What to Expect at a NATJA Conference
Two years ago I decided to join a professional travel writers organization. The main organizations are NATJA, SATW, and IFTWX. I know some fantastic travel writers and journalists in each group, but after looking at each, I picked NATJA based on its continuing reputation and the quality of the writers in the group.
As a newbie, I had no idea what to expect at a NATJA conference or how it differed from the typical travel shows that I go to. I hope this guide, my recap of the past two year’s conferences, will help you if you decide to come to the meeting. Keep in mind; you can still attend the NATJA conference even if you are not a member.
The NATJA conference is an excellent opportunity to spend time with CVBs that you are either meeting for the first time or have already met while visiting their towns. At some point during the conference, the destinations will have a booth set up for you to discuss the travel and food scene there. You can determine from this if you would be a good fit for each other. I have been invited on future press trips as a result of this meeting, but it should not be expected.
What is NATJA?
The North American Travel Journalists Association (or NATJA) is a large group made up of travel writers, editors, photographers, bloggers, and tourism boards. Publications are also members of NATJA, including National Geographic Traveler and AAA Midatlantic to name a couple. NATJA members have been dedicated to the highest quality of professional journalism for 27 years. Writing for TravelWorld International magazine, a publication that exclusively uses member photos and stories, is also a perk for belonging to NATJA.
Each year, NATJA hosts a conference in a different location. Attendees come together to network, learn more about the conference destination, and attend professional development workshops.
The 2017 NATJA conference was held in Chapel Hill, North Carolina; 2018 in Branson, Missouri; and 2019 will be held this May in Syracuse, New York.
What to Expect at the Meetings
Between meeting with destinations to find locations that are a fit for our outlets and hanging with other travel writers, you can expect to eat a lot and have a bunch of fun at the NATJA conference. This three-day conference is one of my favorite meetings of the year. NATJA has some great members and it’s a joy getting to meet them, read their work, share experiences, and learn from them. Many have become my extended family and I look forward to seeing them.
The NATJA conference has classes to choose from depending on what track your career path is on. They may include pitching publications to upping your Instagram game, gaining more followers on Twitter to current trends in the marketplace.
An example of a typical NATJA conference day would be a key-note speaker over breakfast, two hours to socialize and meet tourism board partners, sixty minutes of break-out sessions, and a half day exploring the region through an organized tour. Dinner would be either a dine-around town option (where we pick the restaurant of choice from an extensive list) or on closing night, a business casual dinner and reception at a swanky venue.
You will spend about $599 attending a NATJA conference for your room and conference fees, plus an additional expense of getting to the destination.
Is NATJA for You?
If you are just interested in boosting your social media numbers or if you are solely an influencer, NATJA is probably not the group for you. However, if you want to network, meet wonderful writers, and make new friends while exploring a destination on a well planned visit, then NATJA is a perfect fit.
I’m not sure of all of the work that goes on behind the scenes, but NATJA always does a great job pulling off a successful and well-received conference. Kudos to the staff.
Pre and Post FAM Trips
When you apply for the NATJA conference, you can add a pre or post familiarization trip to your travels. While you are not guaranteed your first choice (or second or third for that matter), there hasn’t been a time (since I’ve been in the group) that someone didn’t land a pre or post-trip.
Destinations play a big part in selecting the travel writers accepted for their FAM trip; keep an open mind as each trip offers something unique no matter where you go.
During the 2017 NATJA conference, I ended up on both a pre and post conference trip. I visited the incredible Heart of North Carolina (Asheboro) on my pre-trip and the marvelous Outer Banks of North Carolina afterward.
While I had never thought about visiting the heart of North Carolina, I explored the famous Sea Grove potters (and met one), toured Richard Petty’s museum and got a photo with the NASCAR King himself, drank amazing beer at Four Saints, visited the fabulous NC Zoo, and made a lasting friendship with Tammy, the Executive Director of Heart of NC Tourism.
Spending time with Aaron (from the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau) is always an adventure, but throw in eight amazing meals, climbing the largest sand dune in the country, hiking to the top of the tallest lighthouse, learning about aviation at the Wright Brothers Memorial, touring state parks, and seeing the behind-the-scenes of The Lost Colony created the ultimate trip!
Day Trips and Adventures
The NATJA conference host city plans a lot of fun things for the writers and destinations. We may have a catered meal at a posh, historic hotel; live music paired with local beer and wine at a beautiful venue; a walking tour of the city, all while meeting prominent community leaders along the way. The host destination really rolls out the red carpet for us!
One thing I particularly like about the conference is that we get to pick our choice of restaurant for a dine-around town event. It allows us to break into small groups and meet even more new people. It is what I look forward to most!
NATJA, A Group I’m Proud to Belong To
The NATJA conference is one I’ve come to love. Through networking, classes/seminars, fun outings, media events, pre and post FAM tours, and a friendly group of travel writers, here’s hoping you’ll come to the same conclusion. I hope this guide will help answer any questions you might have about the group and about attending the conference. If you have been tossing around the idea of joining a professional writers group, I’m happy to answer any questions you may have. You may contact me by leaving your question in the comments section after this post or by private messaging me through our social channels.
While I won’t be in attendance for this year’s gathering, I will be with my friends and extended family in spirit and virtually. I’m a proud member of this organization and hope that you will keep us in mind for your future growth and personal/professional development.
NATJA Conference Photo Gallery
Pin This Post For Later!
Articles Resulting from My NATJA Conferences