In this month’s One-on-One blog, ExpertFlyer talks with Betsa Marsh and Lillian Africano, the current president and incoming president, respectively, of North America’s largest professional association of travel and tourism experts, the Society of American Travel Writers (www.satw.org, @SATW). SATW covers every major angle of consumer and business travel, and is also widely recognized by global travel media and major travel industries as among the top resources for information, expertise and all around know-how for travelers and tourists.
SATW held its annual convention from September 8 – 14th this year in Indianapolis, convening nearly 300 travel journalists and public relations professionals to meet, exchange story ideas, explore the city and continue building relationships within the greater travel writing industry.
“People will always want to travel, no matter if it’s by car, plane, boat, or other transport. That thirst for adventure is alwaysworthwhile for our 1,100 members, who provide information and tips on just about every imaginable aspect of travel.”
– Betsa Marsh and Lillian Africano, SATW
• With more than 1,000 travel journalist members, SATW truly is a brain trust. Is there a way that travelers can leverage this vast knowledge bank?
People will always want to travel, no matter if it’s by car, plane, boat, or other transport. That thirst for adventure is always worthwhile for our 1,100 members, who provide information and tips on just about every imaginable aspect of travel. Consumer travelers are welcome to peruse the SATW website (www.satw.org) to learn about our journalists’ and photographers’ areas of expertise as well as read about the latest travel trends, travel purveyors and industry news. Many SATW members also have their own successful blogs, helping them play the role of travel consultant quite well.
Additionally, SATW has educational outreach programs designed to educate school students and the public about world geography and culture. These include the Traveling Teddies program in elementary schools and travel writing essay and photography contests the Society sponsors for teens and college students. Some travel journalists are also turning their prior work into e-books or making deals with travel bureaus, hotels and destination cities to provide guidebooks and other resources, so we’ve cast quite a wide net of information for travelers everywhere.
ExpertFlyer subscribers are sophisticated business travelers and frequent flyers. What up-to-date travel news and wisdom can you impart to this audience?
If you’re going to specific cities frequently, you should build equity with the brands you do business with. Hotels, restaurants, spas and other businesses often reward their best customers, so take advantage of such offers when possible.
Travelers are always looking for the latest and greatest travel deals. What unique travel deal opportunities are on your radar?
Even as the economy improves, travelers are still looking for good deals, and it shows. For example, CityPASS, a company that bundles prepaid admission to top attractions in major cities, has seen double-digit growth in the past year. And, CityPASS has been selling many deals for New York City and southern California, both of which can be expensive destinations. There’s also a lot of booking on-the-fly with social media deals, and we expect to see that trend increase in 2013. People are better connected and passing along their personal travel recommendations, helping shape the greater online “trend deal” industry.
What are travel writers doing more of now and why?
Today, many media outlets look for complete packages that include a well-crafted written story, plus accompanying photography and video. Additionally, in the ever-changing media landscape, travel writers must stay up-to-speed on emerging media and technological tools that help them do their jobs. Freelance travel writers must be their own marketers, getting the word out about their services and showcasing their work through their own websites they manage, social media posts on Facebook, tweets, Pinterest, Four Square, Flickr accounts and other tools. One of the many benefits of SATW membership is the professional development offered to help members stay at the top of their game.
What are the emerging travel industry trends that consumers should pay attention to from air carriers and hospitality providers?
Luxury travel is on the upswing, and incentive travel is picking up as well. Consumers are taking longer trips and spending more time visiting their families. Also, US legacy carriers are facing increased pressure from Middle East and Asia airlines, which have seen positive response from better marketing, amenities, catering and customer service. Look for US carriers to give a renewed approach on these fronts in 2013.
What are the hot areas of consumer interest and what kinds of stories will we see more of in 2013?
You’ll definitely see stories around the presidential inauguration and travel to Washington, DC in the beginning of the year. People will want to read more about warm weather destinations, cruises with a small passenger ratio, and adventure and upscale travel. International travel is increasing as well, particularly as more countries are becoming more accessible, such as Burma. Renting homes and property to stay at is a growing trend, and that inventory is putting more pressure on hotels to come up with bigger and better deals and marketing to keep their customer base. Travel agents and planning companies are also seeing an increase in business, helping to plan unique trips such as safaris, adventures, and other specialty travel.