Like many parts of the American economy, the travel and tourism sector has been hit hard by the coronavirus shutdown.
However, PR pros can still pitch relevant stories to travel media, according to an April 14 webinar hosted by Kellie Jelencovich, PR manager at Travel Leaders Group and president of PRSA’s New York Chapter.
Natalia Lopez, vice president of marketing firm FINN Partners and moderator of the webinar titled “Meet the Travel Media: Pivoting Media Strategies Amid COVID-19,” said PR pitches shouldn’t be “too salesy or tone deaf” during the shutdown.
And Hana Alberts, New York Post travel editor and one of the three journalists on the panel, agreed. With the country under lockdown, this is a difficult time “to remind people that your property, airline or brand exists, without being tone-deaf to people who’ve lost their jobs,” she said.
Travel content that tells readers, “Go here. Do this.” is not appropriate these days, she added. Instead, she’s looking for service-oriented travel stories about what’s happening now, such as how to get refunds for canceled trips.
Alberts is also interested in first-person, “as told to” accounts of the problems that travelers have endured because of the coronavirus shutdown. Her section will also profile intrepid travelers with “narratives, but not necessarily recommendations,” she said.
The story angles that editors seek
As always, story angles that editors seek will depend on the publication and its audience. Johanna Jainchill, news editor for trade magazine Travel Weekly, said she’s looking for updates on new products and travel trends, as well as reports about the travel industry opening new hotels and cruise ships.
For her publication, “Not everything should be about COVID-19,” she said. Jainchill also believes that “more intrepid people are going to be less put off” by the virus, and that it’s still OK to promote adventure-travel destinations. In fact, she said, “I don’t see any reason why people shouldn’t promote any destination.”
Melanie Lieberman, travel editor with the online publication The Points Guy, said her site is trying to find the right way to move away from coronavirus content, and toward more evergreen travel stories and “aspirational content that will be relevant three to six months from now, to keep people inspired and excited about travel.”
In the meantime, some of Lieberman’s recent posts have been titled “Should You Use an Airline Sleep Mask as a Face Cover During Coronavirus?” and “Vacation Rental Guests and Hosts Are All Feeling the Cancellation Crunch.”
Lieberman is also interested in stories about vacations closer to home, such as road trips to national parks. Readers are still engaged, she said, and the “appetite for cruising and travel, in general, will return and even be stronger when we come out on the other side” of the COVID-19 crisis.
Alberts offered a similarly hopeful view. “People still want to travel,” she said, “and are dreaming of the future.”
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