Building Tourism PR Awareness Despite Border Closures

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Travel + Leisure

We’re not gonna lie… international destination PR is a lot easier when the borders between countries are open for travel.  But you still have to build tourism PR awareness despite border closures, which means you’ve got to find another way to stay top-of-mind and stoke interest for future travel.

As the US PR agency of record for the Canadian provinces of Nova ScotiaNew BrunswickNewfoundland & Labrador, and Prince Edward Island, we had some major (re)strategizing to do when the border closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  Our work for these provinces – collectively known as the Atlantic Canada Agreement on Tourism – focuses heavily on highlighting the rich experiences the region offers to travelers.  So, our biggest challenge when the pandemic hit was finding ways to continue having thoughtful, meaningful, and experiential engagements with media during the shutdown.  Solution? A four-province Zoom virtual media tour, complete with experiential goodie boxes sent to journalists in advance (because who doesn’t love stuff like lobster gummies and chocolate covered potato chips?).

Over the course of two months, we orchestrated a series of virtual interviews between top US journalists and representatives of the four provinces.  Provincial reps were prepped in advance with story ideas, tourism news from each province, and key journalist information to make the interviews fully interactive.  Logistics included: 

  • Content preparation and agenda development for each interview.
  • Pitching and securing journalist interest and participation for the Zoom tour, targeting a balanced blend of on-staff travel & lifestyle writers and leading freelancers. 
  • Running dress rehearsals with the province teams to ensure smooth Zoom experiences.
  • Assembling and delivering Atlantic Canada goodie boxes with snacks and items from all four provinces to all the journalists prior to their interview date.
  • Facilitating and serving as emcee during each journalist interview with the four provincial reps, fostering conversation and story starters.
  • And of course, seizing post-interview follow-up opportunities to secure stories, plan future journalist visits, and supply more info/photos based upon journalist interest. We were also able to connect US-based publications with Atlantic Canada-based writers to produce stories despite the international travel restrictions.

Border closure be damned… the virtual media tour was a smash hit.  With 14 successful journalist interviews hosted as part of the tour, Atlantic Canada connected with a variety of US travel and lifestyle publication that reached a combined potential audience of 192 million.  And while relationship building was a key objective of these meetings, placements were cultivated in such outlets as Travel + Leisure, Fodor’s Travel, and Condé Nast Traveler (see above for all three).  Other stories have appeared or are in the works with outlets such as Thrillist, BuzzFeed, CNN Travel, Barron’s Penta, Boston Magazine, The Boston Globe, Forbes, USA Today, AARP, Departures, and more. 

And did we eat a bunch of Cow Chips (chocolate covered potato chips) while implementing this tour?  Why yes.  Yes, we did. 

Want to see what else we’ve done for Atlantic Canada’s PR program? See social influencer case study.  See multiyear PR program case study.