The campaign to find a "modern Marco Polo" will raise as much awareness for Hangzhou as the winner's trip, but both give the destination the opportunity to gain media mentions, fill its social media channels, and build branding in an effort to attract a traveler previously unaware of the destination.
The Chinese city of Hangzhou is relying on an outsider to communicate the value of the destination to travelers outside of China.
Last year the city’s tourism board announced its search for a “Modern Marco Polo” and received almost 26,000 entries from around the world. The winner, announced earlier this month, is now in the midst of a 19-day trip through city. The selected “Marco Polo,” Liam Bates, will also receive more than $540,000 to tell the world about the city’s attraction, culture and cuisine via social media.
Since the campaign’s kickoff, both the city and Bates have updated their Facebook pages daily. Although prolific, the posts rarely attract more than a few “Likes.”
Although this is the first campaign of its kind in China, it is just one example of a growing trend of “best job” campaigns started by destinations and travel websites to build awareness of their place or product via social media.
Tourism Queensland and Tourism Australia were the first destinations to test such campaigns to resounding success. During Tourism Australia’s latest campaign, 330,000 applications poured in from 196 countries and fans of Tourism Australia’sWorking Holiday Maker Facebook page more than tripled to close to half a million.
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Photo credit: A boat ride in Hangzhou, China. Syue2k / Flickr