The Los Angeles tourism board is one of the few in the U.S. that could launch a campaign like this and have it ring true to travelers from around the world. Its original "Everyone Is Welcome" message likely had an impact on how other destinations addressed the drop-off in international visitors.
Discover Los Angeles, the city’s tourism board, launched its “Everyone is Welcome” campaign nearly a year ago to help portray the region as an inclusive and diverse destination while the Trump administration was basically saying the opposite about the United States. This week, the campaign’s 2.0 version kicks off with the same message but new platforms.
The latest iteration of the campaign, still dubbed “Everyone is Welcome,” includes two new elements that are in the destination’s wheelhouse: celebrities and Los Angeles-based streaming service Hulu, which is only available in the U.S. and Japan.
Through its work with Hulu, Los Angeles is also capitalizing on the strength of the U.S. economy and honing in on markets like New York City, the destination’s top domestic source market outside of California. But like last year, the re-upped campaign also makes a big appeal to international travelers to visit the city in spite of travel bans and anti-immigration headlines.
U.S. travelers spent $15 billion in the city in 2016, while international visitors spent less than $6.9 billion. International visitor spend is projected to grow, but the destination is seizing the domestic opportunity in front of it.
Many travelers will likely see the destination the next time they log into Hulu and YouTube, as well as social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. The tourism board is doing a year-long campaign with Hulu that involves running ads of “Everyone is Welcome” content before various shows, and it’s also sponsoring “The Runaways,” a Hulu original series.
The show, which debuted in November, is filmed in Los Angeles and features a group of teenage superheroes who help frame the city’s diverse narrative, said John Boudouvas, vice president of marketing for Discover Los Angeles.
Boudouvas said the tourism board filmed behind-the-scenes interviews with the show’s actors about why they feel everyone is welcome in Los Angeles. U.S. domestic viewers will see ads during “The Runaways” and other shows on Hulu that feature some of these interviews, and a 30-second spot (watch below) that brings back imagery from last year of a paper airplane weaving its way through Los Angeles and passing an array of people along the way.
“With this new campaign, we wanted to expand from showing diverse faces to also showing diverse places in Los Angeles,” said Boudouvas. “This allowed us to create extensions.”
“We’ve done other work with Hulu, and that’s allowed us to be targeted and efficient and this integration got us a national play,” he said.
Those extensions include LA Love (see example below), which Boudouvas said is under the “Everyone is Welcome” umbrella. LA Love content includes 10-second bite-size video ads for Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat, and is targeted at New Yorkers.
Brands tend to stick with strategies that work well, and Ernest Wooden Jr., president and CEO of Discover Los Angeles, said last year’s campaign hit its intended marks. More than 27 million people around the world viewed the feature 90-second video in last year’s campaign, and the video made more than 1.2 billion global impressions.
The original campaign was effective because it focused on Los Angeles’ diverse population and didn’t read like a clichéd tourism ad, Wooden said. “We thought, why don’t we take this to 2.0 in 2018 and make this our rally cry for the city?” he said.
“This campaign is a statement of our hospitality,” Wooden said. “We think this has legs and plan to be very aggressive in spreading this welcoming message around the world.”
Everyone is Welcome 2.0
Wooden said last year’s campaign boosted the likelihood of wanting to visit Los Angeles for travelers from the UK, China, Australia, and Mexico, although the latter two markets decreased for the destination last year.
The campaign this year will also include longer 60- and 90-second videos that will roll out in the coming months. Besides the main 30-, 60-, and 90-second spots, markets like China and Mexico will have their own content that the tourism board believes will resonate most with those travelers.
The campaign will have a heavy push domestically and in Mexico through the end of May, while China’s content will launch in March and continue through later this year, said Boudouvas. “The more we run in different markets with this campaign, the more we’ll maintain markets that are feeling a downturn for whatever reason,” he said.
New York City billboards around Times Square, Penn Station, and Port Authority Bus Terminal will also feature the campaign starting this week through the end of May.
The Big Apple ran its own campaign last year to tell the world it wants international travelers to visit, but it was mainly offline.
Better-Than-Expected International Visitor Totals
Discover Los Angeles had projected it would get about 7.09 million international arrivals in 2017, taking into account travel bans and other executive orders, and that’s about where it ended up.
Last month, the destination said its international arrivals grew 0.9 percent year-over-year. Overseas arrivals grew 1.6 percent, while the city saw Canada increase 5.5 percent and arrivals from Mexico drop nearly 3 percent.
Mexico was Los Angeles’ largest international market with 1.7 million visitors last year and one of the main targets of last year’s campaign, as well as the latest version. Wooden said Mexico’s decline wasn’t as bad as expected; the tourism board had projected a nearly 5 percent drop at the start of 2017 after President Donald Trump’s first travel ban took effect.
Wooden credits the smaller drop to airlines that added 2.8 million seats in 2017 between Mexico and Los Angeles, despite the decline from Mexico. Viva Aerobus, a Mexican low-cost carrier, launched a Guadalajara to Los Angeles route in December that made flying to the destination from a major Mexican hub more affordable.
“Our Mexican airline partners continue to believe in Los Angeles, and we grew the number of seats from Mexico to Los Angeles by 19.6 percent last year,” he said. “I consider that a major accomplishment, largely driven by how aggressive we were. Our Mexican airline partners take the long-term view.”
Factoring in any future travel ban or executive orders, Discover Los Angeles projects 7.2 million international arrivals for 2018, which would be a 2.8 percent year-over-year increase. Last year, the city had 48.3 million domestic and international visitors and it hopes to have 50 million total visitors by 2020.
International arrivals for the entire U.S. were down 3.6 percent through August 2017, the most recent month for which data is available, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. But data show the trend is improving. In July, the year-to-date slump was 4 percent.
Los Angeles is definitely paying attention to geopolitical and economic trends impacting foreign visitation from places like Mexico and elsewhere, but its latest campaign also demonstrates it feels U.S. travelers and their wallets have muscles, too.
Photo credit: Los Angeles is re-upping its "Everyone is Welcome" campaign and taking it to platforms like Hulu. Pictured is a still from the campaign. Discover Los Angeles