Visit Holland is using tweets to unlock views of Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh’s works in a bid to get travelers to roam beyond Amsterdam when they visit the Netherlands.

Visit Holland partnered with Expedia Media Solutions to give travelers incentives to book a trip to cities that connect Vincent Van Gogh’s life.

Expedia is hosting an interactive page to generate as many tweets or retweets with a #VanGogh2015 hashtag to reveal six of Van Gogh’s paintings each week. The header image is a pixelated version of one of the Expressionist painter’s masterpieces that will come into focus once the “brushstrokes” (tweets with the campaign hashtag) total the year the painting was executed. This data visualization is referred to as “flock to unlock.”

This year is the 125th anniversary of Van Gogh’s death. “This was the direct trigger to honor the artist through a theme year, celebrating the inspiration he has left with us,” says Evelina Hederer, Marketing Project Manager at Netherlands Tourism Board and Conventions (NTBC).

This is not the first time that a tourism board has leveraged the cultural history of artists with marketing campaigns. For example, Visit Norway crowdsourced screams in honor the famous painting by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch.

However, Angelique Miller, global director of creative partnerships at Expedia Media Solutions, claims that the Visit Holland campaign’s interactive feature of “unlocking images via tweets is an industry first.”

The six-week Twitter campaign’s goal is to broaden the consideration of visiting Holland beyond Amsterdam, building awareness for the Van Gogh 2015 campaign, and increasing hotel bookings.

Miller says country tourism boards have the similar challenges in changing the perception of travelers who associate visiting a country with one major city. “This [campaign] educates users that Netherlands is more than just Amsterdam,” she says.

Visits and hotel stays’ growth to the Netherlands from the UK and Germany remained flat at about 12 percent in 2014 compared to a year earlier, and the growth in from France was 6 percent. Visitor data for Amsterdam, Brabant and Gelderland — key regions that link back to Van Gogh’s existence — for this campaign was not available at this time.

For the purpose of measuring the impact of this campaign “in the Gelderland and Brabant regions, there will be independent research carried out to determine the increase in hotel overnight stays, which will encompass more than just the Expedia campaign,” Hederer says.

Prepping the Digital Canvas

The campaign went beyond merely unlocking the views of Van Gogh’s paintings with tweets and retweets of the hashtag.

In addition, any person in Visit Holland’s target markets — the UK, France, or Germany — who follows ExpediaUK, ExpediaFR, or ExpediaDE and publishes a tweet with an at-mention and the hashtag is entered for a chance to win a future travel credit to be used toward round-trip economy class air transportation and a hotel package for the winner and one guest.

Between Holland’s five Twitter handles, it has over 49,000 followers, so why is Visit Holland trying to leverage Twitter instead of Facebook or Instagram?

“It was [because of] the viral aspect of hashtagging on Twitter and to create an awareness of the hashtag, not about acquiring new followers,” Miller says.

VisitHolland_VanGogh_French

Source: NBTC, French version of Van Gogh 2015 campaign landing page

Inviting People to the Show

The campaign pairs its social component with partner content created by Expedia’s bloggers who are in-market, and it’s not limited to Expedia’s Viewfinders blogger program.

“NBTC is encouraging everyone – from consumers to museums to bloggers to merchants – to promote the Van Gogh 2015 program all year, and this six-week campaign is just one piece of a longer-term initiative,” Hederer says.

“We have excluded certain B2C Twitter handles from the campaign (for example NBTC, Expedia, VanGogh2015), meaning the #VanGogh2015 hashtag included in tweets from those organizations will not count towards our weekly targets.”

When it comes to measuring the business impact of the campaign for NBTC, Miller talks about the advantage of working with Expedia, as it also provides a booking tool. The link to book on the “flock to unlock” page takes users to an Expedia website promoting hotels in the Netherlands. After the six weeks is over, display ads will be served on Expedia’s site to further promote Dutch destinations for one or two months.

“The campaign is being measured on overall awareness for Van Gogh in 2015, plus inbound traffic to Holland from the UK, France and Germany, but we aren’t in a position to share specific data around bookings.” Hederer says.

Photo Credit: The Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions each week reveals a new masterpiece by Van Gogh provided that consumers reach a hashtag goal. Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions