A traditional staple of PR practitioners, especially agencies, is the press trip. Properly planned and executed, press trips can still be one of the best ways of gaining important third-party endorsement from consumer and travel trade press. No matter how lavish or enjoyable a press trip is, if it does not result in significant media coverage, with quantifiable “return on investment” (ROI), it cannot be considered an effective PR tool for a destination, hotel, restaurant, attraction, or transportation mode.
Planning for a press trip should begin at least three months ahead of time. PR professionals should ask themselves some basic questions before the process begins. What audiences are you trying to influence? If you are looking to reach third parties (travel agents, tour operators, or meeting planners), your approach should be different than when trying to reach the end consumer.
Finding partners for a press trip is essential. Since costs can be very high to conduct an effective visit, teaming up with other tourism interests will make budgets stretch. It can also give journalists more of a reason to accept if multiple story angles are possible from a single trip. As an example: if a destination solicits tickets from an airline opening new routes to that region, this increases the newsworthiness of a press trip.
The financially-troubled legacy airlines are not as able to provide complimentary tickets as they once were. Also, they may question the effectiveness of press trips where coverage for them often is minimal. However, it is still possible for savvy PR practitioners to obtain tickets from airlines. A good example came in 2004 following a spate of tropical storms and hurricanes that battered Florida and the Caribbean.
Other important partnerships for a press trip can occur between hotels, convention and visitor bureaus/state tourism offices, attractions, and restaurants. While the official organizer or host of the trip sets the schedule, these partners can contribute complimentary or reduced meals and attractions that give the media a true indication of a destination’s diversity.