There’s no such thing as a free lunch – but who wants to eat alone anyway?
One day during the summer of 2009, I picked up the phone and Vibhava, an IndiaTourism officer I knew, said: “I have been reading your blog. You really love India. The next time you go to India, you will be our guest.”
Vibhava is a very professional, very upbeat man and I was surprised to hear him sounding emotional – he was really moved by my writing.
Like most Indians I have met, Vibhava loves his country. He is ideally suited to his job because he is well-traveled and genuinely enthusiastic about travel and tourism in India.
He is also young and open to new ideas and new forms of communication – such as blogging.
The phone call from Vibhava surprised and delighted me, as you can well imagine, but it did not come out of the blue. Since I started traveling in India and writing about it on blogs and in print, I have assiduously cultivated a relationship with IndiaTourism.
I started simply by dropping into their office in downtown Toronto to pick up brochures, maps and other materials and information. I often talked to Vibhava’s predecessor, Rao, and slowly a collegial friendship developed. When Rao was transferred to Aurangabad, I introduced myself to his successor, Vibhava.
As well as visiting in person, I have diligently kept my IndiaTourism contacts up-to-date about everything I am doing: I send clippings, PDFs, links to my blog. I also discuss story ideas with them and ask for their advice, and we talk about Indian politics, culture and history. I learn a lot from talking to these men, who know more about India than I will ever know.
In India itself, I have visited Rao in Aurangabad; was invited to the National Tourism Awards in Delhi; and was introduced to several key people in IndiaTourism and in private sector travel and tourism companies.
Through my efforts to cultivate a relationship with IndiaTourism, I have enjoyed many benefits. The first and foremost is my friendships with Vibhava, Rao and their colleague Venkat in Delhi, who is in charge of the rural tourism project in India. I have also been on a 10-day sponsored trip to Kolkata, Darjeeling and Sikkim; and spent three days in Aurangabad, as the guest of Rao, seeing the spectacular Ellora and Ajanta caves.
Plus, I have been to several industry events, In Canada and India, which offered excellent networking opportunities. For example, I am just now talking to a large tour operator about developing a BreatheDreamGo tour to India.
In other words, I have cultivated a relationship with IndiaTourism over the past four years, and any benefit I have gained has been in the context of this relationship.
I see it as ongoing, and I am open to future collaboration. I respect the people I have met and I think the reverse is true.
I know for a fact that Vibhava really had to go to bat for me to get the Indian Ministry of Tourism in Delhi to approve my trip. It took months of persuasive phone calls and e-mails. And then when the approval did come through, they completely trusted me to create my own itinerary, and provided me with just the right amount of on-the-ground support and guidance: I was free to explore and follow my own interests and ideas.
I am proud to be the first travel blogger that IndiaTourism sponsored. The trip was the culmination of both years of writing and relationship-building – and of course a big helping of genuine passion.
Have you built a relationship with CVBs, Tourism Departments, or PR firms? Share your advice!
Very interesting post, Mariellen.
I firmly believe that human relationships are the most important thing in life. And certainly, having good contacts with locals is an amazing opportunity to learn about a country and its culture. You were fortunate to see India with different eyes. These are uncommon experiences and I hope I’ll have one day a similar chance.
.-= Simon´s last blog post: A mouse click away =-.
I love that you invested in these people, learned from them, shared with them, and behaved like a true friend. No wonder they reached out to you and want to bless you in return. :-)
.-= Krista´s last blog post: Lime Wine Cooler and Mint Pea Salad with Apricots =-.
Brilliant, Mariellen! With a niche like yours, what a great way to develop the work that you do on DreamBreatheGo.
.-= Lori Henry´s last blog post: Restaurants and Inuit Art in Iqaluit- Nunavut- Canada =-.
Congratulations Mariellen. This is a great post and reminder about investing with people.
.-= Akila´s last blog post: budget japanese cuisine- food on a budget =-.
Thanks for the comments. So nice to see that others understand the real value of relationships.
.-= Mariellen Ward´s last blog post: Video of India festival in India =-.
Like in any business, relationships are the key to pretty much every success that you have. That’s no different with Tourism Boards. In terms of approaching them, I’ve found that providing your benefits to them has worked great for me.
I’ve approached them with the line of me providing long term internet traffic (via SEO, social media etc) that has an indefinite shelf life when compared to traditional media, and backing this up with evidence. For example, I have provided real examples of previous press trips and provided this via a report, showing analytics graphs for individual posts, and even detailing the keywords I target, their monthly search volume, and current search engine ranking for that keyword. This has been responded to well. The advantage of working with new media, is that one is able to provide detailed stats and evidence of exposure, so it’s worthwhile for us new media types to exploit that!
.-= Anthony The Travel Tart´s last blog post: Le Tour De France Bike Ride – Funny- Offbeat and Unusual Moments =-.
Thanks for this post, Mariellen.
One on one relationships can really become friendships if you put the time and effort into them. And friendships can take you all over the world, open doors (that are usually closed to others), and create such unique and memorable experiences.
.-= Globetrooper Lauren´s last blog post: HOW TO- Access Free Accommodation During Travel =-.
Wow!What an amazing post and interesting comments. Mariellen, congratulations on all your success with India. You have a passion for it that deserves to be recognized. We are looking into approaching tourist boards and your advice and the amazing advice of Anthony (The Travel Tart) will hopefully pay off for us as well.
Thanks for the inspiration!
.-= Dave and Deb´s last blog post: Osprey takes flight in Capilano- BC Canada- Snapshot Sunday =-.
This couldn’t have come at a better time, as I was just laid off and have been thinking of ways to work with NL Tourism. Thanks so much!
.-= Candice´s last blog post: Being Laid Off is Apparently Blogging Goldmine =-.
Thanks for sharing this :) Unfortunately, sometimes there is no time to develop a relationship with the DMO before your trip. But it does work a lot better ;) In March 2011 I worked with a local tourism board in Mexico and with the guy we are now great friends. I even met all his brothers and best friends when there, so we keep in touch since then :)