Destinations conjure up images in travelers' minds that can lure them to visit or keep them away. In order to tap into the global tourism trade, which Statistica values at $7.5 trillion, countries, cities, resorts and attractions need a brand image that draws travelers. Marketing creates brands that give destinations a personality to connect them emotionally with travel consumers and set them apart from their competition. Using different print, broadcast and online advertising, signage and direct mail, marketing communicates the brand message throughout the five stages of traveler decision-making, identified by author Devashish Dasgupta in her book, Tourism Marketing as:
- Get desire to travel
- Collect and evaluate information
- Decide on destination
- Prepare for trip
- Evaluate experience upon return
Promoting tourism is an ongoing process. However, several common strategies help destinations keep customers arriving on the desired schedule.
Popular destinations use marketing to keep tourists interested and encourage repeat trips. Sometimes this involves building on existing campaigns. The I Love New York campaign, launched in 1977, for example, initially promoted New York City. Today it's used to promote the entire state. An older marketing success story, the state of Virginia's Virginia is for Lovers campaign, has adapted to changing traveler expectations since it was launched in 1969. According to agency of record, BCF, the latest evolution of the campaign targets the overnight traveler.
A location with a floundering economy or an attraction that has lost popularity can use tourism marketing to recapture tourist interest. It creates a brand that changes how people perceive it. To overcome lagging tourism outside of its major cities, California launched a campaign to position them as gateways to lesser known parts of the state. According to marketing agency DCI, revenue grew 20 percent in five years. Heritage Museums & Gardens in Cap Cod, Massachusetts, countered flat visitorship with marketing that highlighted its Norman Rockwell exhibit and saw a 50 percent increase in foot traffic in one year, according to its agency Mascola.
When a location with an established tourist following in one demographic wants to reach a new market segment or age group, it turns to marketing. For example, Miller Brewing Company launched a special campaign to attract young adults to its brewery tours in Milwaukee. Agency NOISE reported the effort resulted in more than six years of increased sales and attendance. Scotland targeted American businesses with a DCI-created campaign to position it as ideal for business meetings and incentive travel programs. More than $12 million in bookings resulted.
One of the biggest challenges in tourism, declined sales and interest, requires marketing to overcome misconceptions or lack of interest. Bermuda's Department of Tourism introduced a new campaign with the slogan So Much More after a 10-year drop in its tourist trade. The marketing program created by Fusideas captured a 4 percent increase in travel to the island the first year.
After its Cleveland Rocks campaign didn't resonate with travelers, its economy declined and its professional sports teams suffered losing seasons, the city of Cleveland embarked on a rebranding effort to overcome its identity crisis. The new marketing campaign by MMGY Global positioned the city as irreverent, eclectic and independent, and used the slogan This is Cleveland. Several travel publications, including Fodor's Travel and Travel + Leisure magazine put the city on their 2015 choice destination lists after the campaign appeared in print, broadcast and social media. The city attributes being chosen as the site for the 2016 Republican National Convention to the momentum this marketing campaign generated.