Monday, June 17, 2013

What It's Like to Take a Tourism Press Trip

Greg, CC and Nick at the Cleland Wildlife Park.

Every moment is just another photo opportunity.

For those not familiar with the Best Jobs in the World, it’s a campaign hosted by Tourism Australia to promote tourism activities throughout the country and the Working Holiday Visa program. In every state there are three finalists, who are competing to win six-month contracts with job titles ranging from “Tastemaster” in Western Australia to “Chief Funster” in New South Wales.

I’m travelling with the South Australia crew to watch Nick Tilley, Greg Snell and CC Hsieh compete for the role of “Wildlife Caretaker.” The winner will walk away with a salary package of $100,000 and spend the next six months working with wildlife on Kangaroo Island and the Eyre Peninsula.

Although Greg, CC and Nick are the stars of the show, the entourage is what is makes this trip interesting. There are nearly 20 people in our group, including Tourism Australia representatives, press from Taiwan, a news crew from Adelaide, and videographers capturing every challenge on film. My role here, as the token Canadian journalist, is to report on the token Canadian candidate, Greg Snell.

(However, my assignment is very different. I actually plan to write a couple of articles about work and study abroad opportunities in South Australia.)

Greg comes across as assertive and dare I say it—borderline cocky—but arguably deservedly so. At 27, the dude has a lot of experience. (Yes—“experience.” I’m not even sure what I mean by that, because it’s certainly not limited to professional experience or travel experience. He even self-describes as an “experience seeker.” Whatever I mean by “experience” though, one thing’s certain: he has more than 27 years worth of it.) He’s worked in Ecuador through a CIDA-funded position, in South America as a tour guide leader and has a diploma in Adventure Tourism Business Operations.

Within moments of meeting me, Greg launched easily into a discussion about ethical travel, his work with G Adventures and his passion for “travel with purpose.” (He knew the Verge tagline; I didn’t feed it to him.) His self-assured persona isn’t a necessarily a façade though—he’s confident and personable. He is, quite frankly, exactly the type of guy that I would want to have as a tour guide in South America. He’s also a bit of a trivia whore, memorizing and regurgitating facts with ease—and we all know that I have a soft spot for trivia. (However, Greg’s reality contestant persona also presents a challenge for me. Although he’s honest, he also talks like someone who has had extensive media training—and I don’t like telling stories that have been told before.)

His competition, Hsin Hsuan“CC” Hsieh is possibly the most adorable human being known to man. (I watched her entry video three times in a row. You should follow suit.) American Nick Tilley strikes me as the most earnest of the bunch, and it didn’t phase him when I started making him talk about his feelings at dinner on the first night.

(“Did you cry when you found out you were a finalist?” asked Sam, a Canadian blogger who is travelling with our group.

“I was pretty emotional,” he said, before moving on with the story of the day he found out that he’d been shortlisted. Sam was content with his answer, but I cut him off.

“You didn’t answer the question. Did you shed tears?” I asked him. Nick stopped talking and looked at me, unsure of what to give up before finally conceding.

“Yes, I cried,” he admitted to the table.)

Every moment of this trip is not only documented, but also tightly scheduled, which came as little surprise to me. This is a press trip, after all. It’s also a trip about shameless self-promotion—of both the contestants and the country.

Overall, it’s been a really interesting experience—and not just because I am in Australia. This is the first trip in probably—well, ever—that I haven’t had to worry about what happens next. Usually, I’m the one with itinerary in hand. This is the first time every where I literally haven’t had to refer to even my flight confirmation numbers, because somebody will do it for me.

Really, I’m just here for the free food. But not that 1kg oysters. Because that’s just disgusting.

Oh, also, let me take this moment to brag about how AWESOME at packing I am. This is all I needed for a 10-day trip to Australia. (Then again, I will concede that I didn't bring a jacket, which was a major oversight on my part.)

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