This new "friends not rivals" approach to marketing destinations might just get more traction from today's changed traveler.
Before the pandemic hit, destinations were vying separately for the same traveler — marketing budgets were ample as bed taxes were rolling in, and competing fiercely was par for the course.
But the pandemic’s harsh blow on destination marketing organizations across the board, from cities to islands, has caused them to shift their mindset from unabashed rivalry to collaboration in attracting a greater share of travelers’ budgets for the benefit of all, whereas in the past they might have competed for it.
The single-destination tourism marketing campaign will remain, but the multi-destination campaign approach — whether one region’s DMOs coming together or two international destinations offering the same niche experience — is on the rise.
Will this novel strategy manage to draw more consumers amid shifting border restrictions and a complex travel ecosystem? And is this shift in tourism marketing here to stay?
1. Three Big Cities, One Goal
Ottawa Tourism, Destination Toronto and Tourisme Montreal launched a joint $1.5 million tourism campaign this month — a first collaborative effort for the three major city DMOs, in an attempt to put Canada’s cities back on the map after Covid’s particularly rough hit on urban destinations.
The campaign, which was jointly funded and ideated, is a play on the rivalry among the cities and invites travelers to “try Canada’s favorite threesome,” with side by side visuals and hosts who compare and contrast their city’s features.
“The three of us being VPs of marketing for each DMO and recognizing the same shared challenge of business conditions, but also the realities of budget constraints, and recognizing that maybe we’ve got something stronger to tell — knowing that everyone was really seeing a lot of marketing for rural destinations,” said Jon Mamela, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Destination Toronto.
Having an existing solid relationship in place is primarily what made this campaign possible, Mamela said. Sticking together also meant a chance to make a bigger impact in reaching the 10 million Canadians that travel across the three populated corridors.
“This is great buzz and puts cities back on the map of consideration, showcasing that they’re still a safe place to come and enjoy and have fun and there’s a lot you still can do,” said Mamela.
The friendly rivalry may never completely fade when it comes to which city has the best hockey team, craft beer or poutine, Mamela added, noting that the campaign is complementary to each destination’s individual campaigns.
Air Canada and Via Rail have since joined the “city friends with benefits” as partners, offering 20 percent off travel between the three cities.
2. Two Destinations, One Yachting Culture
Bermuda Tourism Authority and Visit Fort Lauderdale have signed a two-year agreement to collaborate on promoting their respective destinations as ideal yachting vacation spots.
This means launching a joint marketing campaign which, unlike other DMOs vying for the same tourist at the same time, won’t directly pit Fort Lauderdale against Bermuda because of their varied peak seasons. The two marine tourism destinations receive the bulk of their visitors at different times of the year — May through October for Bermuda, and the winter months for Fort Lauderdale.
“As Bermuda and Greater Fort Lauderdale engineer tourism recoveries, this kind of collaboration is particularly meaningful,” said Bermuda premier David Burt, in a release. “It’s a fantastic example of two destinations finding greater success collaborating with one another rather than competing. I look forward to two years of exciting innovation as the Bermuda Tourism Authority and Visit Lauderdale bring this partnership to life.”
For Bermuda and Fort Lauderdale’s destination marketing organizations, combining resources and creative efforts means increased reach and exposure while spending more efficiently.
“Both offer the allure and beauty along with on-the-water luxury experiences with distinctly different aesthetics,” said Charles Jeffers II, CEO at Bermuda Tourism Authority. “Through marketing, public relations and events, Bermuda and Greater Fort Lauderdale will be highlighted as harbours for sun-seeking visitors of all sorts — those permanently part of the jet set crowd and travellers who enjoy a vacation setting dotted with yachts and superyachts.”
For Broward County Mayor Steve Gellard, who is featured in the “Go Where the Yachts Go” inaugural joint campaign, it’s an initiative that will bring the high paying jobs necessary for economic recovery.
3. One Region, One Seasonal Market
What do Destination British Columbia, Destination Vancouver, Destination Greater Victoria, Tourism Whistler, and Tourism Richmond have in common? They all vie for tourists from the state of Washington, who make up approximately 25 percent of the province’s international visitors and 40 percent of all its U.S. visits.
This month, Destination British Columbia launched its first cross-border tourism campaign since Covid, in what it described as a “Team BC” approach — collaborating with all the province’s tourism marketing offices that usually invest in the Washington market.
The joint campaign, “Head North, Where Another World Awaits,” focuses on Fall experiences across the province to encourage Washington residents to cross the border and explore rural and urban spots, while supporting local businesses.
“With its close proximity and its status as the #1 largest market for BC from the US, Washington provided a substantial opportunity to drive immediate travel to BC for the fall, all while piloting a new process to increase collaboration and efficiency among the DMOs, and make a big splash as we re-entered the US market,” said Maya Lange, vice president of global marketing at Destination BC.
This collaborative approach is also an opportunity for British Columbia to boost uniform safety messaging across the province and encourage responsible visitation.
4. A Collaborative Future for tourism campaigns?
For now, the destinations that have ventured into this cross-DMO marketing world will be keeping an eye on how it translates into visitor numbers.
“We want to assess how this resonates with travelers, with our own communities,” said Destination Toronto’s Mamela.
Destination Canada told Skift that another domestic destination partnership was in the works and will be released this month.
“This Team Canada approach is what will make us stand out in a highly aggressive global sector,” said Marsha Walden, CEO at Destination Canada. “Together, we will elevate Canada’s competitiveness as a tourism destination, enabling Canadian culture to thrive and regenerative economies to emerge.”
The challenge with this strategy will be navigating joint messaging amid shifting travel restrictions and an unpredictable ongoing global pandemic.
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Photo credit: Bermuda and Fort Lauderdale's first joint tourism marketing campaign augurs more collaborations ahead from DMOs with shared niche tourism offerings. Courtesy of Bermuda Tourism Authority / Bermuda Tourism Authority