Destination Marketing Strategies for 2023
Fresh tactics for creating that next memorable campaign.
Good destination marketing requires being a step ahead of the next travel season. Great destination marketing requires out-of-the-box thinking to capture and pique a potential tourist’s interest. Our world now isn’t the same as it was a few years ago, and it’s important to recognize that your marketing strategies need to evolve as well. It’s time to bring fresh, creative, modern strategies into your 2023 DMO campaigns. Here are a few suggestions of creative, non-traditional opportunities and trends to explore in the new year:
Utilize the Latest Tech Spaces
We all know we live in a digital and technological age, which means being online is essential for any marketing campaign. However, social media and Google Ads aren’t the only options when it comes to connecting to today’s online audiences. Think creatively to find ways to give prospective tourists more control over where and how they learn about your destination. Some unique and much less crowded platform options include:
Alexa and Voice Activated Systems:
Visit Orlando successfully launched a campaign that would allow a user to visit Orlando via their Alexa device. They could see reviews, learn more about different hot spots in the city, and obtain information based on their personal interests and preferences. When a user says, “Alexa, launch Visit Orlando,” they are immediately immersed in a game-like experience where they can choose whether they want to learn more about specific or general attractions in Orlando. Instead of it being another traditional digital ad where the only choice is to “click here,” this platform experience kept the user engaged for an average of 4 minutes each time, getting more and more information about Orlando.
AI and Virtual Tours:
Explore London, Paris, Jerusalem or Rome and their spectacular attractions by visiting their virtual tour website or using a VR headset. These virtual reality tours allow the user to explore, interact and get a memorable experience from your marketing campaign without even leaving their couch. They get to see the city through a semi-live experience and bring imagination to life.
Instead of just posting a picture or a video, these platforms give the user the option to choose what they want to see and control their virtual city exploration. Working in less crowded tech spaces will allow your campaign to receive more attention and quality interaction than on platforms like Instagram or Facebook, where there are thousands upon thousands of images being posted daily. Taking advantage of these more progressive, sophisticated marketing opportunities will help make your destination seem more tech-forward and intriguing, all while creating a learning experience for your user rather than just another visual advertisement.
Creative Guerilla Marketing – Signage and Art
When it comes to guerilla marketing, creativity and interaction are key. Adding storylines (e.g., instructions that say “follow me towards fun”) and interactive approaches to your marketing campaign has the potential to create a bigger buzz than an ad with a simple call to action. Instead, give the user agency over what their call to action will be (whether just thinking, learning more via your website, taking a picture or posting about on social media platforms).
Public Art and Signage:
Advertising and marketing don’t always have to be in a specific publication or platform; rather, they can be a more out-of-the-box creative production that displays the message and feel of your destination to its current and potential visitors to generate a “buzz” in the community. Spotify captured its audience’s attention by doing a complete subway takeover in a tribute to David Bowe. With images plastered on walls, columns, ceilings and even subway tickets. Instead of a direct call to action such as “listen to this album on our app” the company aimed to have people simply pay attention and organically engage with the images (take pictures, learn more, share). This type of campaign execution can be translated into the destination marketing space as well. Grand Park does an amazing job of showing how the audience can immediately engage with the campaign message. Grand Park encourages its visitors to “Feel the Burn” “Stretch Here” and “Continue Here” so that the walk around the city feels more motivating and exciting rather than an inconvenience: it encourages people to feel fit and successful while visiting their town. This past summer, Herrmann launched a multi-faceted campaign for Visit Annapolis & Anne Arundel County targeting beachgoers at various Maryland and Delaware beaches, including the installation of large sand stamps up and down the beach on key weekends to maximize exposure. These types of campaigns that take over an area with nontraditional advertising found in unlikely places such as the sidewalk, the beach or a subway column have a higher chance of breaking through the typical advertising clutter in a more memorable way.
Statues, Murals and Structures:
The most iconic cities have specific locations that seem to always have a line of people gathering to take pictures. Philadelphia has the Rocky Statue, LOVE Statue, and I “Heart” Philly Installation, with lines of people every season waiting their turn to take a picture and cross it off their itinerary. Creating picture-worthy scenarios and locations will make people feel inclined to stop and stare, take photos, visit your website, and eventually want to learn more about your town or destination and share information if already located within your city, all while organically sharing with other potential tourists via social media (with those users becoming part of the campaign as well). Consider creating “Instagram-worthy” destinations, such as a mural on the empty side of a building or an art installation in a key area of town where you want to bring more visitors.
These bold forms of signage and marketing will feel less like a direct ad to visitors in your city, and more like a representation of who the city or destination is – something that they can take back with them. People will be more inclined to participate, share with friends and create an organic campaign on social media. Utilize your local artists, marketing team and community organizations to create these unique signage and art campaigns that will become recognizable and picture-worthy for those coming into town, and those scrolling through social media.
Leverage Other Organizations and Events in Your Community
Community festivals, events and celebrations bring people together from all different types of backgrounds. These events bring opportunities to showcase the personal and unique side of your city and give potential tourists another reason to come to your town. Not only do these events offer up opportunities to attract tourists, but to expand reach with first-hand accounts of information and reviews. People tend to post more when they visit events, therefore sharing and naturally outreaching to family, friends, and people on their feed.
Hosting Festivals and Celebrations:
Long Beach, California celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month by featuring a wide array of interactive opportunities from education to food festivals to concerts in their city. They also work together alongside their local community by involving libraries, colleges and museums to participate in the celebrations. These events help establish a stronger sense of community and invite tourists to come experience local fun and learning opportunities. Show your support for a cause, movement, celebration or community by hosting celebratory events in your city.
Not only do you want visitors to come into town and your local celebrations, but you want them to take away something memorable and promote the events that are happening in real time. Snapchat Geofilters provide a fun and organic way for people to have a takeaway and share your event, and most importantly, your destination. This gives a direct recommendation to people about your destination, rather than a general one, because people are often more interested in what their friends post than a general ad on social media. Designing a unique, eye-catching and fun design will further promote more usage of the filter on the app by others at your destination or event.
Promote your city and all it has to offer. Create a strategic plan to work with local businesses and organizations to create these fun events and Geofilters, even though they may not be a direct marketing campaign for your city. Create lasting memories of the event by utilizing strategies that celebrate the event you’re hosting rather than just being another ad (in other words, promote your city without overtly promoting your city). Visitors will get to know your town through the attraction that is taking place, help boost your local economy, and create special and impactful moments in people’s lives.
Create a TikTok/Vlog Community
“Vlogging,” “reels,” and “shorts” are becoming more and more influential. They quickly capture the audience’s attention and are a method for more casual and realistic interactions. Facebook, YouTube, TikTok and Instagram have all now adopted these forms of videos and can either be a post on a general page or a dedicated account page just for short videos. If posted consistently, people quickly become part of a series and keep wanting to come back for the next video.
As we all know, one of the most popular video-based social media platforms today is TikTok. This platform has become a trending marketing method for giving honest reviews, sharing personal stories, and establishing a fan base for unique topics. These short and candid videos make it more enticing for a potential visitor to try and have the same experience and visit the same attractions. Whether you create specific marketing campaigns that invite people to share their personal stories or manage an in-house team, getting on the platform will help spread the word about your destination in an energetic and exciting way.
Brand Ambassadors (Influencers):
Having specific pages or brand influencers can really change how people see a city. There are TikTok and YouTube pages specifically dedicated to all the details and real-life, everyday occurrences of a city that go beyond the superficial and get thousands of views, likes, and comments every day. @TripHacksDC shows you little-known facts about Washington DC that you can come and explore for yourself, while @ArtInTheParkShow shares the personality and personal stories of true New Yorkers. Both of these pages are much more casual and fun, but also more relatable for a traveler looking to have a unique experience or adventure.
There is nothing stronger than a first-person account of an experience. With TikTok having nearly 1 billion users every day, having these short, engaging, personal videos and vlogging sites help attract tourists through an emotional connection, rather than a rational connection (“Look at how much fun he/she had” vs “Look at how fun that looks”). Inspiring people to create content in your city will create a hot spot or hub for people to organically create content by posting about their own experiences. You can also offer incentives to have more user-generated content (re-posting, re-sharing, and sweepstakes on social media). Work collaboratively with the local businesses in the area to increase their media and yours.
As we head into a new, pandemic-free and busy year of travel, this is an opportunity to introduce unique, refreshing and creative modern strategies into your next campaign. Whether it’s technology-based, signage, guerilla, video or other less conventional marketing approaches, these ideas will keep you on the leading edge of the latest destination marketing trends. Some of these strategies may seem unconventional and do come with some uncertainty, but they present opportunities for DMOs to lead the way in developing the next great tourism marketing success story.
Need help with your next destination or travel marketing campaign? If so, contact Herrmann’s Chief Business Development Officer John Albert today at email@example.com and be sure to check out our recent work with Visit Annapolis & Anne Arundel County.