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Membership has its benefits.  I always despised that expression until I became a travel writer.  Truth is, being a member of a travel writing group opens doors.  And, as a travel writer, you need those doors opened.  

When I started travel writing I felt like a bit of a fraud when I would contact a tourism board at a destination to inquire about media rates.  I was just starting out and I felt like I needed credentials.

But what you’ll quickly learn is that people care less about your past then they do about your future.  They just want to know you’ll get something published about them.  So I was grateful for my IWTPA membership ID badge.  It was really the confidence I needed more than anything else to reach out to the owner of a wooden schooner in Annapolis.  I was going to be visiting the area and wanted to experience sailing on the Chesapeake Bay.  

In my e-mail exchanges with Jen (the owner of the schooners) she asked if I was working with Susan, the director of tourism for Annapolis.  I had no idea who Susan was but instinctively knew I should find out…soon.

Fortunately for me, Jen was very helpful.  She not only booked a sailing trip for my visit, she also gave me Susan’s e-mail address and told me to use her as a referral. 

I contacted Susan immediately.  Thrilled that I was interested in writing about her town, Susan insisted on securing lodging arrangements for me and meeting me for breakfast during my visit.

Susan and I met for breakfast at Chick & Ruth’s Delly – an Annapolis tradition.  During  our conversation Susan told me she was the current host of the Mid-Atlantic Tourism Public Relations Association marketplace – MATPRA.   The marketplace is a three day event where invited journalists gather with tourism representatives from the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. The goal of the tourism representatives is to attract writers to their destinations.  The goal of the writers is to secure familiarization trips (FAM trips) to destinations they want to feature in articles.  Susan assured me I would be invited.

That was four years ago.  Today I count the tourism professionals (and many of the writers) that attend MATPRA each year among my friends.  If I want to cover a destination in the MId-Atlantic region of the country, I simply e-mail or call my MATPRA contact from the area.  I’ve never been turned down for a FAM trip with this group.  In fact, I’ve been on at least 20 trips in this region with more scheduled in the next few months.

I have published over 50 articles featuring Mid-Atlantic destinations and recently picked up a new print publication as an outlet for my writing…the editor attended the last MATPRA and happened to be seated across from me at dinner.

My advice to you?  Join IWTPA.  Use that membership to give you the confidence to reach out to tourism professionals in the areas you want to cover.  Get yourself on their mailing list and ask if they have a regional organization (like MATPRA) that you could attend.  

It will change your life.

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