Amid the welter of programmes and newspaper supplements devoted to predicting travel trends in the year ahead, one theme dominates: the ever-increasing impact of the internet on consumer behaviour.
Arguably more than any other sector, travel has been transformed by the web.
‘The rise of “citizen journalism” has seen travellers going online in their droves to research and book holidays,’ says The Salt-marsh Partnership MD Geoff Saltmarsh. ‘Some researchers are even suggesting that traditional media outlets are now less important than the web in influencing consumers’ travel decisions.’
BGB Communications managing director Debbie Hindle points to The Guardian’s and The Daily Telegraph’s rapidly improving online travel offerings as examples of how the media are innovating to stay relevant.
‘The BBC’s Holiday programme is in its last commission this year. It is a sign of the changing times,’ she says.
The web and celebrities
The rise of the internet, though, offers clients ‘far more opportunity for coverage –more websites, more user-groups and more content’, argues Hindle.
Given the extra avenues for coverage, it could be argued that travel comms is becoming easier, but Hills Balfour Synergy PR director Jonathan Sloan believes that the opposite is true.
‘Travel writers are no longer anonymous. Celebrities are driving content; it has changed completely from a few years ago,’ he says. ‘Because of celebrity culture you have to work hard to get your brand noticed.’
Other trends of significance include growing interest from many consumers in responsible tourism and ‘experiential’ travel.
Many holidaymakers are rejecting the traditional flight-and-hotel model, instead preferring to ‘engage with local people and culture, learn a skill, detox or join an expedition’, says Saltmarsh.
National travel editors cite spa holidays as one likely area of further growth this year.
As the travel sector diversifies and tailored packages become more popular, gadgets are gaining greater prominence in travel coverage. PROs promoting GPS systems and tools to help travellers post blogs on their latest adventure are likely to find success.
PRWeek interviewed three leading travel journalists on what they need from PROs during the year ahead (see below).
Simon Calder, Travel editor, The Independent
What’s hot for 2007 Bulgaria, Romania, Montenegro and UK breaks
What’s not for 2007 ‘Fly and flop’ or organised adventure package deals
As 2007 gets under way, what’s the big thing in travel journalism?
There’s always a mindless quest for new destinations, which makes PROs’ jobs very difficult. Beyond the latest EU entrants – Bulgaria and Romania – consumers are beginning to understand the environmental and cultural impact of travel, so many are choosing the more environmentally friendly option of staying at home. A PR pitch for a UK destination always interests me.
What’s your biggest headache?
The volume of pitches from PROs – we are besieged. If there was one piece of advice I’d give it would be that if your client only has three interesting things to say all year, focus on them rather than send me hundreds of little ideas.
What can PROs do to get their client decent coverage?
If a low-cost airline decides to fly to a new destination then that area will become a travel hotspot. So PROs should look out for where Ryanair or easyJet are going next. But travel trends are difficult to predict because something could go wrong – a war, or people falling out of love with British Airways (despite its excellent PR machine).
Lisa Minot, Travel editor, The Sun
What’s hot for 2007 Cape Verde Islands, the Baltics
What’s not for 2007 ‘Book-early’ deals
What are you looking for this year?
PR professionals often call to tell us about trends. Longhaul family trips are looking particularly popular this year, as are the Cape Verde Islands – they have direct flights for the first time, so we’re expecting them to be ‘the new Canary Islands’.
What other travel-related products are you interested in?
Anything iPod- or MP3-related. I’d much prefer to write about gadgets than, say, suitcases. Digital guides and devices that aid the use of these products abroad will always interest readers.
Is the ‘green’ market important?
On the one hand short breaks, such as spa holidays, are becoming more popular, which means more holidays per year and increased travelling – this is not environmentally friendly. But on the other hand there is a whole sector of
our readership looking for ‘green’ holiday packages.
What mistakes do PROs often make when they call?
I’ve had enough of PR executives asking me ‘what are your plans for 2007?’ I work on a daily newspaper so rarely know beyond three to five weeks in advance what my content will be. Proactive suggestions rather than questions, please.
Dan Linstead, Editor, Wanderlust
What’s hot for 2007 Morocco, West Africa
What’s not for 2007 Machu Picchu (Peru) and Angkor Wat (Cambodia) – ‘been done’
What are you looking for in 2007?
As a magazine dedicated to the more adventurous side, we’re not looking for skiing or villa holidays. There’s a lot of the Cape Verde Islands that has an ‘undiscovered’ feel about it, as well as previously war-torn parts of West Africa, which are interesting our readers.
What should PROs avoid?
We want to be first with any coverage of a new destination because we are a specialist magazine. Although many of our readers want to go to the Galapogos Islands, Machu Picchu and the Grand Canyon, we have featured them before – they are well known.
What about trends?
Responsible tourism is the biggest growth area. Every tour operator and PR executive needs to pay attention because consumers are making decisions based on the impact their holiday will have on the environment.
What about travel gadgets?
They have to be travel specific. Too often we get sent ideas for stories about a great new camera that requires three lenses – hardly suitable when you’re trekking through Borneo with a backpack.