Many inns are approached by travel writers and bloggers who want a free stay in exchange for writing about the property. But how can you know if the person is a serious writer or someone just wants to score a free trip?
Here are a number of steps you can take to determine if a travel writer is legit:
1. Check on the writer's credentials via a Google search. Your CVB or chamber of commerce may be members of a travel writer's association and can check to see if a writer is credentialed. If possible, sign up to provide lodging for visiting writers whose credentials have been established.
2. Ask the writer for a letter of assignment from the publication they claim to represent.
3. Ask for copies of previous articles or clips.
4. Ask when the story will be published.
5. Most importantly, ask if your property will be included in the story and how. Be sure to mention that your phone number and/or website should be included.
Other important things to know:
Stuff happens: Sometimes a writer will research and write a story, it’s accepted for publication, and then it gets canceled or postponed due to breaking news or budgetary concerns. Even to the writer, this is a huge disappointment. Please understand that there is no guarantee that if you host a writer the story will definitely appear. Circumstances out of the control of the writer can occur to preclude the story from appearing.
Media policy: Establish a media policy that you can fall back on when questionable requests are received. For example, decide that a writer may bring only one guest and rooms will not be available to travel writers during peak times. You can always make exceptions, but it will give you a baseline to work from.
Comps: We encourage you to offer free rooms to legitimate travel writers on a space available basis. Although paying guests are always the top priority, putting a travel writer in a room that would otherwise go unsold is a risk-free way to get publicity. Only a tiny number of writers are prohibited from accepting comps, and they won’t be insulted by your invitation. Professional travel writers will never ask for the whole inn, and will usually be flexible about staying when you have openings. Only a handful of writers have expense accounts that enable them to travel anonymously – they are prohibited by company policy from accepting free or discounted rooms. Best to remember this advice from Monty Turner (Run of the River, Leavenworth, WA): “Treat all guests like travel writers; treat all travel writers like guests.” If you can't take the financial hit, consider offering a discounted media rate instead.
Rule of thumb: If you have an available room that you’re unlikely to sell, host a travel writer. While nothing may come of it, many times a story will eventually appear that will feature your inn.
Updated by Emily Starbuck Crone