For those of you who have wondered how to work with tourism boards to arrange press trips, you are aware of the hurdles we all face trying to get in touch with the right person. Then, it’s a battle just trying to get our ideas across. Here are some helpful tips you can use for the next time you contact a tourism board. Over the past few years I have worked with several tourism boards across six continents. Before I start explaining how to work with tourism boards, I want to fully disclose that I never attend group press trips simply because they do not give me enough time to accomplish everything I need to, especially since I am gathering content for my travel guide series. Instead, I like to work with tourism boards that understand my needs and the needs of my readers. But group press trips may be exactly what you are looking for. There is some valuable advice here as well for those of you that do not mind the group thing.
I have read a few articles advising travel professionals on how to work with tourism boards. Some travel writers have the idea that if one does not cover their own costs, that person is not really traveling. My response: I completely disagree with this statement. I am working and I have to deliver. I am performing a service, not a favor. If a tourism board has the budget to sponsor a trip, then one would be silly not to take advantage of the opportunity.
Since November of 2010 I have had many invitations from tourism boards around the world. With their help, my travel guide library has expanded considerably. I did, however have to turn down a few trips because of length; mostly because they were too short and did not give me enough time to film the David’s Been Here webshow. Sometimes tourism boards cover all my costs (flights, hotels, food, driver, car, entrances to all attractions etc.) And other times all they can provide are contacts for hotels and restaurants for me to speak with about complimentary services. Here are some strategies and tips for you to get started contacting tourism boards and turning your dream trips into reality. Here are some tips about how to work with tourism boards…
1. How to contact tourism boards. This is the easiest part. You can search the name of a tourism board (i.e. Sri Lanka Tourism Board) on Google, or you can visit the Tourism Offices Worldwide Directory. This is the largest online directory that I know of, but some countries are unlisted and others have incorrect contact information. If you find yourself calling a number that doesn’t stop ringing, then it is best to head to the country’s official tourism website. A great way to connect with the right person at each organization is by attending trade shows. WTM in London, ITB in Berlin, or the New York Times Travel Show are all ideal places to meet the right people who handle press trips for travel professionals. This video is full of tips on how to schedule appointments at travel shows like WTM:
2. What should I have prepared for them? I would not start calling tourism boards unless you have some travel experience under your belt and have some type of website or digital portfolio (i.e. Media Kit). Your media kit should state important facts about your company’s mission, audience, past work, social media following and press coverage (if any). Approximately 50% of tourism boards have asked me for a media kit or to fill out an application with all the info I just mentioned.
3. Which countries should I speak with first? It really depends on what area of the world you are trying to cover. Remember that most tourism boards have limited budgets and they may not be able to comp you the flights. I have had this issue with certain tourism boards in Asia; they cannot afford to fly me out there so they say we can work together once I figure out when I will be in Asia. I would suggest contacting the countries that are easiest to get to (direct flights) in case your flights are not covered. If you are based in the U.S., you can reach out to the tourism offices of different states.
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4. Call versus Email? I would not advise sending an email to a tourism board without having tried to contact someone there first. Why? Because chances are they might never see the email, and if they do they may assume it is spam. Make contact over the phone first. Get the name of the person who directly handles press trip and/or marketing for the country or region you are interested in. This shows you are professional and a go-getter. Once you have a name and email address, make your pitch in writing. Don’t be afraid to follow up in a week or two if you haven’t heard back.
Over the past 8 years each tourism board has offered me different things, depending on their budgets. As I mentioned before, I told many of them I do not do group trips. I explained exactly what I needed from them in order to do my work effectively. They agreed to host me and help me get my work done. While I did have unforgettable experiences in each country, I was there to work. Every tourism board was interested in different things. For instance, some were keener on blog posts about the country while others were more interested in the videos I could create of the sites, food and activities. I deliver everything I promise- X number of videos, blog posts and guides. The value of your proposal always has to be higher than the actual cost of hosting you. Translation: your work should be bringing in more people into the country.
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Types of Press Trips
- Press trip where nothing is covered, but you are provided with contacts and free entrances to sites. This happened to me in many places. Basically, I had to rent my own car, contact each hotel I wanted to visit, contact each restaurant, I had NO guide and I planned the entire trip myself. The only reason I moved forward with these trips is because I have done this many times before. Trip planning is part of my DNA and I am somewhat addicted to doing it. A good approximation of how long it takes to plan a trip like this is for every day of travel; estimate a day and a half of planning. For a two-week trip, planning should take anywhere from 14 to 21 days.
- Press trip where everything is complimentary. This has happened a handful of times. They flew me and my cinematographer, gave us a car with a driver and a guide, paid for all of our meals, hotels and entrances to the sites.
- Press trip where everything is complimentary except the flights. This has happened to me several time, for which I combined the trips and paid for my own flights. The flights were very reasonable from Miami.
- Press trip where the tourism board arranges everything. So this has to be my favorite kind of trip because it is tailored to my needs and I get the exact number of days I need in one place.
As you can see, press trips are all different. The first step is reaching out to the tourism boards you would like to work with. Ask them questions, tell them what you can do for their country and see what develops from there. I met a lot of my contacts in London at World Travel Market. Attending gave me the opportunity to connect with them better than if I was cold calling.
Tip: For certain countries, like all the “Stans” (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenista, etc.) I would suggest contacting independent tour operators. Many of these companies would love to have you join them on an expedition to promote their different packages.
Here are a few other blog posts about working with Tourism Boards that inspired me to write a bit about my past experiences.
Hopefully, this post inspires you to make the first step (always the hardest) and commit to planning a year full of new experiences around the globe.
More Tips For How to Work With Tourism Boards
-Begin your trip planning early! Many tourism boards have to stretch modest budgets, so it’s best to get in contact as early as six months to a year before you would like to visit.
-Be flexible with your dates.
-Offer extras like ad space.
-Give an approximation of when you will deliver what you promise. If you are behind schedule, communicate that in an email.
-Be gracious and appreciative with everyone, always. Send thank you emails to the people who helped you get the trip done, especially your tourism board contact.
-Research the different customs of the country you are planning to visit (greeting, dining, tipping, etc.)
-Be open to new experiences!
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