If you are a travel blogger, photography, influencer, or creative and are looking to start working with hotels to get complimentary stays in exchange for content.. you have come to the right place!
I have helped people with as little as 500 followers on Instagram start working with hotels and tourism boards and I’m about to share ALL the deets! 😉
If you want to take this whole “travel blogging” thing seriously and want to master your pitch, start getting PAID to work with tourism boards, and score hotel partnerships easily.. be sure to check out my in depth course on Scoring Sponsored Travel!
Okay.. let’s dive into the guide!
What value can you offer?
While I do believe you shouldn’t have to wait until you have X amount of followers to score some free travel, I do believe you need to have some type of skill set to bring value to a hotel, brand, or tourism board.
Let’s just take a step back and remember that this “scoring free travel in exchange for _____” has been around LONG before Instagram. I am sure you have heard of a “barter agreement” in your lifetime, right? If you haven’t it’s just an exchange in services between two businesses!
For example, if a physical therapist wants to give free treatment to a massage therapist in exchange for free massages… there’s no money being exchanged! It is just two people exchanging, what they believe, is equal value of services.
Well, just because you don’t have tens of thousands of followers on social media, doesn’t mean you can’t start working with hotels, tourism boards, and brands! You just need to find some type of value that is equal or more value to a hotel’s free night stay! Does that make sense?
Here are a few things that you can offer in exchange for a free stay:
- Website Reach – Do you get a lot of readers on your website? Can you make this hotel the sole recommendation for the destination you are writing about? Selling the fact that you are driving people directly to their booking site would probably go farther than posting on Instagram! Want to increase your website traffic? Click here to read my tips on how to skyrocket your Pinterest reach!
- Photography Skills – Are you a great photographer with expensive photography gear? Can you provide them amazing images to use for their marketing and social media? Photographers cost a lot of money to take photos of the hotel, but if they want lifestyle images, they have to pay hair, makeup, and models too! If you can be a photographer AND a model.. that will go a long way!
- Marketing Education – Do you know a lot about creating viral reels and TikToks? What about growing a social following? You can offer to teach their marketing team some skills that you have mastered in exchange for a free stay!
- Social Media Following – Of course, the most common is giving the hotel exposure by posting on your social media channels. This really only works if you have a decent size following (say 10,000 or more followers). If you have a large social media follower like 100,000+, you can potentially even charge in addition to the free stay!
Pssst… I go over all this and SO much more in my Scoring Sponsored Travel Course!
Let’s build up your portfolio!
Portfolios are, in my opinion, such a crucial component of a pitch! They make you look professional, experienced, and gives the hotel an easy way to see your work.
While portfolios are most used when you are pitching your photography skills for a hotel, you can also use these to show work you have done for hotels in other ways.
Did you recommend a hotel to your audience on your website? Send them the link to your blog post with the recommendation, number of clicks to the hotels site, your reach on your itinerary, and a testimonial from the hotel you worked with!
Hotels, tourism boards, and tourism companies love to see that you have experience. A portfolio shows just that!
If you don’t have a portfolio for hotel photography, just fake it till you make it! Start taking photos at hotels that you are paying to stay at to build up that portfolio baby!!
Recommended Read: Top Hotel Photography Tips For your First Hotel Partnership!
Hotels V. Tourism Boards
There are lot of pros v. cons with working with tourism boards, it really just depends on what you are looking for!
For me, I completely prefer working with tourism boards and I will tell you my main reasons why:
- It is very easy to find a marketing contact email online.
- They are so professional and (almost) always respond to your pitch.
- They know the hotels, tourism companies, restaurants, etc. Meaning you will likely get your entire trip cost covered since they are working with many companies to sponsor your trip! Hotels will only cover the cost of the actual hotel stay (usually).
- They know what hotels are willing to work with bloggers / photographers and know WHEN they are willing to work with them. For example, I pitched to Catalina Island tourism for a September trip. They responded nicely and said that no hotels or tourism companies will partner with bloggers in their high season. If I followed up in the winter, they would be happy to partner! If I pitched to an individual hotel, they would have just ignored my pitch and I would have thought I was simply rejected!
- They are extremely reliable and are happy to provide contracts to lock in your trip. I have been nervous many times thinking hotels would just retract their promised free stay because they are a little unreliable!
- SO much more!
Example of Pitching Email
This is my exact pitching email that I have used to score me countless free trips and hotels stays! The biggest takeaways here are to include a small elevator pitch of who you are, what type of value you can offer, important statistics, and most importantly…. a professional signature block!
“Hi <Insert Name if you have a direct contact>, it’s nice to “meet” you!
I wanted to reach out to introduce myself and possibly partner on my upcoming trip to <LOCATION> (<DATES>11/13/21 – 11/15/21).
My name is <Your Name> and I am the creator of the travel website and brand, <Your Brand Name>. I specialize in <List what you typically offer hotels, what you audience knows you for, etc. For example, Taking professional lifestyle photos for hotels, Writing detailed travel itineraries, teaching SEO and Marketing to hotel Marketing teams>.
Mine is Two Paragraphs: “I specialize in writing detailed travel itineraries where I recommend things to do in the area + hotels. This is where you would hit a customer in the “buying stage,” ready to research and book a hotel accommodation.
In addition, I offer photography packages to use for marketing, food photography, and social media exposure. I am not an “Instagram influencer” who takes photos on an I-Phone and applies a pre-made preset. I have several years of photography experience, have taken many photography courses, and have professional level photography gear (including a drone). I would love to send you some of my recent work I did for <Impressive Partnership>!
If you would be interested in working together, I would love to send you a formal proposal with some examples of past partnerships, a little bit about my brand, and what deliverables I am willing to offer for this partnership.
<Your Brand Name>‘s Stats:
- <Insert Stat> Monthly Pageviews on Website
- <Insert Stat> Instagram Followers
- <Insert Stat> Average Monthly Viewers on Pinterest or Facebook or TikTok.
- <Insert Stat> Mainly USA based audience! **I use this if I am pitching to a USA based hotel or tourism board.
Look forward to hearing back from you! 🙂
Still not getting hotel partnerships? Try these bonus tips!
It’s important to remember that you will get a lot of rejection. Like.. a lot.
But that is completely normal! Even the largest travel bloggers, photographers, and writers are told no constantly! The biggest key to getting sponsored travel is to be consistent and to just keep trying. When I pitch to hotels and tourism boards, I am pitching to MANY just hoping to get ONE. Especially when you’re talking about hotels, you will need to pitch to a TON of hotels to hopefully get one partnership out of it.
If you feel like you have tried everything and are still not getting sponsored travel, here are my final bonus tips to try out…
- Try pitching to a hotel or tourism board in their off season and mid-week. If you are constantly pitching dates in their high season on weekends, many hotels will laugh and not respond.
- Try to not include exact dates in your pitch to see if you get a response. Leave it up to a range of dates to see what works better for their calendar.
- Are you pitching mainly focusing on your Instagram, but have less than 10,000 followers? Try including your entire social following (Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Tiktok, etc.) instead of just your Instagram following!
- Are you pitching mainly focusing on the traffic on your website? If it is not impressing the brands, try using quarterly or annual numbers instead of monthly!
- Pitching to tourism boards and not getting responses / accepted? Try thinking smaller! Like I mentioned previously, I focus on small town tourism boards. Instead of working with Hawaii or Maui, I worked with a small beach town on Maui. Instead of working with Napa Valley or California Tourism, I worked with a small town in Napa Valley.
Like I said, I have helped my students score partnerships with hotels and tourism boards with as little as 500 followers, so if they can do it.. SO CAN YOU!!
If you liked this quick and actionable guide, these are small snippets from my Scoring Sponsored Travel Course!
What I teach you in the course:
- Learning your value & building your portfolio
- WHY I DON’T USE MEDIA KITS, and what I use instead!
- My secret weapon to finding email contacts when there isn’t one online.
- My EXACT pitching email and examples of deliverables / what to charge.
- Sponsored Trip Etiquette (how to act once you’re there, tipping, etc.).
- Hotel Photography tips & business writing tips!
- The exact contract I use when working with hotels & tourism boards.
- When to charge, what to charge, and all things money!
AND SO MUCH MORE!