News & Views

Media Events – Good Use of Budget Or a Waste of Valuable Marketing Dollars?

Over the years, we’ve seen the appetite for hosting media events ebb and flow among destination marketing organizations and tourism boards. Although media events and media missions provide a valuable service to a destination’s industry partners, creating a platform for accommodations, attractions and tour operators to connect directly with travel media, media events are often expensive to implement.

Given that media relationships take time to nurture, the return on investment is not often immediately clear. Additionally, the success of an event is often based on the ability of a destinations’ partners to foster story angles into editorial. This process often requires sophisticated and persistent follow-up and ultimately, media hosting – an additional investment of time and financial resources.

While it can often take 12-18 months to render whether or not the investment in a media event was truly worth it, there are several factors which can allow a travel destination to hedge its bets toward a successful outcome.

At the recent Travel Media Association of Canada’s Annual Conference, DCI released in Canada its third edition of Development Counsellors International’s (DCI) Best Practices in Travel Public Relations study. The findings of this study are designed to aid U.S. and Canadian travel media relations specialists in accurately presenting information to travel journalists in both countries.

Within the study, we asked travel media, “When is the best time of day to attend a media event?”

In 2019, U.S. travel journalists said lunch was the best time of day to attend a media event, followed by a cocktail reception and dinner. For Canadian travel journalists, a cocktail reception was preferred, followed by lunch and then dinner. Since 2016, the popularity of lunch has grown for both groups.


Best Times to Attend a Media Event

We’re not guaranteeing a scientific correlation exists, but because of the dramatic rise in interest in wellness and holistic living, we’re not surprised to see lunch gain steam — because science shows it’s better to intake your calories midday so that you have more time to burn them off before bedtime, and because “sitting is the new smoking,” which means getting up from your desk during midday is again in vogue for its health attributes.

So, what are the benefits of lunch events for destinations? Well, for starters, it’s cost. In markets such as New York and Toronto, lunch events are much more affordable to implement. Luncheons also allow travel destinations the opportunity to select dining establishments which may be new to the market and offer an element of cache required for attracting the often-coveted media guests. Such venues are often unavailable or unaffordable for evening events, which makes lunch time a win-win for the tourism board and for the journalist.

Additionally, it frees up evening hours for destinations to connect one-on-one over drinks with travel journalists who are unavailable for a luncheon gathering.



Let’s Do Lunch

Lunch retook its crown among U.S. travel journalists in 2019 as the best time to attend a media event, after being displaced by the cocktail reception in 2016. For Canadian travel journalists, attending a cocktail reception has only a 3% edge over lunch, which rose from fourth place in 2016.

So why do travel journalists wish to step away mid-day from their busy lives to connect with travel PR pros?

In 2019, U.S. and Canadian travel journalists were asked for the first time about what their top priority is when participating in media events. We discovered the two groups have differing priorities.

The priorities of U.S. travel journalists for media events is to “receive collateral and background information for future consideration” (80%) and “bond with PR and/or tourism representative” (43%).

Canadian travel journalists’ priorities for media events are to “brainstorm story ideas with tourism representative” (67%) and to “provide updates on your outlet/freelance opportunities” (49%).

What is your top priority when participating in deskside meetings and media events?


Priorities When Participating in Select Events

This information provides an important reference point for destinations who are curating media missions for their tourism industry partners. The goal is idea exchange — being fully prepared with “top of mind” editorial angles and the written background materials that support these angles.



Meeting and Event Priorities Differ for U.S. and Canadian Travel Journalists

U.S. and Canadian travel journalists have different priorities for accepting invitations

to deskside meetings and media events. For example, when attending media events, 80% of U.S. travel journalists prioritized receiving “collateral and background information for future consideration,” compared to 27% of Canadian travel journalists. Similarly, when attending a deskside meeting, 64% of U.S. travel journalists prioritized “brainstorming story ideas with tourism representatives,” compared to 33% of their Canadian counterparts.

So… if you’re not local to a market, how do you go about finding the lunch venues which are sure to draw a crowd? Start off by reading local press online and monitoring the comments of restaurant reviews. Being the first travel destination to utilize a dining establishment for an event, following a positive review of the restaurant’s opening is a sure-fire way to boost attendance. Be sure to note to the on-location event planner that your guests are media. The establishment is much more likely to welcome (and sometimes even offer) and chef meet-and-greet and other incentives, such as free coat checks, welcome cocktails and behind-the-scenes tours.

To download a free copy of Development Counsellors International’s (DCI) Best Practices in Travel Public Relations, click here.

The summary of the survey findings is based upon the analyzed responses of 160 U.S. travel journalists and 130 Canadian travel journalists – seventy percent of respondents identified as freelance writers who contribute to multiple media outlets; 30% identified as staff writers, editors and producers.


For more tips on how to plan effective media events, have a look at these blog posts:

Written By

Karyl Leigh Barnes

Karyl Leigh Barnes is President of DCI’s Tourism Practice. Since joining the firm in 1998, Karyl Leigh has led destination strategy and created marketing communication programs for destinations on every continent except Antarctica.

More Articles by Karyl Leigh Barnes

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