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How to make it as a travel journalist

How to get into travel journalism

The winter months are approaching fast now and many will be wishing that they could jet off to warmer climbs. If you work as a travel journalist then surely this is less of a worry, with press trips and vacations galore? While it might seem to an outsider like a free holiday and glamorous tours around cocktails bars and restaurants, travel journalism is serious business.

In a Journo Resources event earlier last month, freelance travel journlaist Karen Edwards spoke about the skills needed to succeed in travel media, what makes a good travel piece and how to travel sustainably.

The Skill Set Required

If you are thinking of making a career in the travel media industry or wanting to pivot towards it, then what skills do you need? Below are a few of the most important ones:

  1. Love travelling – it might seem obvious but you need to love travelling. You must really have a passion for it and want to broaden the knowledge of all prospective travelers in the process. It is important to keep this enthusiasm for it and not just see it as a job as it will soon reflect in your writing.
  2. Know your niche – you might love to travel but what makes you different? If you have a particular way of travelling, for example hiking or cycling, then make this your niche. This can help to really amplify your writing. Or perhaps you are connected to a certain region? If you can really hone in on what makes this area special and show your affinity to it then this can help you stand out.
  3. Understand the locals – it’s quite easy to visit somewhere and see a few cultural landmarks and go to a couple of restaurants and give a general view of the place. The key is to show an interest in the people that live there and find out what their story is. The local people will be able to give a true account of what the area is like and what experiences they have been through and detailing this will really help to give the full picture of the destination.

Pitching and Writing

The concept of pitching can be a tricky one, even for something that you are passionate about, so it’s always best to start with something you know. If you have been on holiday somewhere a few times and really feel like you know that area, and it hasn’t been featured much in the media, then this can be a good starting point. When you do pitch to a publication, then make sure it is targeted. Editors will recognise a generic pitch so make sure that you understand their audience and what they are interested in. If you know a specific section or column that it would work well for, mention this in the pitch to show your knowledge of their content and how it will fit in.

When it comes to writing the article, the best way to approach it is like you are advising a friend. You aren’t there to advertise the place or venue or trying to sell it to someone. The tone needs to be approachable and friendly. It also needs to be honest. You don’t have to be overly descriptive or use clever phrases, just present the place as you see it.

It helps to be specific about the place and add context by providing facts and stats or the history of the destination. You will also want to reflect the culture and the best way to do this is usually by bringing the people to life. Give them a name and talk about their experiences and their background. This will help to add a human element to the piece as you are talking about real people.

Press trips and sustainable travel

Once you’ve started writing regular travel pieces then you may look at getting onto press trips. This comes with experience, so you need to make sure that you build up a good portfolio of work and really focus on getting your name out there. It’s worth talking to the travel editors that commission your work, if you’re freelance, about any opportunities for press trips. If you work in-house, then you should hear about these more easily but make sure the editors are aware of your interest in covering them.

It’s also important to attend travel media event and build up your network and make new connections that way. Also, once you have a bit more of a portfolio, joining the British Guild of Travel Writers as a member will give you access to events and new press trips that come through them.

Finally, it’s good practice to promote both sustainable and responsible travel wherever possible by considering the social and environmental impact of your trips. You don’t want to promote unethical practices or tours and this shouldn’t be included in your write up of the destination.

It’s good to promote seeing wildlife in the wild rather than at places like Sea World which has negative connotations. And feel free to discuss the history of a place in full, both the good and bad, and give the voices of First Nation people a platform and tell people where they can find out more information about the culture and history of a destination or country.

Check out Journo Resources to see the other events they have coming up and if you are a budding travel journalist needing information, case studies or expert opinion then try using our Journalist Enquiry Service here.

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