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  • Writer's pictureCaroline Sherwood

What are travel journalists looking for in 2024?

Updated: Jan 17

5 tips to make your PR campaign take off



The past few years have been turbulent for the travel industry and travel journalists have been at the forefront of documenting the changes and reflecting consumers’ mood. With the COVID years behind us, in 2024, travel journalists are eager to get out there and explore the world again.


This creates great editorial opportunities for travel companies who are looking to increase their brand presence this year. With competition for attention in travel media fiercer than ever, how can your brand stand out? Here are my tips for ensuring your next campaign is a success:


1.      Sustainability

Editors are increasingly asking travel journalists to write content that promotes sustainable and responsible travel. Naturally this gives more opportunities for staycation trips and ‘flight-free’ holidays. Some journalists and publications, including The Guardian, are eschewing press trips with air travel to focus on lower carbon trips.

 

While long-haul can still appeal, the media is conscious to highlight eco-friendly destinations, transport options and accommodation providers. To qualify, brands must be making a concerted effort to improve their environmental impact – simply switching from plastic to recyclable cutlery will not cut it. Journalists are savvy to greenwashing, so be prepared for scrutiny and back-up any claims, as we saw with Virgin Atlantic’s 100% sustainable aviation fuel flight.

 

Ultimately, there is still a gap between consumers saying they will choose more sustainable travel and booking eco-friendly trips, as highlighted by ABTA’s Holiday Habits Overview 2023-2024. Price remains ‘King’ for many consumers and sustainable travel is generally perceived as more expensive, which creates opportunities for sustainable travel brands with budget-friendly trips to win column inches.

 

2.      Google Discover

Publications are reliant on advertising revenue; therefore, editorial content is evaluated by the number of click-throughs it generates and its reach. To attract more readers, journalists need to write articles that align with trending topics, feature highly searched keywords, and or use click-bait headlines. The Discover function of Google Search is affecting how users access new content and increasingly editors are referring to paying more attention to popular themes to shape content in the hope that this will drive more traffic.

 

At a recent event, travel journalists told me editors were moving toward “evergreen” stories for online, e.g. 10 best rail journeys, rather than ones tied to a time sensitive news hook. This encourages readers to access articles for a longer period, and this is great news for brands as it gives press coverage greater longevity.

 

3.      Do something different!

In promoting responsible travel, journalists are also keen to direct readers away from destinations that suffer with ‘over tourism’. In 2023, Amsterdam City Council voted to shut down the port’s cruise terminal to lower pollution and reduce the number of tourists. Whilst destinations including Prague and Krakow are looking to shed their reputation as a stag-do hotspot and attract a different class of tourists.

 

This provides a great opportunity to highlight lesser-known destinations or tours and attractions that direct tourists away from high traffic areas. Experiences that embody exploration and adventure are high on journalists’ wish lists. PR activity should highlight authentic experiences and itineraries should offer a fresh perspective too. Promoting the downright weird will also capture attention, for example this Castaway Experience that appeared in The Mirror.

 

4.      Limited editorial space

Shrinking teams of staff writers and fewer print opportunities continues to affect the way publications manage content. Furthermore, competition from travel brands all vying for editorial inclusion is making it even harder to achieve press coverage. National journalists receive thousands of emails every day, making it hard to stand out from the crowd so giving them content in an easy-to-digest format they can read quickly is crucial. 

 

PR has always been about targeting the right person with the right angle – there’s no point promoting Club 18-30 holidays to a title read by Baby Boomers! However, the best chance brands have for being selected is by delivering suggestions to the editorial team in a format they like. For instance, if a journalist writes a weekly Deals column, present key information e.g. lead-in price, saving, applicable travel dates & what’s included alongside a short but concise paragraph about why they should feature the destination. Don’t forget to attach a good image too.

 

5.      Working with freelancers

2023 saw cuts to journalism jobs and greater financial challenges for publications – Reach media made 450 redundancies in the last quarter. Staff writers are focused on developing advertorial and commercially supported content; therefore, editors are using trusted freelancers to fill content gaps.

 

A freelancer is more likely to accept a press trip invitation because they have greater flexibility and the opportunity to sell the story into multiple outlets. This can make it a little trickier to confirm what the PR output will be, in advance, but it could also lead to more coverage than expected.

 

It is still worth inviting staff writers to press trips as they may earmark it for writers from other departments or offer to trusted freelancers. Importantly, freelancers don’t always have the “freedom” to pitch in whatever story they want. They are often commissioned by editors to write on specific topics, which can limit their ability in featuring brands’ own stories, regardless of whether they like them. Sharing PR content that can be repurposed for several angles will give freelancers more opportunities to fit into the themes they are working on.

 

So, what’s hot in 2024?

Several journalists have told me:

  • Rail journeys – thanks to high searchability, eco-appeal and several new sleeper train routes opening in 2024

  • Romania and Bulgaria – as they are great value escapes and lesser known by British tourists

  • Destinations linked to popular TV shows and cinema – any Saltburn inspired staycation ideas could be big!

 

Keen to make a splash in the travel pages? Get in touch to discuss ideas: caroline@clsrelations.com




 

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