Recession-Proof Your Travel Stories
“Scotland’s the place for recession skiing,” says the UK Times travel section.
Really? On reflection, I’d rather spend a vacation gouging out my eyeballs with knitting needles…
In the early 1980s, I was a ski virgin. My first ever attempt at that schussing nonsense was at Aviemore in the Scottish Highlands — much cheaper than Europe’s glamorous alpine resorts.
Apres-ski activities were unforgettable. (You wouldn’t forget geriatric folk singers mumbling “The Streets of Laredo” either.) And I still get nightmare flashbacks about Stanley, my sadistic ski instructor.
Five days of misery and humiliation. A grizzled ex-British army sergeant, Stanley’s teaching style was to bellow: “Get up off your fat a*** and stop sniveling.”
Skiing in Scotland seems taking recession woes to the extreme, but tumbling house prices and crashing stock markets aren’t limited to the U.S.
Bad news for travel writers? I don’t think so. Certainly in the UK and Ireland, few people are giving up vacations because of any bothersome credit crunch.
So what if financial horror looms over us like some blood-sucking ghoul in a B-movie? We’ll darn socks… brew our own hooch… stuff the kids’ leaking shoes with newspaper.
But stop taking vacations? No chance.
Don’t take my word for it. With 5,500 travel agency members, ABTA is Britain’s leading travel association. A survey this October indicates foreign escapes remain a 2009 essential.
Eighty-three per cent of U.K. holidaymakers who traveled overseas intend to do the same next year. And that includes traveling to the U.S. It’s irresistible when we get mega-loads of greenbacks in exchange for pounds, euros, Aussie dollars, etc.
U.S. writers are ideally positioned to tell visitors where to go — and what to do when they’re there. So why not try pitching travel stories to foreign markets?
Articles about beating the credit crunch are increasing. And it’s a worldwide trend. Whether it’s foraging for wild foods or staying in university residences out-of-term, readers want travel bargains. Luxury features won’t vanish, but affordability should prove an easier sell.
For example, “recession skiing” could be tweaked to give a North American perspective. Do you have money-saving tips for your local slopes?
Insert your own hometown, and I’ll bet you could easily come up with a story on Pleasantville For Next To Nothing. How much do local campsites charge? What’s the cost of renting a bike? The best value B&Bs and restaurants?
The Times’ lead travel story on Oct. 12 was “How to do New York for free.” What can visitors do for free in your area?
Themes around saving money or finding low-cost activities abound. Easyjet’s August in-flight magazine highlighted urban beaches in Berlin, Paris, and Brussels. The story’s tagline was: “If you can’t afford to escape the city this summer, don’t fret, the beaches are coming to you.”
Here are some other recent articles from the international travel press. Use them to spark story ideas you can sell both at home and overseas.
** The first timer’s guide to camper vanning (Wanderlust). How about a first timer’s guide to RVing in California… Arizona… New Mexico?
** Twenty fantastic farm stays (The Observer). Mennonite farm stays in Pennsylvania could appeal. I found one site where a B&B for two is only $65 nightly — way less than UK and Irish farm stays.
** The Budget B&Bs of Paris (The Guardian). Vermont’s 7 best budget home stays, maybe?
** Smiling Parisians show their city for free (New Zealand Herald). Volunteer Parisian greeters introduce visitors to non-tourist spots. New York has a similar program — can you think of anywhere else?
** World’s Top Ten Best Hikes (Sydney Morning Herald). Ignore the blisters! What are Hawaii’s best trails?
** Put away the tent pegs — we’re going glamping (The Independent). Shorthand for glamour camping, glamping is more upmarket than camping. Although any type of canvas sounds loathsome to me, the eco-bandwagon keeps rolling.
** How to do the Med like a local (The Guardian). Editors love “insider” stories — and if you have money-saving tips, all the better.
The use of numbers in headlines is a long-standing trend. Whether it’s “The 10 Best Winter Sun Music Festivals” or “Eight Sensational Food Markets,” editors have a numbers fixation.
The food market story ran in Wanderlust. Maybe your local farmers’ markets can’t match Kabul’s Microrayn Market in Afghanistan (“Buy the testicles of fat-tailed sheep. Apparently they have the potency of 1,000 Viagra”), but treats are probably tastier.
Even tight-budget vacationers need to eat. An article on Spain titled “Valencia — Finding the Perfect Paella,” could be even more enticing if it was perfect $15 paellas.
Or how about Naples — Perfect Pizzas for under $9? That works, too. As does Chicago — Five Luscious Lunches for under $10.
As you probably know, Brits regard beer as a major food group. Even though it’s grim in winter, the UK Independent’s recent “Destination of the Week” was economically fragile Iceland. The big attraction was its plummeting currency. “A typical pint has fallen from £6.50 to around £4.”
That’s still an eye-watering $6.40. Whereas on certain nights, pints cost $2 to $2.50 in Portland, Oregon!
What credit-crunched UK traveler couldn’t be drawn in by a piece titled “10 beers for under £15: Oregon’s Affordable Brewpubs”…
A final tip: Take photos to accompany your piece — editors prefer a words-and-pix package.
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]