No matter how long you’ve worked in this industry, there’s always more to learn! Lucky for all of us at Kiterocket, our managing partners firmly believe in continuous learning too, which is why I traveled down to Palm Springs earlier this year to attend PRSA’s annual Travel & Tourism Conference.

As the lead of the travel and tourism practice at Kiterocket, I joined hundreds of travel PR pros from across North America at the only event designed by travel communicators for travel communicators. We networked, shared best practices and heard from some of the top media in the industry all while soaking in the beautiful scenery (and, of course, enjoying a few cocktails).

Stemming from the conference, here are my top takeaways on where the travel industry is heading.

1. Don’t fear the micro-influencer

It can be tempting to believe bigger is better when it comes to social influencers, but that may not be what is best for your brand. There are many little tricks and secrets influencers can use to quickly expand their audience, boost their engagement and more – and that’s okay – but when evaluating potential partnerships don’t be concerned with just numbers.

Instead, put in the extra effort to find the people who have a more authentic connection to your brand and an audience that is passionate about your industry. Think long-term and don’t be short-sighted when building these relationships. One of the biggest benefits of working with influencers is the ability to create brand ambassadors who will advocate for you because they truly love the brand, not only because you’re asking them.

Wondering how to meet these people? Take it offline. Go to local events you know are well-attended by bloggers, photographers and writers and meet them in person. Getting to know them on a personal level before pitching them will go a long way in building a successful long-term relationship.

2. The definition of adventure travel expands

How do some of the top travel experts from Outside magazine, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and others define adventure travel today? It’s a combination of nature, physical activity and culture.

While adventure travel was previously seen as something extreme and challenging, there has been a marked shift in how brands and consumers are interpreting adventure. It’s less about being “hardcore,” and more about the mindset. Can someone get out there and try something new? Do they have an adventurous spirit? Are they looking to learn something from the locals?

Don’t feel like you need to hide from the adventure travel audience if your property or destination doesn’t offer cliff diving or white water rafting. “Soft” or “urban” adventure is growing in popularity so use something like an interesting bike path through the city or a foraging excursion through the woods to show a different side of your destination.

3. The rise of “bleisure” travel

I know the feeling of having too many dream destinations and not enough vacation time to fulfill them, and I’m not alone. More and more, people are blurring the lines of work and play when it comes to travel. Tacking on a few days to a business trip can not only make travelers feel more relaxed, but it also allows them to bring their family or significant other and make their trip more memorable.

Because “bleisure” travelers may not have the opportunity to thoroughly research or create an itinerary for their extra time, brands should do the legwork for them. Take a page from the hit The New York Times’ column, “36 Hours,” and create a variety of destination-focused itineraries including restaurant, activity, and shopping recommendations, which can be made available via the concierge, online or in-room.

4. People are at the heart of every great story

It’s becoming increasingly difficult for freelancers and contributors alike to sell in a story based on a hotel or property alone. Freelancers from outlets like Thrillist, VICE, Travel + Leisure, Refinery29, AAA magazines, Condé Nast Traveler, and more all agreed having an interesting person as the backbone of a story makes it easier of them to catch the attention of their editor.

People lend the emotional aspect to a story that makes you fall in love, draws you in, and drives you to visit. Don’t shy away from using an alternative/outside spokesperson like an interesting guide, quirky shop owner, or a local who has lived in the area for years. Their stories will feel more authentic and provide a different perspective on why people should visit.

5. “Going green” is expected

Sustainable practices at hotels and resorts are no longer a specialized or niche market – they are an industry standard. Brands that want to tell a “green” story need to think beyond the usual environmentally-friendly measures if they want to stand out.

Reporters want to know – what’s the new energy-saving tech after Wattstopper sensors? The latest water-saving measure beyond opting out of a daily linen change? The next frontier of green rooftops? Even little changes can tell a big story if you’re one of only a few making them.

Here’s to a summer full of adventuring!

-Amanda W.