Thrust into unprecedented territory with the onset of COVID-19 and a halt of leisure and business travel, and now the gradual reopening of the locations they represent, destination marketing organizations (DMO) leaders are faced with difficult questions as they determine when – and if – inviting media and influencers back into market is appropriate. To shed light on the industry’s top concerns, we surveyed DMOs from around the nation regarding their anticipated reopening plans and legal liability concerns.

“A significant number of our clients are in the tourism PR space where visiting is key to helping shape public opinion, so hosting-related challenges are issues that we have been monitoring closely throughout the pandemic,” said Marty McDonald, executive vice president and leader of the agency’s tourism practice. 

A survey was conducted in late June 2020 and targeted DMOs from coast to coast, representing varying types and sizes of destinations with a range of budgets and marketing objectives.


DMOs' Top FAM Concerns During COVID-19 Pandemic


  • Nearly half (46 percent) touted visiting-media familiarization tours (FAMs) as “extremely important” to their overall PR/marketing strategy, and the majority (60 percent) of respondent’s host fewer than 20 media annually.
  • Forty four percent of DMOs surveyed have started inviting media back into market for the summer. The remaining respondents were split almost equally between three other scenarios: waiting until fall, interested in hosting but unsure of timeframe, and declaring it was just “too soon.” 60 percent of those surveyed have started receiving visit requests from media/influencers, whether they have loosened the reins on their hosting programs or not.
  • DMOs’ top three concerns regarding FAM hosting in the age of COVID-19 are: (1) ensuring an optimal visit experience, with some attractions/restaurants closed; (2) budget availability; and (3) legal liability associated with hosting media/influencers during a pandemic.
  • Just over sixty percent of DMOs responding stated they have not changed anything in their hosting evaluation processes, due to COVID-19. 17 percent have heightened requirements, such as hosting only top-tier media and/or requiring journalists to have a confirmed assignment.
  • For those destinations currently hosting media, the top three things they are doing differently are (1) closer collaboration with partners on itinerary and health/safety measures; (2) eliminating group FAMs in favor of custom FAMs; and (3) only hosting drive-market media/influencers, vs. those who may normally fly.

How can DMOs use this information as they consider hosting a FAM during the COVID-19 pandemic? Read our Top-5 Recommendations for DMOs during the pandemic 

You can view an infographic illustrating these recommendations here

We’re also offering access to a template legal waiver DMOs can use as they consider hosting media and influencers. To access the waiver, visit