News & Views

Press Trips: To Be Or Not To Be?

As North America spots the light at the end of the tunnel, travel planning is underway for the rest of 2021, with a possible return to the realm of normalcy in 2022. Airlines are already reporting how many consumers are acting on their pent-up demand.

While many things remain in flux, including the larger state of global travel, one thing is clear: the travel press is itching to get back to work wherever they can. So for destination organizations, this means it’s time to craft brand new press invites.

Around the globe, destinations are slowly beginning to invite the press and influencers to visit again, helping them to seek out destination stories. That said, DMOs ready to join in must update their approaches to give these content creators not just what they need, but what they want.

At DCI, we have seen both sides of the equation, and these tips provide a solid checklist for destinations ramping up their media outreach.

1. Update your paperwork

First, update your legal documentation and waivers. It may seem silly, but with a pandemic swirling across the planet, it’s pivotal to mention it somewhere in the paperwork. Being transparent about your DMO’s liabilities on a press trip and what the recourses are should a journalist or influencer contract COVID is just standard due diligence.

Write it in and leave it in your hosting agreements because, quite frankly, COVID will likely never truly go away. Press trip participants will appreciate the extra attention to detail and any suggestions on insurance that might protect them further.

2. Post the pledge

Pre-COVID, the rules about coverage were unspoken, but hosting budgets no longer run aplenty. DMOs need to be upfront with media especially, if they are being held accountable for their return on investment.

Nothing drives a journalist crazier than when marketers hound them for coverage after a press trip. If there is a clear expectation upfront, however, it becomes less of a nuisance and more of a reminder to the journalist to uphold their end of the bargain.

Create a pledge alongside your waivers so that you make the expectations from both sides clear. Tell your writers and influencers what you pledge to them, and tell them what you require from them.

With fewer trips in the near future, it’s best to maximize output from each and every press trip that your DMO organizes.

Might this turn off some media? Yes, absolutely!  But unless you have a miraculously appointed board of directors – they will demand proof of the return on their investment. If a journalist cannot commit to producing a story – now is not the time for them to visit your destination. Flexibility will eventually return … but not in 2021.

3. Provide detailed, yet flexible, itineraries

Since you are requiring coverage from each hosted visit, be specific in your press invites so that participants know exactly what they’ll be doing and can plan accordingly. Some media may want an extra day to explore something not included, or perhaps they’ll want to opt out of a certain activity that has no pertinence to their publication.

Having that discussion prior to a trip may seem like a hassle for the DMO, but in the interest of maximizing a participant’s time and output, it’s best to lay out all the cards beforehand. An easy way to make sure you can keep the press on track is by including some personal time on the itinerary so that content creators and journalists can do what they do best, uninhibited, all while promoting your destination. While keeping control means keeping safe, a little structured free time is still a healthy ingredient to include on any press trip.

4. Avoid dwelling on COVID

If part of your press trip will include discussing social distancing efforts or cleanliness, there had better be something revolutionary about the way your destination handles these precautions. Otherwise, focus on meatier topics.

COVID-19 safety measures have stolen the headlines for long enough and no one is particularly intrigued anymore about how low capacity or clean a restaurant is. Such facts should be more a given now than ever before.

Influencers and the press want to find stories to engage their readers, to get them dreaming of your destination. Keep that in mind before you spend a half-hour talking about cleaning protocols. It might be easier as a flier, anyway.

5. …but still address COVID concerns

While you should not obsess over COVID, it is good to highlight in press invites particular COVID resources or specificities your destination can boast. If there’s something special or unique, it could lead to even more exciting media wins.

Perhaps you have a very low rate of infection, or very secluded experiences, or a fantastic approach to quarantining those who test positive, or some other advantage that will highlight why your destination is a stellar choice for the first wave of travel once restrictions ease more fully. Play that up in the invite from the start so that writers won’t overlook you.

6. Supply branded destination masks

It’s almost too simple, but the little things go a long way. Journalists don’t want too much swag, but something as simple as a quality branded mask with the destination’s logo is a nice touch.

For influencers, especially, that mask will make its way to Instagram and TikTok, reaffirming that your destination values safety. It’s easy to produce, unique to your destination, and an investment that will likely continue paying off for at least the next year as mask wearing becomes more normalized at least in certain situations.

7. Spell out the concrete incentives to going

Get creative with how you position your offer for a media visit. A 2020 mantra – and favorite meme fodder – has been “This could have been an email.” We’ve all seen it. No DMO wants a press trip to come off in the same way.

Offer a solid one-liner in your invite that will explain the concrete benefits of being in the destination – the smells, the sensations, the tastes – and really make it clear that it will be worth the extra precautions. While it may seem like every journalist and influencer wants to hit the road, many are still holding out for the great vaccine distribution. An invite should make it unambiguously clear what the benefits are to head to a destination for those who need the extra push.

If you can’t do that, then maybe your press trip should just be an email!


Excited to welcome the press back to your destination? We know they are excited, too! If you are concerned about your strategy, DCI has more than 60 years of experience engaging the press. Contact Kayla Leska at [email protected] to learn more about how our agency can help you maximize your reach to the travel press and influencer world as we rebuild the industry.

Written By

Kayla Leska

Kayla is Managing Director of DCI's Tourism Public Relations Division. She oversees communications strategy for DCI’s tourism clients and directs the firm’s tourism crisis and recovery communication efforts. Kayla leads publicity teams in the U.S. and Canada. She earned her BA in Public Relations at SUNY Oswego.

More Articles by Kayla Leska

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