As we returned from Cyprus last week, I had an interesting chat with Louis from Perowne International about getting the right mix of journalists on group press trips. Beyond the obvious key factors – good titles to delight the client; a confirmed commission – they try to ensure good chemistry on the junket.
Rather like those dating apps which try to match people, there’s obviously a limit to how expertly this can be done; nothing can ever perfectly predict the interpersonal relations between humans. There do seem to be some basic rules to follow, however:
1) No dickheads – black-list anyone with a history of knobbish behaviour, no matter how important they are.
2) Try not to have too much breadth of interest (e.g. a honeymoons writer, a food specialist, a budget-travel writer and a luxury-travel writer) unless the itinerary is wildly flexible, as you’ll otherwise risk disquiet.
3) No rival publications or editors, for fear of squabbling.
4) Try to avoid a mixture of young, dewy-eyed, relentlessly-enthusiastic, non-travel writer and patronising, savvy, scornful, slightly-entitled veteran.
The last never ends well. My favourite such instance came in Buenos Aires when a legendary travel journalist deigned to join the rest of us for dinner – having hitherto avoided our amateur, low-brow, inexpert company – at an expensive steak restaurant, and was soon confrontationally correcting (for the 34th time) a younger lady’s statement regarding malbec grapes. Alas – as a waiter soon verified – she was actually right. He sulked the rest of the evening, and she was upset. Ugh.
Most group trips function terrifically – perhaps because they’re well chosen, as in Cyprus, and also because they somewhat have to. The forced intimacy of them is a strange thing (so often locals have exclaimed in shock, “you’ve only just met?!”, such is already our chemistry and ease around one another), but it’s part of being a travel journalist and being at work. At the airport where you meet, everyone shakes hands awkwardly and instantly forgets names; come the end, it’s all hugs, shared jokes and fond goodbyes. I’ve had several groups so wonderful that we still meet up to this day.