Of late I’ve been fielding questions from bloggers and non-bloggers alike about how to score travel blogging sponsorships from tourism boards. So speaking of my experiences, of working with over 20 tourism boards so far, this is what I’ll suggest…
But before anything, let’s understand a couple of things:
- Tourism boards are the government organisations responsible for the tourism of a particular town, or a country. A city may have its own tourism board, eg. Zurich city has Zurich Tourism Board, despite the country, Switzerland, having one — Switzerland Tourism Board.
- For a travel-blogger, working with a Tourism Board is as much an achievement as playing in the national team for a sportsman. The more you have worked with tourism boards, the more successful you will be considered as a travel blogger.
- Media Trips organised by Tourism Boards are called FAM trips, or the Familiarization trips.
Now, if you’ve just started blogging and are struggling with increasing your readership and social media followers, remember that there’s no “magic number” when it comes to knowing when it’s the right time to start pitching tourism boards. As long as you send the right pitch to the right tourism board, at the right time, you should be fine.
However, one parameter to find out whether or not you’re worthy of getting travel sponsorships is an honest review of your channel. As a travel blogger, you’re working as the advertising channel for anyone sponsoring you — so ask yourself what is it that you can offer in return to your sponsor. Do you have enough followers for someone to be interested in your proposal? Do people engage on your Facebook and Instagram posts saying they want to experience what you’re experiencing? Do you get comments on your blog posts?
In general, you should be able to prove that you have an engaging audience, regardless of how big it is. And speaking of the best practices, for increasing your chances of getting sponsorships, this is what I advise:
Start With Creating A Media Kit
Just like a Resume helps an employer quickly know about the job-seeker, a Media Kit helps a sponsor understand a blog better. A Media Kit talks about your blog in detail — right from what kind of stories it covers to the total readership it entertains to all its previous sponsors.
Creating a media kit looks practical and professional, and thus increases your chances of getting a reply from the sponsors you’re writing to. So while emailing to tourism boards, always attach a Media Kit. Another reason for providing them with a Media Kit is that if there’re no FAM trips happening at the moment, Tourism Boards can keep your Media Kit handy for any future possibility. Read: How To Create A Media Kit For Your Blog
Finding Relevant Email Address
Most countries, or prominent cities in the world (like Paris or Amsterdam or Goa) where tourism is big, have a dedicated tourism board. The only problem is, however, getting the relevant email address of the person responsible for handling PR or looking after media queries.
Most countries in Europe and other developed nations, including Australia, USA and Japan, among others, have a dedicated website with relevant email addresses you can write to. The problem persists, however, while searching for contacts in Asian markets or other developing nations where the confusion is often expected — India, Philippines, Cambodia etc.
Speaking of my experiences of finding relevant tourism board contacts in India, we don’t have a dedicated website for the country tourism. Moreover, only a handful of states have a tourism board (and a dedicated website where you can find contact details of the working officials) including Rajasthan, Gujarat, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh, among a few others.
Tips for finding relevant contact details if you can’t find it online:
- Write a message on Twitter & Facebook handles of the tourism boards and ask them for a relevant email
- Ask other travel bloggers in your network
Writing An Effective Email
Now that you have a prepared a Media Kit and have found a few correct email addresses to be contacted, what next? Writing an effective email.
- Introduce yourself in brief: Write a bit about you and your blog (no more than a paragraph). Include statistics on your blog or any other magazine you write for. Leave it to the Media Kit to talk about it all in detail.
- Be clear with your request: Now that you’ve introduced yourself in the first couple of paragraphs, tell them what you’re looking for. Are you looking for a full-board FAM trip with an entire itinerary set for you in addition to flight tickets from your home country? Or are you already travelling to the destination and are open to any opportunities — free accommodation, free city tours etc (Tip: During your initial few sponsorships, it’s always a good idea to ask for ‘anything possible’. Be choosy once you’ve worked with a few sponsors)
- Be clear about what you can offer: How many blog posts you will be writing about the trip? What kind of engagement on social media can you offer? Will you be helping your sponsors promote a hashtag too? Can you promise any rough figure of the total reach they can expect?
Having Faith In You
As I said earlier, Tourism Boards are always in search of travel-bloggers, and it doesn’t matter how immature your blog is, there is always a Tourism Board, out there, waiting for you. The only difference is — with increasing popularity and reach, you’re going to get more.
When I’d initially started blogging, every time I found other bloggers posting on Facebook about their sponsored trips with a state/country Tourism Board, I always thought that it would take at least two to three years, and a few dozen thousand Facebook likes, to persuade a Tourism Board for sponsoring my trip. But I was wrong!
Though it’s true that you need to build a good presence as a travel blogger, gain a few thousand social media followers, before you start scoring FAM trips but it’s still not impossible to get one during your initial months of blogging — just be prepared not to get privileges as an experienced blogger may otherwise do for the same trip. And one of the privileges may mean that the experienced blogger is perhaps getting paid as well, while you are not! But that doesn’t matter because as you slowly gain experience, you slowly become that (privileged) blogger too!
And as I say always, blogging isn’t as easy as many think. It requires long working hours, enough dedication and a lot of time to slowly get there!
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