Between the horrific events of 9/11, a struggling global economy, and the unknown impact of new technologies,…
…the early-2000’s were not a good time for the travel industry.
This is also right about the time I was hired to run North American marketing for the Kenya Tourist Board. This was my first gig in the travel industry. We had a tiny marketing budget, no Americans were traveling (and certainly not to Africa!) and I’d never actually been to Kenya (small detail).
Over the next five years I spent several months a year on the ground in Africa and my team implemented a series of extremely successfully marketing campaigns on a shoestring budget that delivered real results to both the public and private sectors, growing tourism from the U.S. to Kenya by 30%.
I also learned a thing or two about the inner-workings of tourist boards along the way.
For professional travel bloggers, writers, photographers and videographers, here are five insider tips to more successfully pitch tourism boards worldwide.
- Tourist boards don’t have as much money as you may think. Just because tourism boards have fancy trade show booths and run splashy ads on TV, doesn’t mean they have big budgets. Do not approach a tourist board with unsolicited projects that come with a hefty price tag. Typically if tourist boards are going to spend any significant amount of money on anything they are required to formally go out for 3 bids and run it through an approval process (remember this is the government after all). If you can put together a proposal that includes the majority of costs already offset through sponsorship from an airline, partnership with a tour operator and complimentary hotel rooms to form an almost complete package, your pitch is more likely to be approved.
- Be creative with what kind of content you’re offering them. Typically when journalists pitch a tourist board they are asking for the coverage of travel costs and expenses in exchange for the delivery of content. When I was with the tourist board we’d routinely get pitched for expensive video production trips, which we in no way had the budget to pay for (see above). Tourist boards have free photos and video pouring into their offices on a near daily basis. Often hotels and the tour operators jump at the opportunity to give their tourist boards their images and video free of charge. In turn, the tourist board uses their images to promote the destination, so it’s a win/win. What WILL get the attention of a tourism board is content they can’t get direct from the hotels or tour operators. Think about how you can create something unique, how the voice you’ve developed on your blog may be different, how you can perhaps present the tourist board with a story they couldn’t produce on their own.
- You might have to channel your inner politician. Tourist boards are government run agencies. The government employs the people you are pitching, and as a result sometimes you can run into “politics.” Do your research to avoid any bombshells or to increase your chances of a successful pitch. For example, in Kenya from time to time the controlling party switches and with that one of the two main ethnic tribes comes into power. In my experience there, pitches that focused on the area of the country where the “ruling” party came from were more successful than those that were not.
- Don’t start with the tourist board. If you can get a hotel, tour operator or airline excited about what you’re pitching before you go to the tourist board, you’ll have much greater success. Tourist Boards exist to support the tourism industry, and thus they value opportunities to work with and support their stakeholders such as hotels, tour operators and airlines. If you can make the tourist board look good by getting the hotels and operators’ visibility, qualified leads and more bookings, you’ll be well on your way to a successful pitch.
- Get to know the destinations target market(s) and make your case accordingly. You will have a much better chance of getting support from a tourist board if you’re readership is in line with a tourist board’s key source markets. This information is generally publically available. For example, tourist boards give presentations regularly to their stakeholders where they outline current and new source markets of interest. Pitch opportunities for tourist boards to reach into either a current source market or a new market in which they have already expressed interest.
Bottom line, a little research to see what markets the tourist board is currently targeting combined with some up-front networking with hotels and tour operators before actually pitching the tourist board can greatly increase your chances of a successful pitch.
What strategies do you use when pitching tourist boards?
Great advice Sarah – thanks for sharing this! I particularly like #2, especially this:
Like every company out there, the bottom line for Tourist Boards is ROI – and in order to give them some ‘return’ you really have to be ‘heard’……difficult to do in the vastness of the web without having some unique way of reaching their target demographic (unless of course, you already have a large readership/platform of active travelers!).
Thanks for the comment! Tourist boards do increasingly realize that a modest number of highly relevant and qualified impressions is more important than a million impressions among travelers who may never consider coming to their destination. Bloggers who tell that story effectively are highly successful in their pitches.
These are all excellent tips and VERY good points.
Thanks so much Lisa!
I have found it really hard to pitch tourist boards. It’s really tricky to engage them. Do you know an area with good tourist boards and not as many bloggers coming through?
Hi and thanks for the comment! I’d say start with destinations that are more focused on high value/low volume tourism. Volume destinations like Europe, parts of Asia, the US, Mexico etc can be hard because there are more bloggers there and the private sector (hotels, operators, etc) are running a higher volume of people through which translates to more social media.
Pick destinations across Africa, more remote parts of India and Latin America, for example, and you’ll find the tourist boards and private sector companies working together to get their story and their message out. You’ll have more luck here collaborating with tourist boards.
Some great advice from someone who’s in the know – thank you very much!
I think the money one is a big one, they don’t necessarily have access to buckets of gold, but do have other resources you can tap into. If you scratch their back, they will scratch yours!
Thanks Stacey! And yes exactly, while they don’t have big budgets, if you can help them make a compelling case for them to support you by assisting with air, transfers, tours and other activities by reaching out to the private sector, you’re more likely to succeed. Help them look good:)
I found this insider account interesting – I’d always assumed that the big players like Europe and Vegas would be the ones to approach as they have a bigger budget – it never occurred to me that the smaller places are more open to working with bloggers. Coming from a print background, blogging has been an eye-opneing experience as before, the name of the publication would be my calling card. Bloggers have to work harder at organizing trips – but the freedom is a huge payoff.
Exactly! The freedom to travel, and write, on your own terms is a huge benefit. Definitely engage with the larger tourist boards as well, but the smaller guys may be in a better position to partner and will likely be more interested in your specific niche.
Really valuable tips on this and timely too because I’ve been trying to persuade our tourist board to allow me to work with them on several projects.