Some travel writers make the mistake of thinking they need to travel to far-flung destinations many time zones away….
… when, in actuality, there are interesting travel-related stories waiting to be written about their own backyards.
In fact, one of the best ways to build a travel writing portfolio is to write about the destination about which you are most familiar—your hometown.
Even if you feel well-versed in what your city has to offer, it’s a good idea to build a working relationship with your local convention and visitors’ bureau (CVB) or tourism board.
Working with your local CVB or tourism board representatives isn’t a one-way street, however.
In order to be a successful travel writer with expertise in your local area, it’s important to treat this business relationship with respect and care.
~ Introduce yourself. When you’re just starting out, get in touch with the CVB and introduce yourself. Explain what publications you write for and what topics particularly interest you (dining, adventure activities, etc.). Ask to be added to any relevant media lists coordinated through the CVB. Though this introduction can be done through email, it’s not a bad idea to take your contact out to coffee or lunch to help establish face-to-face rapport.
~ Stay in touch. I like to touch base with my contact in person every six months or so just to get the scoop on anything new coming down the pipeline and to update her on what’s new with my work. When a story is published on which your contact assisted, send a copy and say thank you. Acknowledge her help. If you’re invited to an event held by the CVB, consider going. You may meet other people with whom you should be connected and it shows interest in what your tourism board is doing.
~ Ask for appropriate contacts. The people working at the CVB offer a wealth of knowledge about all things related to your city, and if they aren’t able to help you with something, chances are their extensive web of contacts includes someone who can. Try to scout out answers if you’re able to on your own—your contact isn’t your personal research assistant—but if you can’t track something or someone down, don’t be afraid to ask for help. The tourism board wants your city to be portrayed accurately and your contact will be happy to provide clarification where needed. Also, many CVBs keep a list of hospitality-related contacts throughout the city. This awesome resource allows you to take responsibility for making relationships that don’t have to go through the tourism board, but if your list is more than a few months out of date, make sure you get your hands on the latest copy.
~ Be well read. Some cities are saturated in stories, and you shouldn’t rely on your contact to provide you with scoops on everything. Keep your ear tuned to the news, social media and other people working closely with the area. Your CVB contact can help fill in any holes you might encounter (and sometimes you’ll be the one to break the news to your contact!), but don’t expect her to write your story for you.
~ Work ahead of deadline. Don’t expect everyone at the tourism board to drop everything to help you. If you’ve been assigned a piece with which you’ll need assistance, reach out with plenty of time to spare. It helps if you let you contact know when your deadline is so that she can prioritize your needs with all the writers she is assisting and projects she is juggling.
As a person writing consistently about my place of residence, I have found my local visitors’ authority to be invaluable. My primary contact has, on many occasions, provided the untold back story, shared important networking contacts and helped round out many stories that otherwise would have been incomplete had I not take the time to foster this relationship.
Do you work with your local tourism board? Share your advice!