Following the World Health Organisation’s decision to declare the Covid-19 outbreak as a pandemic, travel restrictions imposed by President Trump in the US, and the UK’s move to the ‘delay’ phase of efforts to battle the virus, uncertainty and anxiety is at an all-time high, with society being asked to adapt to new ways of living and working.
What this means at Hearst UK is that we have stopped all but business-critical international travel, and no trips can be planned without approval. In light of the situation, all PR or advertiser paid-for press trips are cancelled until further notice. I’ve pulled two freelancer trips to the Dolomites and Egypt at the last minute – and I’m grateful to the PRs who have been nothing but understanding. It’s reassuring to see everyone in the industry supporting these measures to stop the spread of the virus. To that end, Hearst are now also recommending that all work-related contact i.e. PR meetings, should be postponed until we know more, so I’ll temporarily be conducting meetings over the phone.
As the monthly magazines work to a long lead time, I’m fortunate enough to have the majority of this year’s travel features planned out for my four titles – Harper’s Bazaar, ELLE, Town & Country and Esquire – and trips have already happened. However, I’ve swapped a number of upcoming features around to fall in line with the FCO travel advice. For example, a story on Tuscany which was due to go in the June issue is being held over, while a Japan feature – pegged to the Olympics – is also being postponed. It’s my intention that all delayed coverage will be fulfilled, it will just come a little later than planned.
I also believe it’s important to think about how we can support the countries that have been hit the hardest by recent events. In a similar situation, last year I was due to run a feature on Sri Lanka in Bazaar right before the tragic events in April. We took the story out of the issue, but I was determined to publish it at the start of this year to encourage people to go back to this incredible destination that relies so heavily on tourism. So, while I would say please don’t pitch anything on Covid-19 high-risk countries right now, expect to see these destinations appearing in issues as soon as restrictions have been lifted.
While it is obviously challenging for PRs to pitch at the moment, news round ups or story ideas on UK luxury travel clients are always useful – so please keep those coming! And on the plus side, my inbox is definitely quieter than usual, so it will be easier to get noticed. In Town & Country, for instance, our upcoming issue will now focus on making the most of the UK this summer, with the planned features on international destinations moving to the autumn when confidence about flying will hopefully have been restored. And, starting with the June issue, we had already decided to feature a regular UK page in ELLE, whose readers are looking for alternatives to air travel and for more affordable breaks.
In addition, the readers of all our luxury titles at Hearst are smart and savvy travellers who I know will be the first to start looking for great deals on summer holidays when, fingers crossed, the situation will be easing – so I will be looking for ideas in this area. As the government’s Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said earlier this week when asked if people should be cancelling their holidays: ‘Once the epidemic is everywhere then at that point restricting travel makes no difference at all.’
With press trips on pause indefinitely, one of the difficulties is going to be planning next year’s features, so I would encourage PRs to look forward so that together we can get a head start on 2021 (and please be prepared for an influx of requests as soon as restrictions have been lifted). I hope, if nothing else, beautiful travel editorial will encourage people to dream and perhaps ease the doom and gloom as things inevitably get worse before they get better. While today’s news may be bleak, there is always hope for the future, and I’m determined to continue creating inspiring and insightful content for our readers, with the help of a resilient industry that has faced major challenges to world travel many times before…