Why PR is an essential part of any tourism marketing plan

Tourism is big business. According to the US Travel Association, in 2023, travelers in the United States had a $2.8 trillion economic impact and supported more than 15 million American jobs. Whether it’s for leisure travel, a business meeting or sports event, we’re always on the move.

For destinations vying for a share of those tourism dollars, an ongoing comprehensive destination marketing effort is essential. While owned and paid media plans are important pieces of the marketing pie, be sure to save a slice for PR.   

We’ve all had a Tina Fey “I want to go to there” moment at some point. Perhaps you read an article in an in-flight magazine about a dreamy vacation spot. Maybe you were scrolling Travel + Leisure’s Instagram and saved a post about a new hotel with an amazing rooftop bar.

The inspirational content that gives us wanderlust has a back story. Behind-the-scenes, PR pros are introducing travel writers and content creators to tourism businesses and destinations and inspiring them to share their experiences. Here’s how the resulting coverage motivates readers to click the “Book Now” button.

Tourism PR harnesses the power of storytelling

Writers and creators have the power to transport readers to a destination, taking us on a trip with their content. Descriptive details trigger our senses and tug on our emotions. You might recall an anecdote about a travel writer’s encounter with a local that brought tears to your eyes. You might remember a description of a specific meal unique to an area that gave you cravings. These details woven together make up the fabric of the destination. Advertising provides a taste. Travel stories serve up the whole meal.     

Tourism PR boosts credibility

Third-party endorsements are key. Brands can easily boast through paid and owned channels, but when positive reviews come from a third party, the credibility of the content skyrockets. A description of a travel experience shared by a writer or content creator carries a level of authenticity that simply can’t be achieved through traditional advertising.

As the saying goes “press begets press.” A consistent flow of media and influencer coverage generates buzz, that coveted tipping point when everyone is talking about something. And those backlinks that help drive Google rankings? They’ll direct traffic to your site for years to come.

Thinking about your next trip? Here are some stories that inspired me.

Watery, Peaceful, Wild: The Call of the Mangroves – Elisabeth Goodridge, The New York Times

Richmond, Virginia, Has Become a Culinary Powerhouse – Patrice Williams, Food and Wine

How a commuter bridge turned into a bucket-list experience – Larry Blieberg, National Geographic

Erin Bagnell

Erin is one of our media relations pros, with more than two decades of experience, first at D.C.-area trade associations followed by 14 years at Richmond Region Tourism where she helped to promote the best of the region to travel writers and content creators while landing high-profile placements.

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