Over breakfast, a PR casually mentioned that she suspected I didn’t go on group press trips – and wanted to know when I could travel.
While three-quarters of the trips I go on are alone – or occasionally with a photographer who’s been commissioned by my editor, or twice a year with my partner – some of the most glorious travel trips I’ve been on have been with a group of other journalists.
Admittedly, I have said no to quite a few press trips. Like the one to a Paris, with such non-tempting “optional extras” as “visiting the Eiffel Tower, free tickets to the Louvre and a guided tour round a food market” (all of which I’d done, backpacking, when I was 20). Or a night in Glasgow “with complimentary dinner” in a business hotel. Or skiing in a budget, family-friendly chalet in a huge ski resort.
What will encourage me to go on a group trip?
* A group of interesting, intelligent, easy-going writers who will be stimulating company, and who will also appreciate the trip. Inviting grand dames or difficult characters is no fun – for you or for us.
* A good story: put together a trip that none of us can resist, staying at stylish new hotels, meeting compelling characters en route, and having extraordinary experiences, and we’ll be there.
* An itinerary that won’t break the bank. Send us across the world in economy class, then ask us to pay extras and massive “suggested” tips, doesn’t go down well. We have to live off our (often paltry) fees and can’t afford to spend them before we have even got home.
* Activities that would be financially impossible on a one-off trip. Things like helicopters, private yachts and camps in the middle of nowhere cost a fortune. If the only financially viable way for a client to showcase these is to a single group of journalists, most of us would rather go in a gang than miss out.
* Opportunities to add on individual extras. No journalist wants to be shown the same things as everyone else all the time. Giving journalists spare time to go off on their own, or to interview other people, or see different parts of a destination before, during or after the trip, will ensure everyone has a different angle.
* Assurances on exclusives. If I can offer an editor the first review, so that my story doesn’t appear after everyone else’s, I’m definitely in.
Then all we have to juggle is diaries…