How to Pitch: Bob Mowat, Executive Editor of Canadian Travel Press
November 13, 2018
Bob Mowat is the executive editor for Canadian Travel Press and Baxter Travel Media, which is considered the largest provider of travel industry news and information in Canada. For 45 years, the company has published Canadian Travel Press and Travel Courier in addition to publishing content online and via social media.
Bob joined Baxter Publishing in 1980 as a staff writer. He has spent the last 37 years covering all aspects of Canada’s travel and tourism industry. Bob’s specialties include travel industry technology, distribution issues, the travel agency marketplace, Canadian domestic tourism and the environment’s impact on travel and tourism.
We chatted with this trade media veteran to get insight on the best practices for pitching Baxter Travel Media. You can read more of Bob’s editorial pieces with Canadian Travel Press here!
How do trade media outlets like Baxter improve destination stories?
Telling a destination’s story from the trade perspective is important. In fact — although I admit my bias — it’s probably more important than telling it from a consumer perspective because that’s where the call to action comes.
Travel agents, to use a descriptor that’s in fashion these days, are some of the first or historic influencers of consumer behavior. When a consumer comes in and says, “Where should I go?” or, “I like A, B and C,” a good travel agent will be able to put the right destination together with the right activities or experiences. Our role is to tell a destination’s story in a way that captures an agent’s attention and convinces them to put that destination in their selling portfolio. I can’t tell you the number of times over the years that Baxter will run a story, and after they’ve appeared, an agent will tell us how timely that story was because they had a client that was going to the destination that was featured.
What elements influence whether or not you read a PR pitch?
There are a few elements to consider when writing a destination story from a trade angle, such as:
- What’s the pitch about? Its interest value really determines if the story is worth writing.
- Is there a travel trade angle to the story?
- Is there a Canadian (travel trade) angle to the story?
- Does it provide information that will help agents sell or tour operators package the product, destination and other similar considerations?
- Is there a fit with our editorial schedule or upcoming features? Or, perhaps, does it fit with non-schedule stories that we’re working on? I am always happy to share information on Baxter’s editorial plans.
What should a publicist consider when they pitch you a travel trade-related story idea?
Well, first, it should be travel-trade-related. Over the years, I’ve had a lot of story ideas come across my desk that are supposed to relate to agents and operators but actually have no relevance to the trade sector of tourism.
Secondly, timing is critical. For example, if you’re pitching news about Europe in June for the summer travel season, that’s far too late for travel agents to receive that information. Usually, they’re selling Europe in January, February and March. Now, if it’s for the fall season, then June is probably all right. Be very aware of the trade trends in the tourism industry when pitching story ideas.
What types of story ideas excite you personally — and motivate you to pursue them further?
I’ve been doing this for a long time, so personally, I’m looking for story ideas and angles that offer me a chance to write about something that I haven’t covered before. So for me, one-on-one interviews are really where I find the most satisfaction, and those generally don’t come from a press release. They usually come as a result of relationships I have with people in the industry, and we go from there. I also enjoy meeting new industry people and listening to what they have to say through their fresh perspectives.
I can’t really speak for the other editors here at Baxter Media, but for the last couple of years, we’ve been trying to offer travel trade readers a different type of industry coverage — particularly with Canadian Travel Press. … It has become a deeper-dive, longer-read publication that is intent on marrying ideas and information with eye-catching and impactful page design.
Does it make sense for trade media to participate in press trips? If so, what are the top three important experiences for a trade journalist to have on their itinerary?
I speak for myself as the executive editor here: we select trips based on what we’ll get out of them in the way of stories.
Baxter Media publishes daily (www.travelpress.com and Press Today) and twice-weekly — Canadian Travel Press and Travel Courier — so I look for trips that will offer us content for one or more of our publications.
In terms of press trips, I prefer travel trade media press trips — meaning the visit does not focus on consumer stories but on stories for travel agents. However, we’ve also reached out to companies and organizations in the industry to let them know that industry trips (agents, operators et cetera) work well for us as they connect us with our readers and help us keep in touch with what the trade is talking about, along with making new contact on both the agency and supplier sides of the business.
Along with press trips, Baxter Media also does a good number of industry conferences — Florida Huddle, International Pow Wow, ITB Berlin, Rendez-vous Canada, World Travel Market et cetera — and agency group conferences — Ensemble Travel Group, The Travel Agent Next Door, TL Network et cetera.
Name one to two trends that you see evolving the tourism industry.
Whether you call it a trend or a development, the big one out of Canada in 2019 and going forward will be WestJet becoming a global network airline. It has already added or announced a significant number of new routes for the coming year, it has introduced three classes of service and it will begin adding the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to its fleet in 2019. This is a bold move for the airline company.
Other trends that the industry is watching include, obviously, the impact of Millennials, increasing demand for luxury travel and digitalization in the industry. Millennial thinkers are an important demographic, luxury travel is expanding globally and moving to digital for media and travel agents is increasing more than ever.
Trends outside the industry that deserve watching are the geopolitical changes taking place around the world that may or may not impact on travel and tourism, and that includes what’s currently going on in the United States.
Interested in learning how to pitch other travel writers? See our How To Pitch series here.