From SATW: 5 Things Top Travel Editors Need You to Know

September 27, 2022
Aerial of downtown Bogota.

Travel PR professionals are always scrambling to figure out what top travel editors want and need from us in order to land coverage.

To answer precisely those questions, SATW (formerly the Society of American Travel Writers) recently hosted a panel of travel editors during their 2022 conference in Bogotá, Colombia. The takeaways underscore some tried and true lessons, while introducing new intelligence that editors want destination marketers to know.

Among the panel members were editors from CNN Travel and National Geographic, helping to set updated expectations of how destinations can best connect with them for coverage.

1. Pump Up the Headlines

Top travel editors – and writers – are sifting through countless emails per day, so ensure they’ll spend a few extra seconds on yours by writing a strong headline. Make the story obvious and clear and catchy before they even reach the body of your email and you’ll convince them to consider coverage.

2. We’re All Digital First

Travel publications are all digital first, which means travel PR professionals need to frame content as if it will land on a webpage before an actual printed page. The editors during the panel revealed that if something performs well online, it will likely go to print, underscoring a shift that must be made by  destination marketing professionals who are still driven to prioritize print coverage.

3. Breaking News is Key

Every journalist in DCI’s “How to Pitch” series has expressed the need for news in their pitches, and the SATW panel doubled down on it. Publications don’t just want to be the first to cover something, they need to tell new stories. Destinations who can share exclusive access to a story or place that’s never been covered before will find more success with these publications. Every single pitch needs a new, fresh angle or else publications will likely trash it.

4. Toss the Toxicity

Editors want to protect themselves and their teams, and one of the best ways to do that is to avoid toxicity. Destination marketers who are too pushy, hostile, needy, or demanding might as well forget about landing any coverage at all. The editors know you’re stressed, and they are stressed – we’re all stressed – but making things more difficult will only mean they’ll move onto the next destination. Being kind costs nothing, while getting great coverage can be priceless.

5. Individual Editors Want Different Things

Blanket pitching the entire travel media world is not a course of action that editors respond well to. Instead, know what each person – and not just each publication – is looking for, and the right pitch will connect in a way that will generate coverage that benefits your destination. The panelists shared their wish lists during the event:

Jennifer Barger works as an editor for National Geographic and Yellow Book. She’s interested in deep, unfamiliar dives in familiar places, photo essays, topics about history and culture, and UNESCO heritage sites. Win her over by crushing the headline up front.

Jim Benning is editor-in-chief at AAA Explorer and Westways seeks regional pieces and short narratives or essays focusing on quests. Just make sure the stories are timely and dare to go beyond your latest road trip itinerary.

Dawn Booker, editor-in-chief at Detour, looks for stories in Black travel, hoping to find interesting angles at the intersection of race and place. Pitch her personal perspectives and local culture pieces to land in Detour.

David Devoss at East-West News Service, looks for longer deep dives into destinations or people, using history or economics as a lens. Stories reach a more international readership.

Catharine Hamm is the managing editor at Her publication traces the 900 destinations reached by SilverSea Cruises, prompting her to look for service and destination-oriented pieces. With the 2025 cruise schedules coming out, she hopes to find angles shaped by these routes, including food and wine topics.

Alexander Howard is the managing editor at Lonely Planet Magazine and seeks 30-50 articles a week on where to go, what to do, investigations, and even essays. He prefers locals who pitch stories that can capture a sense of place or generate the aspirational travel sensations that get people reading.

Barry Neild is the global editor at CNN Travel, seeking uniquely online content with 1-2 features a day. He’s keenly interested in aviation and human interest stories, as well as success stories of anyone who traveled somewhere to “live the dream.” Quirky or abandoned places in a destination are also fair game. But have a catchy headline – his goal is to get readers to make the jump from CNN news to travel editorial.

Looking for ways to connect with these top travel editors? At DCI we have more than 60 years of landing placements in top digital media sites. Get in touch with Karyl Leigh Barnes at [email protected] to learn more about what we can do for your storytelling efforts.