Three Tourism Brand Lessons that Innovated in Turbulent Times

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A new article on ADWEEK reports that for most marketers, last year was all about hunkering down, trimming marketing spend, putting a pause on innovation, and focusing on staying afloat. Few industries were hit harder than travel, with airlines nearly halting service, hotels left without guests, and only one in three tourism destinations open to international travelers.

While marketers in all sectors continue to deal with the uncertainties of returning to normal life, some brands took a more counterintuitive approach during this time of pause over the past year. With car travel and closer destinations top-of-mind for consumers, many destination marketers leaned into advertising, but with a focus on better efficiency, effectiveness and personalization.

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When it comes to marketing innovation, there is something to be learned from how three destination marketing organizations–Visit Tampa Bay, Visit Omaha and Visit Franklin Tennessee–responded to the pandemic early on:

  • Keep marketing spend strong during a downturn: Visit Tampa Bay had been working with Epsilon prior to the pandemic to encourage city visits through digital video, display, and personalized customer creative messaging, all while measuring the direct economic impact those people were having on the local community. Implementing these personalized experiences had helped create lasting relationships with Visit Tampa customers, as well as increase visit numbers and keep up spending to drive revenue. The work drove millions of more impressions, increased sales, and drove 100,000-plus new visitors over the campaigns in 2019.
  • Partnering with Epsilon, Visit Franklin Tennessee sought to clearly identify potential visitors in its surrounding markets who were willing to travel and to capitalize on emerging regional demand for smaller town experiences. Once identified, the brand engaged potential visitors through relevant digital media. Visit Franklin Tennessee was then able to measure the influence of its media investment by identifying direct visitor spend across different categories, like restaurants, retail, lodging, and more.
  • Reach more consumers that are just like your current customers: In Nebraska, Visit Omaha sought to better understand and measure how digital advertising was drawing people to its city, and ultimately, how it was positively impacting the economy. Pre-pandemic, Visit Omaha was a strong example of how Epsilon’s campaigns increased spending during the winter, a historically slow tourism season. As the shutdown last year disrupted every aspect of the travel industry, the destination needed to push forward with marketing investment to attract visitors and prepare for brighter days ahead. Epsilon leveraged transaction-based data across 200 million individuals to enable Visit Omaha to digitally reach potential visitors in the surrounding areas who were willing to travel, would stay longer, and spend more, and did so through custom rich media and cross-device display advertising.
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