Communicators in the travel sector must change the course

Travel and hospitality industry communicators are facing three significant shifts.

Travel and hospitality industry communicators are facing three significant shifts.

First, people are traveling differently. They are opting for destinations closer to home, seeking out value over extravagance, and researching their trip, becoming information mavens. Second, tourism marketing budgets have taken a beating - meaning that we are competing with less funding. Third is the radical transformation and downsizing in the traditional media and the subsequent exponential expansion of social media.

While the shifts are scary, we see opportunity:

Newspaper travel sections are likely to be an army of one. Travel editors increasingly rely on wire services for content. This means less original content and fewer stories from freelance writers. Overall, freelance journalists are finding it harder to sell their stories. As such, strategy, planning, and execution must change. It is an opportunity to reevaluate and to find efficiencies in productivity and contain costs on tactics that used to work but are no longer effective.

Today, travel and lifestyle reporters are doing multiple jobs in the newsroom, while simultaneously building their social media following. They are also blogging on topics that are not part of their main beats. This means that they are less likely to attend a press event, but more likely to be open to a great pitch. Solid relationships, creative thinking, and strong ideas can be enough to break through.

There are alternative ways to reach travelers directly. In addition to media outreach, we have public outreach. Destinations across the country are using Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks to spread information. Development Counsellors International recently named Philadelphia one of the six "Tweet Elite" for our use of Twitter to communicate with media and the public. Our PR "toolbox" now includes multiple Twitter accounts, Facebook, YouTube, and strategy to engage other people's social networking audiences.

People always want to be somewhere else. We must convince visitors that Philadelphia is that somewhere. So, my industry colleagues: Start your engines.

Jeff Guaracino is VP of communications for the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation.

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