Check it out! DJG wins three awards for our association membership marketing campaigns! IABC’s “Röcktober” 2017 campaign received a silver W3 Award and a Communicator Award of Distinction. SWE’s “I Am With SWE” 2018 campaign also received a Communicator Award of Distinction.

The Fine Art of Travel and Tourism Public Relations

Selby Gardens, travel and tourism public relations Whether you represent a world-class wonder or a local jewel, you want to attract more interest in your destination. Perhaps you need to heighten the destination’s reputation long-term, or simply increase attendance next season.

Travel-worthy locations are everywhere, and they’re a popular topic for media coverage, too – who doesn’t want to feature destinations that are beautiful, fascinating, adventurous, quirky or fun? Even destinations off the beaten path can become surprisingly popular in a landscape filled with influencers and Instagram filters.

How can your destination attract the attention of travel writers who are in high demand? Focusing on earned media through a strategic travel and tourism public relations plan can help you stand out.

Blue Water Communications, a division of DJG, has worked with Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, Florida, for the past two years as PR partner for a special annual project. Here are a few insights from our successful collaboration with this beautiful travel destination.

Plan for the audience you want to attract

Sarasota is known for its beaches, shopping and cultural offerings, and visitors to the city have plenty of options when choosing how to spend their precious vacation time. Selby Gardens is a beloved destination for many Sarasota visitors, but encouraging return visits is always a priority.

Selby Gardens, travel and tourism public relations

The team at Selby Gardens has developed a fantastic annual art exhibition series featuring artists like Marc Chagall and Andy Warhol, which serves to attract new visitors while ensuring repeat guests keep coming back year after year.

Their recent Andy Warhol exhibition was incredibly popular and provides a great example of how strategic travel and tourism public relations planning can align with other institutional and destination priorities. As part of our media relations plan, we chose to target the Pittsburgh media market. Not only is Pittsburgh Warhol’s hometown, but it’s also a key feeder market with a population already traveling to Florida’s Gulf Coast for vacation seasons. The Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team also travels to nearby Bradenton, Florida, for Spring Training, and their fans often join them for a bit of fun in the sun.

The fascinating Warhol exhibition increased our opportunities to pitch media focused on both vacationers and sports fans, and it became the cornerstone for substantial Selby Gardens media coverage in Pittsburgh.

Creating a program that naturally attracts your target audience – and opens doors to tell that story to the audience’s preferred media sources – is a great way to make the most of media opportunities and strengthen your travel and tourism PR efforts.

Selby Gardens, travel and tourism public relationsDisrupt expectations

Fine artists like Warhol and Chagall…in a botanical garden! This juxtaposition is just the sort of angle that helps destinations set themselves apart. The exhibitions offer something new, exciting, and unexpected within Selby Gardens, and allow the communications team to tell the story of the destination in an innovative way. When we spoke with editors and writers about the project, they often expressed interest and surprise at the thought of viewing art by Andy Warhol in a beautiful subtropical garden setting.

This unique exhibition series gave us chances to pitch and gain coverage with garden and travel publications, as well as art-focused media outlets. The annual art exhibitions paved the way to attract larger Sarasota travel stories. Additionally, travel writers who were assigned a broader story about Sarasota were drawn to the idea of a special program at Selby Gardens, and chose to highlight the Gardens with greater prominence in their coverage.

Maintain a strong overall message about the destination

As part of Blue Water’s planning process, we worked with the team at Selby Gardens and developed key messages to use throughout all channels when communicating about the exhibitions. The initial point of attraction for our media contacts was, of course, messaging about the special exhibitions. We worked to give equal importance to a message about what makes Selby Gardens noteworthy, beyond the annual art exhibitions. For example, Selby Gardens is the only botanical garden in the world dedicated to the display and study of epiphytes. This allowed the reputation of the destination to both support and benefit from the featured exhibition story. Our focused messaging even attracted international coverage by renowned gardening columnist Robin Lane Fox of the Financial Times.

With our diligence incorporating the overall Selby Gardens message, that thread was carried throughout media coverage, and potential visitors were reminded that even when the special events are complete, the Gardens are a fantastic destination worth visiting.

PR has a vital role in the world of travel and tourism, and Blue Water Communications specializes in leveraging public relations opportunities for a wide variety of destinations. Contact DJG and Blue Water to learn more about how public relations can be used in the tourism industry, and how your destination can benefit from a strategic PR plan.

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Image Credits: All images used in this post are by Selby Gardens/Matthew Holler (c) 2018


Using her work with Marie Selby Botanical Gardens as an example, Amber Hendrickson of Blue Water Communications, a Division of DJG, breaks down the essentials for an effective travel and tourism public relations campaign.

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