Ask Skift is our artificial intelligence chatbot that offers a new way for readers to better engage with our breadth of knowledge and our latest experimentation creating products travel professionals rely on. It digs into news stories, Skift Research reports, Airline Weekly issues, Skift Live events, the Daily Lodging Report, and more to answer many questions about the travel industry.

Following on our story about footballer Lionel Messi’s deal with Saudi Arabia’s tourism board, we turned to Ask Skift to learn more about celebrity travel marketing deals.

What is the history of efficacy of celebrity endorsements in tourism marketing? Can you give some examples?
Celebrity endorsements have been effective in promoting tourism and building brand images for destinations. They help highlight tourism products, announce changes or transitions, and attract attention from new markets. Some examples include:

1. Dubai has used multiple celebrity brand ambassadors, such as Jennifer Aniston and Chris Hemsworth for Emirates Airlines, and commissioned a promotional film featuring Zac Efron and Jessica Alba (October 2022).
2. Abu Dhabi partnered with John Cena to promote international sporting events and announce the reopening of borders for vaccinated international travelers (October 2022).
3. Etihad Airways featured Nicole Kidman in their ads (October 2022).
4. Qatar tapped David Beckham to activate the UK market and promote the upcoming football World Cup (October 2022).
5. Switzerland used Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh to promote the destination to the Indian market, considering the popularity of Hindi cinema among Indians and in large parts of South Asia (October 2022).

However, it is essential for brands to invest in building, delivering, and sustaining the promised experience to establish credibility and trust. Once destinations create general awareness and attract initial inbound traffic, maintaining that trust is crucial for repeat visits and long-term success (October 2022).

Influencer marketing has also gained prominence in recent years, with destination marketing organizations developing strategies to leverage the reach of social media influencers. A 2022 Pew Research survey found that 53 percent of social media users purchased something after seeing an influencer they follow post about it (May 2023). Influencer marketing is considered more trustworthy by many people than traditional advertising
What are some examples of celebrity endorsements in tourism marketing gone wrong?
One example of a celebrity endorsement in tourism marketing gone wrong is the case of Miami rapper Pitbull and Visit Florida. The relationship between the two made headlines in December 2016, as the terms of their work were called into question by local politicians, ultimately leading to negative publicity for the destination (Skift, 03/16/2017). Another example is the backlash against African American celebrities promoting their lavish vacations in Ghana, sparking controversy and raising questions about the inequity that this marketing approach may be driving (Skift, 05/09/2022). These instances highlight the potential risks and challenges associated with celebrity endorsements in tourism marketing.