Skift Take

Pandemic ups and downs aside, a destination must stay top of mind with travelers. For Milan, repositioning the city's image means finding creative ways to hit the right note of cheer until a recovery is here to stay.

Christmas is around the corner, though it may feel more reminiscent of the gloom of 2020 for the tourism industry with Omicron’s ongoing lockdowns and a fresh mounting maze of restrictions.

But a new destination campaign from Milan serves as a reminder that for global tourism’s rebound post-pandemic, it’s more about the long game than immediate gains when it comes to repositioning in a competitive manner. 

The new “Milano: It Changes More Than Just Your Look” campaign by Yes Milano, the city’s convention bureau, created by Wunderman Thompson and produced by Movie Magic, takes a 90-second, humorous and memorable cinematic approach to Santa Claus’ visit to the Italian fashion hub.

Santa’s experiences unfold as he goes beyond designer labels and hops from iconic museums to savoring panettone in a Milanese trattoria with friends, hitting the club, and later enjoying the opera before finally heading back to the North Pole to distribute presents in time for Christmas Eve.

The campaign is set to run until the end of January across the European Union and aims to welcome the restart of tourism. The timing of the message, of course, is likely to raise eyebrows. Cases of Omicron are on the rise in Italy, lockdowns are increasing in western Europe, and a week ago, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control warned U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to Italy due to a very high level of Covid.

But Milan’s tourism leaders are looking beyond travelers’ short-term plans.

“Italy is still open to travel to vaccinated visitors and we will continue to follow the advice of our national government,” said Luca Martinazzoli, CEO of Milano & Partners, in response to Skift. “The campaign aims to not only inspire travelers to consider Milan next time they travel safely, whenever that may be, but also to encourage people to reimagine Milan beyond its longstanding reputation as the fashion capital of the world.”

Officials expressed confidence during the campaign launch that the city is well positioned to withstand the new wave, with 90 percent of adults vaccinated and booster shots distributed to 20 percent in the Milan metro area so far, as well as a “super green pass” requirement since December 6 to enter most public spaces including museums, theaters, restaurants and nightclubs. Tourists are also required to  provide a negative PCR test done in the previous 48 hours to entering Italy, or a negative rapid antigen test done in the preceding 24 hours.

Ultimately, Milan’s humorous take is a reminder that destinations remain in an ultra-competitive pool of options when tourism does come back in full force, and staying top of mind remains critical.

So if a campaign brings that much more cheer into consumers’ homes amid the gloom and hits the right sentiment, it’s probably a smarter marketing tactic than it might seem at first glance.

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Tags: coronavirus recovery, destinations, italy, marketing, meetings and conventions, milan, tourism campaigns

Photo credit: Santa goes to Milan and finds more than fashion in a new tourism campaign from Yes Milano Courtesy of Yes Milano / Yes Milano

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