Take 5 with ... Julie Freeman Bradler

An e-mail Q&A with Julie Freeman Bradler julie.freeman-bradler@edelman.com, SVP and deputy practice leader of Edelman's tourism & lifestyle practice [www.edelman.com/speak_up/tourism], New York

An e-mail Q&A with Julie Freeman Bradler julie.freeman-bradler@edelman.com, SVP and deputy practice leader of Edelman's tourism & lifestyle practice [www.edelman.com/speak_up/tourism], New York

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

Freeman Bradler: The issues of sustainability and how to address climate change are beginning to be hot topics for the tourism industry in the US, but we are still far behind the rest of the world. The industry understands that tourism has an effect on climate change but direct efforts have been relatively small to date. Examples include airlines and online travel agencies beginning to work with carbon-offset companies like Terrapass to help offset the carbon footprint of its customers. Some companies are taking more definitive steps in CSR like Expedia (an Edelman client) with its World Heritage Alliance program. The climate change issue is going to catch up with the travel industry, but we have a lot of work to get ahead of it. The United Nations World Travel Organization (WTO) recently hosted a conference on Tourism & Climate Change and released the Davos Declaration that outlines the breadth of the problem and potential directions for change.

There is also a growing emphasis on environmental responsibility and sustainable practices in the tourism development and hospitality industries … Travelers are seeking out destinations and accommodations that are environmentally conscious.

Medical tourism is booming – people are traveling for everything from plastic surgery to root canals to stress relief.

Luxury/bespoke travel continues to be the fastest-growing segment of the travel industry. Consumers want a personalized, luxury travel experience, even if they need to cut back in some areas to afford it. Bespoke travel, custom or tailor-made, is one of the fastest-growing segments of the travel industry, fueled by affluent, been-there-done-that travelers. Typically, bespoke travel begins with extensive interviews to determine clients' interests, habits and details about their travel goals and expectations.

More people than ever are traveling to experience food and wine. A recent study, commissioned by the Travel Industry Association in partnership with Gourmet magazine and the International Culinary Tourism Association, indicated that during the past three years, some 27 million travelers, or 17% of American leisure travelers, specifically sought culinary and wine-related activities while traveling. The study found culinary travelers generally are "younger, more affluent and better educated than non-culinary travelers" and typically seek "unique experiences" when traveling.

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

Freeman Bradler: The launch of Easy Cruise, the search for “Chief Beer Officer” for Four Points hotels, [the] launch of Virgin Airlines domestic. All were clever, received tremendous press and coverage was true to the brand personality.

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?

Freeman Bradler: Fam trips make sense to help select journalists see a familiar destination in a perception-changing way, or to introduce a new or emerging destination to the general media. Oftentimes individual press trips are most effective because they are customized for that particular journalist and provide an in-depth experience that is needed in order to develop a feature story on the destination.

Other client-familiarization options that provide great ROI include comprehensive, interactive and easy-to-navigate Web sites; podcasts that include personalized stories and testimonials from locals plus insight into non-touristy, authentic restaurants, sites of interest, shops and other attractions; Destination Experience events – bringing the destination's experience (sites, food, culture, dance, crafts, other key products) to the journalists in key markets in order to convey the destination's attributes and new tourism initiatives. This helps to reach the maximum number of journalists with key messages, especially those who can't accept trips and/or when it isn't possible to travel large number of journalists to the destination due to budgetary constraints.

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

Freeman Bradler: Media doesn't want to cover destinations with limited air access [or] lack of tourism infrastructure; limited PR budgets hindering ability to maximize exposure; security issues. In the US there is minimal government support for tourism promotion on a national level. Support mostly comes from the state level. This is quite different from many other countries where tourism promotion is a top priority for the national government.

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

Freeman Bradler: We believe the tourism industry is still far behind the consumer in the use of social media. Consumers caught on a while ago, and the tourism industry is just starting to catch up. Travel is one of the most highly trafficked areas for conversation on the Web, including Google, Yahoo, Facebook, etc. but marketers are just starting to catch on and find new ways to participate in the conversation.

With that said, new media and social media has enriched travel and destination marketing opportunities immensely. The Internet and new media tools such as blogs, podcasts and mobile-phone marketing have had a huge impact on the tourism industry, providing numerous opportunities to reach consumers and help influence their travel decisions, while also giving travelers the opportunity to interact with each other.

Strategic online marketing strategies such as SEO and e-mail marketing to targeted audiences are really helping to differentiate brands in the tourism industry. Through online tools, destinations are able to gain valuable insight about their visitors that's helping them to enhance their offering.

Podcasts have proved to be a great tool because they provide the inside scoop, the lay of the land before you get to a destination. They provide personal accounts and you feel like you're getting travel advice from a friend. Travel blogs and comments sections on many travel Web sites also give consumers a forum to discuss their travel experiences and share insight with fellow travelers.

Our media outreach now includes not only traditional travel media but influential travel bloggers -- helping us to cast a wider net with our clients' messages.

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