News & Views

SATW Report on Travel PR and Journalists: Round 3

Travel journalists and PR professionals are getting back to work, and the third edition of our study in partnership with SATW underscores the many changes since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The first study on writers, another on PR, and a second edition comparing both are all available to download for free.

In this newest round of the study, more than 400 travel writers and 110 PR professionals responded, helping give their insight on what they are doing. Responses came from both U.S.-based and Canadian individuals, helping to provide a more comprehensive snapshot of the travel PR and media industry.

Among the findings, there are five key takeaways that will help inform travel media and PR moving forward. As destinations open up and travelers begin planning trips again, media coverage and PR efforts must adapt to address the needs in this new environment. The responses throughout the study show that both camps are doing just that.


1.The worst may have passed for PR professionals


Many people are still struggling three months into lockdown. While budgets continue to shrink for PR agencies, 48% of PR professionals who use outside agencies said they have cut ties with their external agencies, or at least asked them to pause their work. This presents a rise from the previous report, which does not bode well.

While all of these figures are disheartening to those who lost their jobs, there is a bit of positive news, relatively speaking.  Only 36% of those who responded report that furloughs and layoffs are continuing, a number slowly decreasing since we began reporting in March.


2. Travel journalists are still suffering


A look at the travel media reveals similar figures with regards to budget cuts. More than half (53%) of respondents say that there are lay-offs and furloughs at their publications. As publications decrease output and, in the case of Lonely Planet, close altogether, paid travel writing work is a rarity.

The key takeaway here is that there will be a larger pool of freelance talent moving forward during recovery. This trend is a common one during economic downturns and travel journalists were some of the hardest hit media players during the pandemic. If nothing else, this reality could present a possibility for PR professionals and DMOs to branch out and explore new writers moving forward.


3. The media is shifting


Travel journalists are increasingly prepared to take one-on-one meetings, though still only among 35% of respondents. We took a closer look at the types of stories being published, and there are slight upticks in travel and food stories. The largest jump, however, was in outdoor stories (up 57% from 37% in April). There is a clear indication here that journalists are focusing on safe choices for socially-distanced travel related to outdoor experiences.

In addition to publishing about the outdoors, writers are increasingly researching and writing features stories for the future and planning editorial research trips. Respondents are more active now than they were in March when the pandemic settled over them, and these increases are providing hope for a return to some sense of normalcy.


4. Media players are planning trips sooner than later


More positive news emerged when asking when travel writers and PR professionals will begin scheduling editorial trips again. Most PR professionals still report Q3/4 for organizing trips again. Another glimmer of hope appeared when only 20% of PR professionals (down from 45% in March) report not knowing when they’ll be able to plan travel. This finding shows that PR teams are getting ready to start setting dates instead of waiting helplessly.

Travel journalists responded similarly. With 60% currently planning editorial trips, both U.S. and, to a slightly greater extent, Canadian travel writers are in the planning phase. Nearly a quarter are ready to travel domestically as early as June, while Q3 continues to be the most popular time among 40% of respondents.

Findings also stress a recurring trend, that domestic trips will continue to be preferable to international ones, even if writers are prepared to board a plane again. An increased number of writers are still unsure of when they’ll travel internationally. There is less fear about the means of transportation, but rather about the destination itself. Most North American travel writers, however, will opt to travel by car (77%).


5. Pitches and content are aligning better


More PR pitching is happening than before, indicating positive changes for travel media overall. Now, 72% of respondents – up from 59% – are actively pitching editorial ideas. A closer look at those ideas shows that fewer PR professionals are pitching COVID-19 resilience stories, increasing their efforts instead towards summer ideas, fall travel, and destination features more than in the last two months.

When we compare that to travel writers and the pitches they are accepting, we see both sides falling into step with each other. There is a better alignment between what pitches writers are getting and what pitches they want. There is a general fatigue of COVID-19 resiliency stories as both PR and writers move towards stories about actually traveling again. This change is expected, especially as more and more destinations reopen to visitors.

A look at the pitches that will interest travel journalists, it’s clear that domestic travel, road trips and budget travel top the list. Such findings correspond to the new reality we are all facing with restrictions to our movement and – for many – to our wallets.

For a more complete presentation of the findings, you can download the slides from our recent webinar here for free.

Still struggling to think of how your destination’s PR efforts will fare in a post-COVID-19 world? You’re not alone. DCI has been helping destinations reimagine their strategies for 60 years. Get in touch with Kayla Leska at [email protected] to learn how you can tap into our experience and get your destination top of mind.

Written By

Robyn Domber

Robyn is DCI’s Vice President of Research. In this role, she spearheads all of the firm’s primary and secondary research efforts, including surveys, focus groups, data analysis and result compilation. She joined DCI with 15 years of experience in the site selection and economic development consulting field.

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