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PR, Perfected: Attract Top Travel Clients

Creative campaigns, tailored services, and local outreach can transport you to top-tier clientele

By Jessica Howell - January 11, 2010
In more than half of U.S. states, the travel and tourism industry serves as the first, second or third largest employer, having raked in a healthy $645 billion in 2008, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Today, because of the economic downturn, the industry is facing long-term challenges in how consumers and businesses perceive travel entirely. The consequences -- remarkably fewer bookings and reservations -- can be felt nationwide, and as a result, marketing and public relations dollars, more critical than ever, are in short supply.

Take, for example, The Casa Marina in Jacksonville Beach, Fla., a historic property offering 23 guest rooms. This boutique hotel suffered a swift blow last year when its customers cut back significantly in bookings as a knee-jerk reaction to the recession. In response, general manager Mark Vandeloo focused his marketing spend on a 150-mile radius, targeting a local demographic over broader national exposure. Instead of relying on a traditional agency, he turned to Leigh Cort of Leigh Cort Publicity, an independent public relations contractor who provides one-on-one services for several hospitality and food-focused clients.

"She stays ahead of the curve," Vandeloo says of Cort's appeal. "We're trying to be steadfast and remain proactive instead of cutting service-related costs. Essentially, we're trying to meet our needs through more creative thinking."

Like The Casa Marina, many tourism and hospitality companies that once employed the services of traditional brick-and-mortar agencies are turning their sights to independent contractors. And by increasing your digital offerings and creativity, your firm could be the one they call on first....

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