Has a travel article ever inspired you to take a trip?
Ever wonder how that article came to be?
It might have started at an event like the 9th annual Media Marketplace being held by the Mid-Atlantic Tourism Public Relations Alliance – MATPRA – in Bethlehem this week.
At least 80 travel writers are learning about some 50 Mid-Atlantic destinations at the event.
The goal is to persuade those writers to visit some of the destinations they are learning about. If they write travel articles about their experiences, you might read those articles and also decide to visit.
The Lehigh Valley is the region that most immediately will benefit from MATPRA’s three-night Media Marketplace, which started Tuesday and wraps up Friday.
It is being hosted by Discover Lehigh Valley, the region’s tourism promotion organization. And Discover Lehigh Valley is showcasing the local area by offering a dozen different themed tours during the marketplace.
The hope is that many, if not all, of those writers will do travel stories about what they experience on those tours.
Michael Stershic, president of Discover Lehigh Valley, declined to estimate how much hosting the Media Marketplace is costing his organization, but stressed the value of travel articles generated by the event’s tours will far exceed that cost.
“We could get over $1 million in publicity out of it,” said Stershic.
“Without a doubt,” confirmed MATPRA chairwoman Alicia Quinn, who also is director of public relations and communications at the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau. "The investment more than pays for itself when stories start to hit.”
Said Stershic: “We will track articles that appear from this.”
Much harder for tourism officials to gauge is how many people actually visit because of a particular travel article.
This is the first time the annual Media Marketplace is being hosted by Discover Lehigh Valley. In previous years, other Pennsylvania hosts were Gettysburg and Lancaster, said Quinn.
While Discover Lehigh Valley picks up a significant portion of the tab, Stershic said other sponsors help by paying the cost of various activities and meals.
For example, Wednesday’s breakfast was sponsored by Tioga County, Pa., and Richmond, Va., and the mid-morning refreshment break was sponsored by Erie.
Destinations at the marketplace include five states – Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania – plus regions and counties within those states. They call themselves DMOs – destination marketing organizations.
Although most participants also are from the Mid-Atlantic states, travel writers from as far away as Georgia and Arizona are attending.
The writers – mostly free-lancers – do not pay to attend the event, which includes meals and lodging., but most provide their own transportation to get there and return home.
The alliance screens out free-loaders by inviting only travel writers that have produced articles about the Mid-Atlantic region within the last two years.
The writers are staying at Hotel Bethlehem and Hyatt Place in Bethlehem.
Quinn said many of them have never been to Bethlehem before.
“They’re getting a lot of stories," Quinn said. "They’re walking out of here packed with ideas.”
The actual marketplace of the Media Marketplace happened for three hours Wednesday morning.
Travel writers circled around a great rectangle of tables inside the Grand Ballroom of Hotel Bethlehem Wednesday morning to learn about the participating destinations.