Interview a Travel Expert: The Travel PR

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Travel PR is an area of the travel industry that I find fascinating. How travel bloggers / writers / journalists all come together to create the next big destination, all due to incredible PR, amazes me. Reaching out to Maximum Exposure PR I managed to speak to Sophie who is an expert in tourism. Her interview below, is one of my favourites and the work that Maximum Exposure PR has done on raising the profile of Uzbekistan is incredible. I’ve linked the Maximum Exposure PR links at the end so if you want to find out more, their website has really interesting case studies!

travel expert interview with maximum pr sophie ibbotson

How did you get into travel PR?

I started working in tourism development and as a travel writer after leaving university. I was – and still am – interested in the impact that tourism marketing and PR has on tourism development. When I came back to live in the UK I wanted to be able to offer clients both services, so I collaborated with Lucy Robinson and Natalia Lapshina, both of whom have huge amounts of travel PR experience, and set up Maximum Exposure.


What is the best and worst thing about your job?

The best thing about my job is being able to make a tangible difference to clients. Since we’ve been promoting Uzbekistan as a tourism destination, foreign visitors have more than doubled. People often comment that every time they open the travel section in the newspaper, or a travel magazine, they see Uzbekistan, and that gives me a real feel good sensation.

The worst thing is not being able to control all the factors which influence whether or not your PR strategy and campaign will succeed. You can invest years of hard work and money, and then something will happen – a natural disaster, a terror attack, a plane crash – and suddenly no one wants to go and all the press coverage is depressingly negative.

Working in travel, what is the one lesson you’ve learnt that has changed the way you travel?

Don’t make false savings on flights. I used to travel out of London Luton or Stansted if it’d save me £20 on the air ticket. Now I refuse to do that. It costs me far more in time to get there than if I fly from Heathrow or Gatwick, and they’re both such miserable airports that it creates a bad impression for the journalists departing on a press trip.


travel expert interview with maximum pr sophie ibbotson

Do you have a favourite country or travel destination?

– To relax and drink wine: Georgia

– To get off the beaten track: Uzbekistan

– For an extraordinary adventure: Afghanistan

If you could go anywhere in the world right now where would it be?

I’ve been writing about Ladakh this morning, so that’s very much on my mind. My client Journeysmiths has some amazing wilderness expeditions to see the Himalayan snow leopards, and you can combine that with staying in the ultra lux Chamba Camp at Thiksey. I used to travel and work in India a lot; I think it might be time to go back!

What is your hand luggage essential?

A battery pack and USB charger cable. If I forget these, I can guarantee my phone will be flat before I’ve even taken off from the airport.

travel expert interview with maximum pr sophie ibbotson

Do you have a favourite travel memory?

I took my parents to Kashmir for my Mum’s 60th birthday, and we stayed on a houseboat on Nagin Lake. It was an absolutely magical trip, and very precious to spend some family time together.

Any advice for somebody who wants to work in travel PR?

Identify a niche and become an expert in it. Originally I thought I wanted to be an India specialist: I studied Hindi and Urdu at university, I’d lived in India, and I had family history there. But what I found was that lots of PRs “do” India and there was no way to stand out from the crowd. Central Asia – my professional stomping ground since 2008 – is a completely different kettle of fish. Very few people know anything about the region. I wrote the guidebooks to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan for Bradt Travel Guides, I’ve worked closely with government ministries, embassies, and tourist boards, and I’ve built strong relationships with companies and organisations across the tourism sector. It is on the back of this that Maximum Exposure has become the go to PR company for anyone looking to develop or promote tourism products connected with the ‘Stans.

Is there such a thing as a typical day and what does it roughly look like?

I definitely don’t have a typical day! Tomorrow is a Sunday and will be a 4am start to get to Heathrow for a 7am flight and a press trip out to Spain. There will be four journalists on the trip, and we have got an action packed schedule for three days.

In between the press trip activities I have to get a brochure finished for a World Bank project we’re consulting on in Tajikistan. This means liaising with the project manager in Washington DC, the State Committee for Tourism in Dushanbe, and my graphic designer in the UK. We will definitely need a Russian version of the text, so I’ll task my colleague Natalia in Moscow to do that.

I have a newspaper story to complete about Ladakh, and will source the accompanying photos from the client and the Maximum Exposure image library. I also need to agree where and when to meet a lovely travel writer in London when I’m back on Wednesday; we need to discuss potential story angles for her to pitch to her editor at the FT.

travel expert interview with maximum pr sophie ibbotson

If you weren’t working in travel PR, what would you be doing?

I have the best job in the world because I’m not restricted to only working in PR. One day I will have my journalist hat on, the next I’ll be doing field research for the World Bank, or advising the Embassy of Uzbekistan on tourism strategy and investment. If I couldn’t do the travel PR component any more, for whatever reason, I’d simply focus on one of the other aspects of my job that I enjoy.

Favourite way to pass the time when travelling?

Writing! I find planes and trains are the best places to write articles as there are no distractions and I have plenty of time.

Quickfire round!

Road trip or cruise? Road trip

Ski or beach? Ski

Citybreak or weekend in the country? City break

Planner or spontaneous traveller? Hard one: planner if it is a work trip, spontaneous if it is for pleasure

Backpacker or luxury hotels? Luxury if it’s for work, backpacker if I’m paying

Kindle or paperbacks? Paperbacks

Sunrise hike or sunset cocktails? Sunset cocktails

Suitcase or backpack? Suitcase


Thank you so much to Sophie for taking the time to answer my questions, if you want to find out more about Maximum Exposure then click on their website here. They’re also on Twitter and Instagram too so give them a follow.

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Hey, I'm Gabriella

I post once a week covering topics such as solo travel, working and living abroad and also creating Gabriella’s Guides to places I have been. I cover topics under the following categories such as Planning and Packing, The Travel Diary, Travel Inspiration, Photo Diaries, Gabriella’s Guides and Working Abroad.

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