Some destinations are not spending this time of limited travel lamenting their loss of business. They’re out there with new — sometimes expensive — campaigns to stay top of mind with travelers, encouraging those who might travel where they can and planting long-term seeds in the dreams of frustrated wanderers.
One destination, Baltimore, sees this period as an opportunity to address misperceptions. Sarah Schaffer, CMO for Visit Baltimore, said a major campaign to rebrand the city had been in the works for over a year. With a Black-majority city to promote, said Schaffer, her office believed that with all the national discussion around social injustice, equality and inclusion “we thought it was time to come out with this campaign sooner than later.”
With a city that has long suffered from misperceptions because of less-than-flattering portrayals like on the TV show “The Wire,” Visit Baltimore and its marketing agency Bellweather set out to hold community workshop talking groups and general “deep listening” interviews to get at the heart of what Baltimore is today.
The result was a campaign that focuses on the city’s cultural richness and diversity. It launched in August with creative collaborators that includes local poets and writers, photographers and others.
The campaign, which involves buyouts of transit advertising platforms in cities in the Northeast corridor, digital billboards, banners and print ads, wraps its arms around the entire city -- not just long-time tourism hub Inner Harbor. It has a neighborhood focus in a city of more than 250 neighborhoods and includes mentions of small businesses like boutiques, restaurants and small house museums.
The campaign launched in August and generated an immediate rise in traffic to the website, including intent to travel and an increase in request for visitor guides. In addition, many people signed up for the free BoP pass that provides discounts to museums and attractions that celebrate the city’s African-American heritage. There has also been a jump in social engagements and positive input from hoteliers and other partners.
For destinations in general, there are an increasing number of options to keep potential visitors engaged. For one, a company called Clicktivated offers “shoppable video,” the ability for a viewer to click on a video and immediately be sent to the relevant information.
Clicktivated claims that using its tool leads to higher viewership and engagement rates as the tourism industry shifts to accommodate a new wave of local travel. Thus, the company works with a number of state tourism offices.
Ben Hatala, COO of Clicktivated, said clients share existing video with his company and where they want to see the shoppable options. This helps destinations drive direct bookings with hotels and attractions. Example: A Wyoming video might allow a viewer to click through to a dude ranch shown in the video.
The technology is device-agnostic and “works great on the phone,” he said.
Clicktivated also provide solid analytics, said Hatala, including number of clicks, clickthrough rate and more. He said that 99% of viewers clicked on at least one attraction during a Wyoming video, and there was a 27% clickthrough rate. That’s a far higher rate than videos on Youtube or Facebook, he claimed.
Whatever route they take, marketers should take heed of what Baltimore and Clicktivated’s destination clients are doing in positioning themselves for what may be a post-pandemic rush that could start with local and regional travel. If there’s any budget at all, it’s important to stay “out there” as much -- and as creatively -- as possible.