I saw the newsletter in my inbox titled “The Trip That Might Just Change Your Life - Space Available!”. Until this moment – I hadn’t considered that the popular OARS Grand Canyon rafting trips would have space. I honestly didn’t even know they were running this summer. This epic trip with a typical two-year waiting period suddenly had space available, thanks to COVID-19 (words rarely heard).
Up until this point I had carefully been traveling around my home state of Colorado on solo road trips. Like all of us, I missed travel and the type of epic trips I normally take throughout a year. The email made me realize, what if I used this time when I was limited to domestic travel for an epic US-based adventure?
Immediately I started looking through all of OARS’ COVID-19 safety information and was impressed with the level of detail provided and what safety processes they had in place. I decided not only was this an epic trip I always wanted to do, but it would be a great way to highlight what adventure companies like OARS were doing to cope with COVID-19. After all, if I didn’t know that companies like OARS was still operating during COVID19 this summer, then the general public probably had no idea. It was an opportunity to let people know adventure travel could be safe and tours were still running.
I contacted Steve Markle, the marketing manager at OARS, to see if he was interested in having media on one of these last-minute trips for coverage. He said that while OARS rarely worked with media on the Grand Canyon trips, they were making an exception.
“This year, while we were glad to have the opportunity to run trips during the second half of our season, there was obviously a lot more volatility. When space opened up on some of our fall trips, we figured it would be good to get a few writers out to help spread the word about our ability to run river trips during a pandemic,” explained Steve.
I packed my masks, hand sanitizer, and went on the 11 day trip at a media rate; it was a highlight of my year. It also was the highlight of my content for the year based on reach and engagement on my social channels. People were eager to learn more about the trip, and consider it for future travel.
Why Now a Good Time to Work with Media
I primarily work as a travel influencer and content creator, so I can speak to that group of media best. However, many of these reasons and benefits apply to all travel media.
- Media is Eager to Get Back to Travel and Work
Everyone in the travel industry is eager to get it back to travel. Media is likely ready to travel before the general public and they are looking to report on the safety of travel. We are just as eager to get the world traveling again as travel businesses are. According to Destinations International , 75% of travel influencers/writers report being willing to travel within the first three months of lockdowns dissolving. This is a way businesses can start seeding people with travel early to put your company top of mind when the rest of the public starts traveling again.
- Show off Your Safety Protocols
You’ve been working really hard at putting COVID-19 health and safety guidelines in place and you know you are operating in a safe manner, but how do you let your customers and the general public know that? This is a great topic for media to report on. Contact media to let them know what has been put in place and see if they have any interest in doing coverage on how to properly and safely travel in your destination. This was one of the things that made me interested in the OARS trip. I was so impressed by all of their safety measures they put together for the trip as well as all of the safety prep communication they did prior to the trip. Clearly, they had put a lot of thought into this and I felt it was important for people to know. Not only was there a safety video we were required to watch including information about COVID-19, but we had temperature checks daily, no ‘help-yourself’ food, and mandated mask wearing outside of the raft which I was able to include on my social media coverage of the trip in real time.
- More People are on Social Media During the Pandemic
More than ever people are spending time on social media. It is said that Instagram usage alone has increased 40% since the pandemic began. One way to stay top-of-mind is to ensure you are updating social media about your status and COVID19 policies. You can also strategize to work with media that is active on social channels to promote your trips or destination. It’s yet another way to get the word out quickly on what it’s like to travel with your company. I covered my entire Grand Canyon trip on social media and had more people than ever watching the journey as well as asking questions about it. At the end of the trip, I coordinated with Steve on adding a newsletter signup swipe up for people interested in future trips. I had more than 40 people swipe up to sign up. I have also added a highlight to my Instagram profile so people can watch the Grand Canyon coverage any time and get more information.
- Tap into the Trust Media Has with Their Audience
Audiences will be watching for media/influencers to travel first ensuring it’s safe, and then they will want to follow their lead. Many Influencers in particular have spent this time building up their community even more during the pandemic (as noted from #3), and their job is to build trust with their followers. This is the time to take advantage of their larger audiences.
- Speed is of the Essence
No one can get the word out faster than a blogger/influencer. They don’t have to go through editors or fit into publication dates. They control what they put on their channels and it’s the fastest way to get your message out. Get a jump on your competition by working with these individuals.
- Customers Listen to People vs. Brands
Bring some life to your message by working with individual media to tell your story. People are more relatable than a picture-perfect brand campaign. Customers trust things coming from people much more than they do a slick advertising campaign. Throw your marketing dollars into media that will tell and show people your story in an authentic way. Visit Colorado and I tested this theory out this summer. They hired me to do a roadtrip and cover it on my blog and social channels. They promoted my article on their Facebook page as well as boosted my article on my Facebook page. The engagement and reach was much greater on my Facebook page even though I only have a fraction of the followers they do overall. People were more likely to read the article when it came from my channel with a personal touch, rather than through Visit Colorado’s Facebook page.
- Lower Prices for Influencers
Some influencers are lowering their prices during this time to make it easier to work with them. Take advantage of this and lock it in now before they become really busy again!