Skift Take

With source markets on lockdown and shifting border restrictions, destinations are targeting global and regional travelers they'd previously overlooked. The result? A rise in multilingual and cross cultural tourism campaigns. It’s about time.

Back in April, in the thick of the pandemic, embattled destination marketing organizations were focused on hitting the right note. Since then, destinations have faced a multitude of challenges in a rapidly changing society, from a pandemic that has kept their primary source markets shut down to a renewed call for a more racially diverse travel industry.

Over six months in, DMOs have resorted to casting a wider net to capture new markets near and far and to stay relevant in travelers’ minds. What we’re seeing as a result are campaigns with a personalized multilingual and multicultural approach that resonate with a more global and ethnically diverse audience. It all points to a growing post-Covid destination marketing reality: standing out in a sea of countries anxious to restart tourism will require going beyond messages on safety protocols.

Pure Grenada

“Locally, it did cause a little bit of a sensation,” Clarice Modeste-Curwen, Grenada’s minister of tourism and civil aviation, told Skift. “I am happy that my team came up with the idea.”

Modeste-Curwen surprised viewers on social media this month when she appeared in a “Pure Grenada Just for You“ campaign addressing travelers in fluent Spanish. This new series of Grenadians who work in tourism delivering multilingual messages is set to continue this month — a French one released last week — as the next phase of a health and safety focused campaign that launched in September.


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“We said, we have to reach a broader audience, we have to reach persons of a different taste,” Minister Modeste-Curwen said. “T[he 17th [of November] is German, and the plan is to go into other languages — Russian, Mandarin, every language — because while we love our traditional source markets and the persons who come from there, we realize that we need to broaden our scopes and we believe that one of the best ways is to say in the language that they best understand.”

Destinations routinely translate tourism campaign videos using closed captioning, but Grenada’s personalized language approach shows a departure from the norm to reach “the new global traveler” as Minister Modeste-Curwen said, beyond the destination’s primary US and European travelers who are currently limited in traveling.

Grenada has done surprisingly well in controlling Covid, with just over 30 cases and zero deaths thus far. Yet its tourism industry has faced a 70.39 percent tumble in stayover passengers for the year thus far, with 40,000 arrivals. Yachting has also seen a 51 percent decrease, while cruising dropped by 29 percent in the last season. To boot, flights from Europe were about to restart this month when borders there shut down again.

“[W]e were looking to expand our horizons even pre-Covid and we were looking up flights from Asia […] and we were looking at other countries like Russia and so on,” Minister Modeste-Curwen said. “[B]ut I think the whole issue of Covid, the pandemic, and how it might disable certain regions from traveling and enable certain others at certain times to travel to travel, I think it is a very wise thing to spread our net as far as possible and then when we see some traction, we can then deepen on our promotions in whichever destination that picks it up. So that’s where we are at the moment.”

Tourism New Zealand

In the first round of “Messages from NZ,” the Land of the Long White Cloud opted to stay on travelers’ minds by showcasing its multiethnic communities while making diverse travelers feel connected and safe to visit in the future. In the video, Kiwis of all ages and backgrounds speak in a number of languages that reflect their heritage, while sharing messages intended for friends or family around the world. It’s a creative mesh that conveys our humanity and interconnection across continents.

The campaign came on the heels of an intensified spotlight this past summer on New Zealand’s ad agencies, following the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter conversation, emphasizing the need to represent “all the people of New Zealand in campaigns.” In an interview with Radio New Zealand, Tourism New Zealand said it wanted the takeaway “to be around that we care about our people and place, that we’re diverse […] and of course, that the we are open to new ideas [.]”

The next phase of the campaign released in October with “Best Kept Secret” messages, continuing along the lines of inclusivity by showcasing a wide range of locals across race, gender, age, and mobility.

Visit Montserrat

Often eclipsed by its Caribbean neighbors’ golden beaches, Montserrat was experiencing growth pre-Covid, reaching over 20,000 visitors in 2019 for the first time since the 1995 volcanic eruption, thanks in large part to a 59 percent growth in cruise tourism and a primarily regional market, followed by the UK.

With no cruise ships nor European travelers for now, Montserrat’s latest tourism campaign highlights its geological features and outdoor adventure possibilities. What stands out is that the video features primarily young Black families and active Black travelers, who had been largely absent from a majority of pre Covid Caribbean global marketing videos until recently. “It is our hope that it would appeal to travelers who have an affinity with the outdoors, as well as members of the Montserratian Diaspora,” Rosetta West-Gerald, product development officer at Montserrat Tourism, said about the “Escape to Montserrat” campaign. Like other small Caribbean islands, Montserrat has managed to contain Covid, currently counting fewer than 20 cases.


Visit Israel

After normalizing relations with the United Arab Emirates, Visit Israel opted to craft a short, multilingual video message addressing future Emirati visitors, using a selection of Emirati music to accompany Israel’s varied landscapes. The clip, while short, resonated loudly and shows that incorporating cultural elements from the new source market could continue to be a key strategy in winning trust and conveying safety beyond Covid-ready sights and accommodations.

Visit Dubai

Launched in October, “Live Your Story” is Dubai Tourism’s major repositioning of its destination — which received 17.6 million visitors in 2019 — from being marketed as a city of skyscrapers in a pre-Covid world to “a destination that celebrates the cultures of over 200 nationalities and provides a range of diverse experiences.” Dubai Tourism’s CEO Issam Kazim called it a “transformative shift” and a new “customer focused approach.” It’s also another example of a net being cast wide to lure as many travelers from as near or far away as possible to recover tourism.

Expanding Multilingual, Contactless Services

Aside from pivoting into culturally aware tourism campaigns, a handful of destinations are working on incorporating additional languages to visitor service platforms to accommodate regional markets, or expanding access to in-country public health and emergency services in multiple languages.

Croatia recently launched a multilingual portal for nautical visitors to be able to pay their tourist tax online in German and Italian. “Given that the epidemiological recommendations of social distancing are still in force, in this way we contribute to the safety of boaters, but also of Croatian tourism workers,” Kristjan Staničić, director of the Croatian National Tourist Board, said.

In Japan, mobile carriers have launched a multilingual disaster information service, while Korea’s Gangnam district will add Russian and Arabic to its visitor app and mobile tourist guide in December.

Tainan, Taiwan’s major culinary destination, is preparing multilingual restaurant menus for its future regional tourists, translating them into Japanese, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese.

Embracing Diversity to Accelerate Post-Covid Recovery

A recent survey from Canadian marketing agency Ethnicity Matters concluded that understanding multicultural markets would lead to a stronger post-Covid recovery for brands, “especially those in the real estate and financial services sectors.” Why wouldn’t it lead to similar results for the tourism sector?

Diversity consultants agree that a shift appears to be taking place in the industry. Last week, the city of Boston — which received 19.9 million domestic and 2.9 million visitors a year in 2019 — announced its partnership with Colette Phillips Communications, a locally-based award-winning Black and female owned firm, to plan the next Visit Boston tourism campaign “to market Boston as welcoming to diverse visitors” with “attractions and events that speak to the experiences of people of color in Boston, and the campaign will highlight local minority-owned and run businesses and organizations.”

As DMOs aim for faster tourism recovery through new markets and as travelers grow conscious of choosing places that embrace diversity, personalized cross cultural messaging will be as important as conveying safety. Besides, it’s about time tourism campaigns reflected the multilingual and multicultural world in which we live.


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Tags: coronavirus recovery, destination marketing, tourism

Photo credit: Pure Grenada is one of several DMOs targeting new markets with multilingual and multicultural messaging. Courtesy of Grenada Tourism Authority / Courtesy of Grenada Tourism Authority

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