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Even in 2018, many travel companies still hesitate to engage people of color through marketing. Those companies, which are leaving money on the table, could take a cue from Visit Philadelphia's long-running video series featuring a member of The Roots.

Philadelphia’s tourism board has seen continuous success from a black-centric video series over the past year, and now, on the heels of that visibility, the board will expand its efforts to market to people of color.

The organization will launch its first integrated marketing campaign targeting Latino travelers in 2019, although details are yet unavailable. “We’re still in the early planning phase, but have assembled a local advisory committee and completed our U.S. Latino travel research,” said Visit Philadelphia’s new president and CEO Jeff Guaracino by email. Guaracino just took over a few weeks ago for Meryl Levitz, founding president and CEO, who spent 40 years promoting Philadelphia tourism.

According to Longwoods International data, Greater Philadelphia received approximately 2.3 million Latino visitors in 2017, 5.3 percent of total visitation, and the goal is to build on that. For seven years, Visit Philadelphia has employed a staff member dedicated to reaching the Latino market.

“We know that 71 percent of U.S. Latino travelers are repeat visitors to the cities they love,” said Guaracino. “Visitors will be drawn to the same things residents of this historic, multicultural city are drawn to.”

The AMOR sculpture lives in Philadelphia’s Sister Cities Park. Photo by C. Smyth, Visit Philadelphia.

Latino travelers comprise a $42 billion market, according to Mandala Research.

This new campaign comes a year after the tourism board released its video series We Got You, which continues to drive visibility for the city. The series targeted black travelers and featured Tarik “Black Thought” Trotter of the Grammy Award-winning hip-hop band The Roots. Black travelers now comprise a $63 billion market, up 31 percent from seven years ago, according to newly released data from Mandala Research.

“We’re still riding that wave. People are still interested in it,” said Jenea Robinson, director of public relations at Visit Philadelphia, of the video series. The series won a 2018 Philly Ad Club Addy Award and a 2018 Cynopsis short-form video award. Aspire TV hosted the series on its platform and the tourism board is now seeking additional distribution channels. A social media survey targeted to a black audience and anyone who watched the series showed that 92 percent said the videos made them want to visit the city.

Creating content around travelers of color does not exclude white consumers, it only broadens the audience, according to Robinson. “Some non-African American viewers watched the series and said, ‘We love this,’” she said.

Trotter is a Philly native and in the video series, he took black influencers like Dustin Ross, co-host of the podcast The Friend Zone, around his city, showcasing select attractions, shops, and restaurants. His true love for Philadelphia, comfort level, knowledge, and sense of style came through clearly. The videos had an all-black cast and highlighted black-owned businesses.

This type of targeted messaging has a track record. Seventy-two percent of black millennial travelers say that when a brand acknowledges their racial or ethnic identity, it makes them want to book with that brand, according to a study by DigitasLBi. Fifty-six percent would pay more if messaging were more relevant to their personal identity, and of those, 47 percent said they would pay $100–199 more for accommodations per night, and 22 percent would pay $200–299 more per night.

Visit Philadelphia was in part lucky — any tourism board would be fortunate to land someone as high-profile as Trotter. The Roots are world-famous and are the house band for The Tonight Show. The Roots were founded in 1987 in Philadelphia by Trotter and Questlove.

For cash-strapped tourism boards, Robinson suggested an affordable, grassroots approach to highlighting underrepresented voices: Walk around the community, talk to people about their city, and get it on camera.

“Just showing it on your channels is a great starting point, and there’s a lot of return on that. Social media is a low-cost entry point,” she said.

When it comes to hiring marketers of color, there’s a significant correlation between diversity and innovation, with innovation being tied to positive financial performance, according to a Harvard Business Review study spanning eight countries, and many other studies. “The relationship between diversity and innovation was stronger for companies with significant operations and interests in multiple countries,” said the Harvard study, which suggests that the travel industry could particularly benefit from diversifying its ranks.

“It’s 2018. I don’t even see why that’s a conversation people are having,” said Robinson about the idea that diversity is good for business.


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Tags: black travel movement, marketing, visit philly

Photo credit: The 12-foot bronze statue of Philadelphia boxing legend Joe Frazier sits directly outside of the Xfinity Live! complex. Visit Philadelphia is still seeing success from its year-old black-centric video series. Visit Philadelphia

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