How to Pitch Travel Media

8 June 2021

There's a palpable sense of optimism in the tourism industry now. As things begin to slowly open up, many tourism operators are finally planning to get back to their core offerings and core markets. Getting travel press should be a key part of that rebuilding process. PR positions you as an authority in your niche, has a positive effect on your search engine optimization, or tourism SEO, and is a powerful way to grow awareness and ultimately, bookings.

 But as borders begin to open, and we move to a post-covid tourism industry, some markets and destinations will open sooner, perhaps much sooner, than others. Do your research (and dust off your crystal ball) and identify which of your tours and markets will open first. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to start creating those stories and pitching media, and yes, I’d be doing that now, before things fully open up.

 Many travel writers have done little to no travel in the past year-and-a-half. They’re itching to get back on the road and get working again. They tend to be early adopters, more adventurous and more likely to take risks than your typical guests. They are also keenly watching which destinations are opening and they’re making travel plans.

Post Pandemic Story Angles

 Key themes around adventure, nature and escape will resonate best as people seek travel to improve mental health and get back to feeling normal. These are a good starting point, but to be successful, you’ll need to find more.

Become a Story Factory

I find many tourism business owners think only of their own niche when pitching media. For example, if they’re a kayak tour operator, they just want paddling press. But here’s the thing, when we do customer research, we find fewer and fewer people reading those niche publications. Instead, we’ll see kayakers, who are also business people, reading business publications. Or road cyclists reading lifestyle or fitness blogs. So look beyond your niche and find stories that will appeal to your ideal clients, wherever they may be. The trick here is to look at your tourism business through as many different lenses as possible. Those different angles lead to different publications and new audiences for your tours.

Is there a Culinary Story?

Food and travel go together perfectly. I can’t imagine going on a trip where the food wasn’t a factor. So look for food angles. For example, do your tours take in interesting local cuisines in your destination? Is there a local chef you work with who has a great backstory? Are there wine or craft beer or spirits angles? These all have their own niche writers and publications and they could tie in nicely with your core offering and let you reach new audiences.

Is there a Cultural Story?

People want to experience local cultures when they travel, to learn new customs, and hear other people’s stories. First Nations, indiginous cultures and even old world European cultures are of immense interest to travelers. So if you can find a strong story here, it will likely appeal to travel writers.

Historical Events and Major Anniversaries

Is there a major anniversary coming up in your destination? Can you find a tie-in that may be of interest to a journalist? If so, that could get you some good press. A few years ago, Canada celebrated its 150th Anniversary. This was a major event coordinated by Destination Canada (the national tourism board) all the way down to regional DMOs and tour operators across the country. The press generated is still paying dividends.

Current Events and News Stories

When there are major world events, like the World Cup, Olympics or even holidays like Valentines Day or Christmas, writers and editors are looking for stories on these for their readers. Ever notice that every Valentine's Day, there’s some crazy, romantic package in the news that is so over-the-top, no one will ever actually buy it? Well, that’s not the point. They’ve got a good PR agency, and now they've got tons of press.

Popular Culture Stories

Many years ago, when I was still working as a travel journalist and the Lord of the Rings trilogy was taking off, I came across a bike tour company that was doing rides around some of the film locations in New Zealand. I managed to get assignments from several publications and with the support of Tourism New Zealand, travelled there to do the stories. Film locations, settings for famous books, or TV shows can all  be great story angles to pitch.

Trends are King

But of all the story angles out there, one trumps them all. Trends. Editors love trends. Is there something going on in your niche, a major change you’re seeing on the horizon? Can you position yourself or one of your staff as an expert on this new phenomena? If so, that’s your strongest story by a longshot.

These are just some of the angles that you can use for finding your stories. But don’t limit yourself. There are many more story angles waiting to be found.

Keep Story Pitches To The Point

Your actual pitches for travel media should be no more than one or two paragraphs long, 500 words max, and very well written. Elements of a great pitch include simplicity, novel or unexpected ideas, supporting facts and references, feeling and emotion, and of course, storytelling. If you need help, consider hiring a tourism PR agency.

When you’re reaching out to travel writers, make sure to tell them what you’re offering, and I’m not talking about money (seriously, never pay a journalist to write about you). If you can offer a two-day low season trip on certain dates, let them know. If you’re looking for coverage, but can’t offer a trip, tell them. Often you can get great press without even hosting a travel journalist. 

But above all, to have any chance of being considered, your story must be of real value to that publication’s reader, not you, or your prospects. If your pitch is self serving, it will die a quick death, and your next email to that editor or journalist likely won’t even be opened. Always consider the reader first.

Be Persistent and Build Relationships

When pitching travel media, it’s best to play the long game. Often you won’t get much (if any) interest when you first start pitching. But as you go, you’ll start to see results and, more importantly, begin building relationships with key media. Just like a good customer who comes back again and again, and refers you to others, it’s the same with a good journalist. One story can lead to many more and over time, the dividends from an effective tourism PR program can be significant.