’t do group FAMs. They want their own stories and photos and don’t want a bunch of other writers essentially getting the same story as them. So if you’re running a group press trip, you may be getting a lower overall quality of media coming along.
If you’re running a group FAM, at least try to offer some different tour options for the writers. For example, split up the group one day, where half might do a food-focussed tour and the others might do a cultural tour. If you can appeal to their niche specialties, you’ll give them a lot more to work with. Here’s where knowing your media and what they specialize in can be really valuable.
Another thing that’s really important is to build downtime into your itinerary. Overcramming a travel journalist’s schedule will get you less, not more. Writers need time to ‘write’ so make sure they have a few hours of free time each day to take notes, get photos, interview staff, and do research.
Before hosting a FAM, have a staff meeting and let them know how they’ll be working with media. Journalists should be treated the same as your regular guests. If you don’t offer a luxury VIP experience to guests, don’t offer that to travel writers either. Never show off by setting up unreal experiences that your normal guests will not be able to do. The last thing you want is people booking and expecting something you don’t offer.
Expect journalists to have other needs than your regular guests. If you’re hosting a photographer or videographer, they might want to set up shots at certain times of the day when the light is best. They may want staff to act as models in the photos too, or to interview them for their articles. Make sure staff are aware of this, and are inline with what you’re promoting. Fill them in on some of your talking points, and what you’re wanting to promote without sounding too canned. If you have any colorful guides or others on staff that could make good interview subjects, make sure to have them available.
The most important thing is to let your passion and terrific tourism experience show through and those travel media will have all the material they need to produce great stories for your tourism business.
As you can see, there are a lot of things involved in putting together a FAM trip for travel media. Aventur Marketing is a tourism marketing and PR agency that has years of experience organizing successful FAM trips for tour operators and DMOs. If you need any help, Contact Us.