Take 5 with ... Rene A. Mack

An e-mail Q&A with Rene Mack rmack@webershandwick.com, president of Weber Shandwick's travel & lifestyle practice, New York

An e-mail Q&A with Rene Mack rmack@webershandwick.com, president of Weber Shandwick's travel & lifestyle practice, New York

PRWeek: What are some of the current trends in travel/tourism PR?

Mack: According to the Country Brand Index, a global research study Weber Shandwick conducted with FutureBrand, voluntourrism [and] accountablity (going green) are two major trends that are going to continue to rise in popularity among influential travelers. Look to see countries as well as hotels, cruise lines, and airlines incorporating these initiatives into broad-based marketing platforms. We are also seeing growth in alumni travel, extended family vacations (of course) but also vacations without the kids, and bragging-rights vacations (“let's go see the polar bears in Canada,” for example).

PRWeek: Are there any recent campaigns that really stand out for you? Why?

Mack: “Incredible India.” [It's] unexpected, authentic and spiritual -- it presents a warm and genuine invitation to embrace another culture. And “New Orleans”: Simple, authentic, visual (they brought the actual street car named DESIRE to New York, Chicago and Washington, DC to remind people the best thing they can do to support this city, is visit it -- tourism is the number-one industry in New Orleans (this is a WS account).

PRWeek: In what situations do fam/journalist trips make the most sense for travel/tourism clients? What are some other options that can provide great ROI?

Mack: If brand is another word for experience, then journalistic experiential trips are critical for feature stories. The challenge is, less and less legitimate staff writers or writers under contract can accept trips. We've been delivering experiences via Vodcasts and via bloggers. We are also unveiling the anti-press trip/visiting journalist program -- complete and total free reign -- where the writer is provided a contact, a loaded debit card and a map. They tell us what they want to do, when and how. Of course, you better believe you can deliver a great experience!

PRWeek: What are some other challenges specific to working in the travel PR arena?

Mack: It all depends what you represent! The biggest challenge with any type of air-dependent travel is that the air experience itself is longer and not all that pleasant. Gas prices, the value of the dollar, passports ... can all be issues or, they can be advantages. People are still going to travel. The biggest challenge [is] convincing clients that the media landscape has changed and the consumer is now a medium. Consumer advocacy in now the key.

PRWeek: How has new media affected your outreach efforts? What's changed, in terms of campaign components?

Mack: Travel is the world's largest industry and now the most successful business on the Internet. Successful campaigns must include blogs, podcasts, vodcasts and viral campaigns. The weakest link is now also the Internet. Many attractions and destinations spend millions to create a Web site but fail to update content on a regular basis or make it compelling for the potential traveler.

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