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PRSA Travel and Tourism Conference Interview

PRSA Travel & Tourism 2021 Virtual Conference: An Interview with Annette Albrecht and Sonya Nelson of Brandpoint

The PRSA Travel & Tourism 2021 Virtual Conference is taking place on June 15 and 16, and while it might seem ironic given the content of the event, it is taking place entirely online. This year’s conference will teach PR professionals how to re-build their brand’s communities after a difficult year for the industry, as well as trends to inform marketers what the media is looking for in 2021.

Thanks to COVID-19 vaccines and falling case numbers, travel and tourism within the U.S. is shaping up to be more exciting than it was in the last year. PR professionals in this industry have a more positive future to look forward to.

Two of our media team members will be attending the event. Annette Albrecht and Sonya Nelson are no strangers to helping PR professionals in the travel and tourism industry distribute their brand’s messages, and they’re superfans of travel, as well.

We sat down before the event to talk about how their love of travel translates to being good marketing partners, as well as what trends they’re predicting for the upcoming months.

You’re attending the PRSA Travel & Tourism Conference this year. What interested you in the event?

Sonya: PRSA events draw some of the smartest minds in the industry. Travel naturally allows us to embark on something new. This last year was all about the “virtual experience” and the PRSA is creating insightful and interactive experiences that are proving to be equally rewarding.

Annette: PRSA events and conferences have great speakers and topics. In attending each event, I learn something — some kind of tidbit that I can use as I help my partners with their content and PR plans. As destinations open and people begin to travel more, this is great timing to connect with the travel community.

I know both of you love travel. How does your passion and understanding of the community vibe help you to be stronger media partners?

S: We are all nomads in pursuit of the next connection. We approach every project from the perspective of the brand and the traveler and ask what makes this community unique, what do they want and what opportunity can we provide or what challenge can we help our partners solve? We translate those talking points into content that can be published and shared.

Sonya Nelson Roswell

Sonya Nelson in Roswell, New Mexico

A: When I’m helping a partner plan a campaign for their destination, I try to think about what I’d like to know if I were visiting that place. What kind of content would a traveler find interesting? How can I tell the story of the place that will entice them to visit? And what content formats can be repurposed for use on the destination’s social accounts or website?

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It makes total sense that people who love travel and tourism would have an advantage while planning creative marketing campaigns. Can you tell me a little more specifically how you help travel companies and destinations?

S: Travel communicators are the best in the industry. We help them inspire travel and economic development for their destination and brand. Our amplification services are paving the way for our clients to drive targeted and meaningful engagement by interest. We provide our clients with dynamic outcomes: traffic, page views and social engagement.

A: Prior to the pandemic, we created a lot of content that helped our partners entice travelers to visit a specific destination. Today, some of those destinations are also focusing on attracting businesses or new residents to their area through bylined articles. We’ve provided writing and editing services so that thought leaders can share information about their city with their target audiences.

[Read More: The Benefits of the Expert Series Video and Bylined Articles]

What trends are you seeing in travel?

S: Diversity, equity and inclusion. As a woman of color, it is thrilling to see travel enthusiasts entering the market loud and proud and highlighting destinations that embrace diversity, provide a rich cultural experience and share appreciation for the contributions of African and other indigenous people through food, film, art, textiles, music, architecture, history and more.

Many travel brands are offering trips for women to “travel solo” in a way that is safe and curated to tap into unique experiences, heritage and adventure.

And lastly, now that vaccines are more widely accessible, travel is beginning to open. I personally booked Europe, Arizona, Aruba and the Dominican Republic for this year, and Greece and South Africa for 2022.

A: We’re all looking for ways to travel safely. My parents just rented a home in Branson, Missouri. We drove there, packing snacks so we didn’t have to make as many stops along the way. I can see this trend in home rental continuing. My husband and I are planning for a summer road trip, camping with our pup. We enjoy the safety of being self-sufficient, packing all our meals and enjoying lots of time in the great outdoors! It’s been wonderful to see so many people spending time in our state and national parks.

Annette and Griff

Annette Albrecht and pup Griff at Frontenac State Park

What sparked your love of travel?

S: My mom was an artist and my father was a Minneapolis musician. I was lucky to grow up with free-spirited travel lovers: people that wore vibrant colored clothing as they meditated through Sufi dance, people that moved from the city to the country for a more sustainable life on a hobby farm, world travelers with rich experiences, and my dad playing lots of soul and funk music.

When I was six, my godmother came home after spending time in an Ashram in India and a few other places. She brought me sandalwood soap, a sand dollar from the ocean and a silk flower for my hair. She shared stories about all of the little brown girls that looked like me from all around the world. From that day forward, I knew I wanted to make friends everywhere, eat amazing food, listen and learn languages and smell exotic flowers, spices and soaps.

Music and art can take you anywhere and that began my wanderlust.

A: My family is originally from the Los Angeles area, but we moved to Minnesota when I was a kid. Each year my family drove from northern Minnesota to LA. Three days in the car each way! Mom would plan a different route each time, so we’d see something new. One year, we drove through Arizona and a guide drove us through Monument Valley in her personal vehicle. Her father had taken my mom’s family on the same tour when my mom was a kid. We got to talk to her about her life in Arizona and the history of the area.

But what really sealed the deal to make me a lifelong traveler was a trip with my aunt to Europe after high school graduation. I experienced what it’s like to travel light, to embrace the way people across the world live, try new foods and chat with locals.

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This last year has been tough for travel lovers like us. How did you fuel your passion of travel during the pandemic?

S: Music. A great Pandora or Spotify playlist can take you anywhere. Thank goodness for technology! Even though you couldn’t physically hike your favorite destination, you could log in to a virtual workout that would take you there.

Also, travel guides, books and apps to brush up on languages, virtual tours of museums around the world, and lots of travel forums. I even got off the couch and enjoyed a few DJ-hosted parties from the comfort of my living room.

A: One of the things that I love about travel is immersing myself in the culture. Looking at the art, the architecture and of course, ending the day of exploration with a very good meal. To replicate this experience, I sought virtual tours. For example, a guide from Italy provided a tour of the Vatican. I made pasta and we opened a bottle of Italian wine. It was a lovely “escape” for an evening.

[Read More: PRSA International Conference 2019: An Interview with Kristi Marquardt and Annette Albrecht]

Let Brandpoint be your virtual travel partner

As destinations continue to welcome travelers, we’re here to help you. CDC recommendations, both domestic and international, are constantly being updated. Travel insurance is more important than ever.

If you’re in the travel and tourism industry and are looking for ways to amplify your brand’s message and story, Brandpoint can help. Contact us today to learn more about our distribution capabilities, including industry-leading placements and a team of experts to help you every step of the way.