Tourist bureaus in cities and states, like magicians, do not usually reveal their tricks. In today’s Chattanooga Times Free Press, (link below but they charge a subscription fee) however, an article describes the Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau’s practice of using “fam tours” to promote their fair city,
A familiariztion tour is a jaunt in which magazine and newspapers writers are brought to town for free–airfare included–then taken to restaurants and the usual sites and sent home to write, one hopes, favorable pieces.
As the article explained:
“Some writers come through tours arranged by a
public relations firm hired by the visitors bureau. At the end of this
month, the bureau is hosting one of those trips, with writers from the
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Tallahassee (Fla.) Democrat, National
Geographic Traveler, Southern Hospitality, Country Living and a few
in-flight airline magazines.
“The bureau pays Tallahassee-based
Geiger & Associates $94,000 a year to find journalists to come, and
in turn, the media coverage reached an estimated 7.6 million people
this past year, Ms. Davis said. The bureau estimates the coverage was
equal to $390,000 in advertising.
“The tours include visits to
the aquarium, the Hunter Museum, Rock City, Ruby Falls, Lake
Winnepesaukah, the Incline Railway, the Chickamauga and Chattanooga
National Military Park, the Chattanooga Choo-Choo and the downtown
Top publications will not allow their writers to accept such freebies. Publications such as The New York Times make writers sign agreements saying they did not receive any hand-outs. One would think, then, that the Times would pay princely sums for articles untainted by giveaways, but they do not. That is a topic for another day.
Several years ago I shamelessly took part in one of these Geiger tours, and they aren’t bad. The Geiger people don’t put any pressure on writers to produce nice stuff. They hauled me around with an rather elderly crew of fellow scribblers who became most animated when it was time to tuck into a meal.
“A boy must hustle his book,” as Truman Capote once said, so I used the occasion to hand out copies of Moon Handbooks: Tennessee to my traveling companions. One of them, truly a gentleman and a scholar, actually mentioned my book in his piece.