How to Work with Tourism Boards

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Despite the fact that I realize not everyone will be interested in this subject, I still feel like it's a topic worth addressing. More and more recently, I've been fielding questions from bloggers and non-bloggers alike about how I manage to work with tourism boards and companies when I travel.

Using a 2012 trip to Ottawa as an example (where I worked with both Ottawa Tourism and the HI Ottawa Jail Hostel), here are some answers to common questions I've received about working with tourism boards.

Ottawa Tourism
Ottawa Tourism

Common questions about my sponsored travels

(Note: This is not a post about “how to get invited on press trips” or “how to score free stuff when you travel.” If that's what you're here to find, you can navigate away right now!)

“How do I know when my blog is “big enough” to pitch to companies/tourism boards?”

The truth is (and I know this isn't what any blogger wants to hear), there's no “magic number” when it comes to knowing when it's the right time to start pitching. If you send the right pitch to the right company/tourism board, things like page views and RSS subscribers and Twitter followers won't really matter much.

In general, though, you want to be able to show that you have an engaged audience — regardless of how big it is. In my mind, a solid, small engaged audience is much more valuable than a large, indifferent one. My audience is by no means huge, but I've been able to encourage a lot of discussion and engagement on both my blog and social networks, proving that I'm not just writing all of this for myself. People actually read what I publish and respond to it, and Ottawa Tourism hinted that this was the main reason they decided to work with me.

But how do I build an engaged audience?, you ask. Well, the key to an engaged audience is content. It really is true that content is king. Before you start thinking about pitching to tourism boards and companies, build up a solid blog with top-notch content. Know what your niche is (if you plan to have one), and what you want the tone of your blog to be. And, above all, let your voice and personality shine through — this is what truly will grab the attention of tourism boards.


“How do I go about pitching?”

So you think you've developed your blog and audience enough to where you feel confident pitching to a company or tourism board. What's next? Here are my main tips for before you pitch, and for actually drafting the pitch itself.

Before you pitch:

  • Know what you ideally want. You obviously have to first know where you're going (and when) and then you need to figure out more or less what you're going to ask for. Do you want all your expenses covered or just one specific part of your trip? Are you hoping for a fully comped tour or would you be happy with a media discount? Figure this out before you even think about pitching.
  • Know what you can offer in return. Almost as important as knowing what you want, you should know what you can offer a company or destination in return. What value can YOU offer THEM? Why are you a good fit for their brand or destination? How much coverage will they get from working with you, and who is going to see that coverage?
  • Figure out who to pitch to. The next step is figuring out who to pitch to. Do a bit of detective work on the company or destination's official site or social media accounts. If they have a media contact listed, that's who you should pitch to. If you can avoid sending your pitch to a generic “info” e-mail address, do.
  • Keep in mind the time of year you'll be traveling. Will you be traveling to a destination during their high season or in the off-season? If you're traveling during high season (or around a popular event), send your pitch as early as possible. A tourism board might not be able (or willing) to accomodate you at the last minute. Since I was traveling to Ottawa in the dead of winter, I was fine contacting Ottawa Tourism a mere 3 weeks before my trip. But I wouldn't recommend waiting so long if you can help it.
Rideau Canal, Ottawa, Canada
Luckily Ottawa is quiet in the winter, so I was able to pitch my last-minute trip.

Drafting your pitch:

  • Introduce yourself completely (including who you are and who your audience is). Don't be vague. Be confident in yourself and your blog, and give a sense of who reads what you publish.
  • Tell them when you'll be there (be specific). Especially if you are hoping to get a sponsored tour or have your hotel/hostel stay covered, you will need to know the exact dates you'll be traveling. If you don't have your dates chosen yet, you probably aren't ready to send a pitch.
  • Be clear with your request, but also flexible. Above I mentioned that you should know what you ideally want before drafting your pitch. I still recommend this. But you don't want to come off as demanding on entitled in your pitch. So lay out what you would like to receive, but also be flexible in your request.
  • Provide stats, but expect them to do their own homework, too. I usually include my main stats in a short paragraph to sum up the size of my blog's audience, whether it's asked for or not. But I know for a fact Ottawa Tourism checked out all of my social networks on their own, too. So don't inflate those numbers too much.
  • Make your pitch professional, but still use your voice. When drafting your pitch, you want to make it more formal that something you'd post on your Facebook wall, but not so stuffy that it doesn't reflect your personality. This is your chance to sell yourself — do yourself justice.
  • Send a media kit. I highly recommend putting together a media kit for yourself that you can send out to potential partners. In this kit, you can go into more depth about your audience, your stats, and what you can offer. I also include testimonials in mine, proving that what I write actually inspires others to travel to certain destinations or spend their money with certain companies.
Media kit
The cover of my media kit

Want to see some sample pitches? Check out my course on partnerships for detailed examples!

“Should I just pitch to everyone?”

The short answer is no. This is not just about “scoring free stuff,” no matter how appealing that idea is. Before you think about sending out a pitch, educate yourself about the destination or company you're considering. Will it fit in with the rest of your blog's content? Is it in line with what your audience is interested in?

Not every destination, company, or tourism board will be a good fit for your blog and audience. And that's okay. The bottom line is, don't send out pitches just to send them out.

Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
I pitched to Ottawa because it's a destination close to home not many people have written about recently, but one I knew my audience would be interested in.

“But what if they say no?”

If you're afraid of rejection, I have some bad news — you probably will get rejected. Other times you may never get a response to your pitch. But who cares? You shouldn't be planning your travel counting on free trips anyway.

You'll learn more with each pitch you write and with each sponsorship you secure. Don't look at rejection or being ignored as a bad thing — look at it as a learning opportunity.

Here are my tips for dealing with being ignored or rejected:

  • Follow up on your pitch. If you haven't gotten a response to your pitch within a week, send a follow-up e-mail, or even give the contact a call if you have a phone number for them. It's very easy for e-mails to slip through the cracks, and many PR reps are extremely busy. A friendly reminder can't hurt; sometimes you just have to be both patient and persistent.
  • Try again. Got rejected? Don't sweat it. There could be many reasons for receiving a rejection — maybe you weren't confident enough in your pitch; maybe they just don't have the budget to sponsor you; maybe you didn't get in touch soon enough. Regardless of the reason, just forget about it and try again somewhere else.
  • Get more creative. If you're consistently getting rejected, maybe it's time to go back to the drawing board. Maybe your blog needs a makeover. Maybe you need to concentrate on building your audience and polishing your content for a while. Maybe you need a catchier pitch or media kit.
  • Realize it might be them, not you. Sometimes it's all about the timing — timing you may not even know about. Maybe you sent your pitch when they had just run out of extra funds that month or year, or maybe your pitch got lost during restructuring in the company. Things happen, and you certainly can't control them all, or even prepare for them.
Don't be afraid of rejection.

And, at the end of the day, some companies and tourism boards just don't “get it” yet. This whole blogging thing is fairly new, and not everyone has embraced the idea of treating bloggers like they would traditional media. Ottawa Tourism definitely sees the value in online media, but not all boards and companies I've approached do. Sometimes you just have to chalk it up to a loss and hope they'll come around eventually.

Because, despite the fact that not everyone “gets it” right now, bloggers really can offer companies and destinations a lot if sponsorships/partnerships are approached in the right way.

Learn more about working with brands/tourism boards


Curious to learn even MORE about working with travel brands and tourism boards?

If you liked this post, then you should check out the in-depth course I've created all about successfully pitching and working with travel brands and tourism boards.

Bloggers, Brands, and Tourism Boards: A Guide to Successful Partnerships consists of 29 lessons, expert interviews with bloggers and PR professionals, and worksheets covering everything from developing and pitching ideas to delivering and following up on effective campaigns. The course also includes best practices for working with brands and destinations, a detailed lesson on how to create a media kit, a LOT of sample pitches, and a look at social campaigns and brand ambassadorships and how to land them.

Check out the course here.


"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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247 Comments on “How to Work with Tourism Boards

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  1. Amazing post Amanda. Each and every point is so precious. But most of the tourist boards are still not getting up with how big blogging can be.

      I know, it’s still quite a slow slog. But things ARE getting better, little by little.

    great article Amanda! I came upon your website because I was looking for info on a Guatemala-Belize tour. I have a lifestyle blog and write the occasional travel post. I was thinking of pitching my next travels so I found your article extremely helpful. Vanessa 😉

    Hi Amanda! Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us all. I’m a new blogger of five months and I’m beginning to get some requests about a press kit of which I haven’t a clue, so I’d be delighted if I were still able to get one of yours, if you wouldn’t mind.
    I haven’t pitched anything yet except for a theatre ticket while I was on a weekend break in London, which fitted perfectly well to the post that I had written. However, I’m looking to be a local-regional blogger as I’m getting enquiries about specific places to go to as my location is popular in the summer. Your post has been enormously useful. Thanks very much for the tips. 🙂

      Hey Victoria! Shoot me an e-mail and I would be happy to send you a copy of my media kit!

    Thanks so much for this info! Question – what do you write as your Subject Line in these emails to the tourism boards?

      Usually I just write something using the words “media inquiry” or “possible blogger partnership” depending on how open they seem to be to bloggers.

        Thanks!I saw someone else asked this same question after I read throughall the comments. I’ve sent requests to two tourism boards so far, each time I wrote a completely different letter, hoping for a better response. Both times, I never got a reply. Is this typical for you? How far in advance do you usually write to them?

          Unfortunately not getting an answer I would say is a response at least 50% of the time. And as far as how far in advance… it really depends on what/who you’re pitching. If it’s just a day trip, I sometimes don’t pitch until a few days ahead of time (mostly because I don’t tend to plan that sort of stuff out far in advance!). But if it’s a bigger trip or project, weeks or months in advance is always best!

    HI Amanda! this is very helpful, Im so happy I found this post. I myself just started a travel blog 6 months ago mainly for my friends and family but lately I’ve been getting readers who are constantly engaged and increasing traffic, to the point some offers from companies. I just don’t know where to start as i don’t earn anything from my blog. anyways, thanks! looking forward to receive a copy of your media kit.

      Glad you found it so helpful. Good luck with your blog!

    Hi Amanda,
    very informative article. Do you mind sending me your media kit? I am curious how you designed it. Thanks a lot, Philipp

      Sure thing! You should have a copy in your inbox soon.

    I really like this! One day when my blog is big enough I will definitely be using this advice – I feel like travel bloggers are gaining more and more respect in the tourism industry and working with a tourism board is a way to boost your credibility!

      Yes, things are definitely changing for us bloggers, Caitlin! Hopefully you’ll be able to use this advice yourself soon!

    Great post. I am curious to know if there’s a list out there with travel organizations that sponsor these types of trips. I would imagine hardcore travel bloggers have probably done this and could save us some time from just randomly pitching. Any ideas?

      Hmm I don’t know if there’s a “master list” out there. Tourism boards can be quite fickle, too. They might agree to work with one blogger but not another, depending on all sorts of factors. I think it’s probably better for us all to just craft really great pitches and target companies and boards that we really want to work with.

    Just found this post. Full of useful information, which I will put into practice straight away. Thanks!

    Thanks for this post, I enjoyed reading it a lot and fnd it useful. I haven’t decided yet if I will send out pitches (our blog is just starting) but at least reading this gives me confidence you can at least try 🙂 happy travels!

      Well, even if you aren’t ready to pitch yet, hopefully you’ll be able to use these tips in the future!

    I just started out with blogging about 2 months back and have been eagerly waiting to grow ‘enough’ to be invited on a press trip, or even pitch for one. I know I’m still faaaar from that day, but this is great info!

      Just focus on good content and interacting with others in the travel sphere, and the rest will follow on its own! (Though, of course being proactive and going after what you want is important, too!)

    Great post and a very helpful one. Thank you so much for sharing your actual pitch. Really appreciate it:) I had googled on some tips on asking for sponsorship etc and I came across your blog. I liked it and I am going to bookmark it so that I can read other posts:) keep travelling and sharing! cheers!

    I keep coming back to these resources again and again, this time as I prepare a pitch for a tour company for 2014. Thanks again for providing this kind of information, and it was great meeting you at TBEX. Happy travels!

      Great meeting you, too! And I’m really glad this is still helpful to you.

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