The COVID-19 pandemic may continue to curb travel plans, but it has not curbed the creativity of the tourism industry. 2021 brought a bevy of innovative tourism marketing campaigns to set the tone for an exhilarating future.
Here are some of our favourite tourism marketing moments of this past year, and the themes we thought struck the most on-the-money tone for eager adventurers. As you brainstorm for your marketing in 2022? Look no further for sublime inspiration.
Campaigns that speak directly to locals
Civic pride is a huge motivator, and some tourism campaigns focus almost exclusively on attracting locals.
1. The Children’s Museum of Manhattan’s “Tie-Dye July” campaign
In New York City, the Children’s Museum of Manhattan partnered with Rit Dye and Bombas to invite local families to “Tie-Dye July” events. Every Saturday in July 2021, families were invited to come make a tie-dye creation to take home – a nice way to support local families who’ve been cooped up for a long time, and a smart way to loop in partners with deeper marketing pockets.
2. The New York Historical Society’s “History Responds” campaign
Just a few blocks away, the New York Historical Society has been curating an ongoing exhibit collecting materials related to the COVID pandemic, with a focus on New York that’s dear to the hearts of local citizens. As part of its “History Responds” initiative, the museum reached out to New Yorkers for seemingly mundane artifacts such as flyers that reference the pandemic, COVID-19-related mass emails, face masks with slogans, and protest signs. This ambitious effort has been praised in the press, including the New York Times and ArtNet News.
The post-pandemic tourism campaign theme
Visitors may be eager to get back to travel and adventure, but it’s not as simple as saying “Welcome back!” People are still nervous about their health and safety, so the brands and venues addressing concerns head-on have an advantage. They send a reassuring message that they have the wellbeing of visitors in mind.
Here are two of the best 2021 tourism campaigns that addressed safety and wellbeing:
3. Israel’s “Welcome Back to Israel!” tourism campaign
Israel isn’t just a country with “thousands of years of history”. It’s hit “a new landmark” as one of the most vaccinated countries on the planet. While this campaign video, with its upbeat background track, shows people enjoying themselves, you’ll note that they’re conspicuously outside – at the beach, rollerblading, walking through marketplaces and historical sites. There’s no beating around the bush with this message. The narrator notes that Israel is “one of the safest destinations in the world,” offering fully vaccinated people a “green passport” so they can freely enter indoor spaces and return home without quarantining.
4. New York City’s “NYC Reawakens” tourism campaign
In this earnest video, NYC & Company President and CEO Fred Dixon and restaurateur Danny Meyer talk candidly about New York City’s return to tourism. The city that was hit hard in the early days of the pandemic is “re-awakening all around us” and “very much alive and thriving” according to Dixon. The video shows fast-paced clips of people on the streets, on the subway, and in restaurant parklets, with a special focus on welcoming back international visitors: “We’re going to show them a whole new side of New York they never even knew existed!”
Make it your own: The pandemic is not over, but cities, countries, museums, and attractions that have the right policies in place are safely welcoming back visitors who’ve been cooped up for a long time. Don’t shy away from this subject in your marketing campaign. While these examples are about entire places, even the smallest venue can take advantage of the “welcome back” theme.
Escapism: Get away from your woes
Look, it’s been stressful. We’ve all slogged through the last two years. You deserve to unwind! So, what do you want? This is the question asked at the beginning of Greece’s 2021 tourism marketing campaign.
5. Greece’s “All You Want Is Greece” tourism campaign
The question is asked, and the answer is supplied: “All you want is Greece.” Hedonism is given the respect it deserves in a series of five short videos promoting the many beauties of this Mediterranean country.
6. Tiqets’ “Summer of a Lifetime” tourism campaign
Spain! Italy! France! The UK! The USA! The Netherlands!
These were the destinations featured in Tiqets’ own campaign “Summer of a Lifetime,” which received press coverage in all of these countries and more with its upbeat messaging: “You know you’ve been waiting for this moment, and it’s time to get your spark back at the most iconic museums and attractions.” This campaign theme tapped into a feeling many experienced during lockdown: a yearning for the good old days. The campaign encourage people to take full advantage of summer 2021 and do all the things they missed most during lockdown.
Make it your own: Having fun and getting away from it all will never go out of style, but in a time when we’ve all been suffering just a little more than usual, it’s a particularly apt marketing message. Emphasize the ways in which your venue helps visitors escape – either because they get lost in the fun or because you offer a serious opportunity for R&R.
The theme of environmental awareness
Fun is great, but of course, what we do today affects tomorrow. This is an environmental truth, but it’s also the first line of a moving marketing campaign video from Scotland, one of a handful of 2021 tourism campaigns that tackled the theme of environmental awareness and respect for the land.
7. Scotland’s “Yours to Enjoy. Responsibly” tourism marketing campaign
“Let’s keep Scotland special,” urges the narrator of this peaceful video, which urges the visitor to “Take only pictures, and leave only footprints,” while simultaneously showing the visual splendour of the northern country and its culture.
8. Portugal’s “Hello World – It’s Me, Tomorrow” tourism marketing campaign
A hopeful-sounding child’s voice opens this video about the beauty of Portugal’s landscape – its patterns and textures, and its hues “from blue to green, and all the colors in between,” as the camera pans over stunning vistas.
Make it your own: While tourism campaigns have historically been about the visitor experience, these examples pivot to being about the land, and their message is a beautiful one. Environmentalism isn’t just a trendy marketing theme right now; it’s extremely important to the tourism industry. Marketing campaigns that are transparent about this fact win points with travelers for being candid and real. At the same time, you don’t have to make a hard sell about coming to visit. Just offer a glorious glimpse at what a visit now and in the future could be like.
Tourism campaign themes full of irreverence and humor
If there are two universal truths right now, they might be:
- We could all use a good laugh
- We’re spending a lot more time online than ever before
Why not take advantage of these fundamental properties of being human in 2021?
Social media is obviously one of the best ways to promote your attraction on a budget and reach a potentially enormous audience, but to attract attention in a crowded online space, you need a creative idea.
9. The Black Country Living Museum’s TikTok campaign
TikTok is a great platform for getting irreverent, and the Black Country Living Museum is good at TikTok. All through 2021, the museum in the historic Black Country of Dudley, England, taught mini history lessons with actors dressed in Victorian garb juxtaposed against modern hip-hop music.
10. The Met’s “MetTwinning” campaign
There’s been a social trend recently of people imitating classic works of art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City (“The Met”) capitalized on this rage with its #MetTwinning social media campaign in 2020 and 2021. The campaign has been very successful, and The Art Newspaper commended the Met for using smart marketing to gain hundreds of thousands of followers and a huge bump in engagement throughout the lockdown days of the pandemic. Other museums, like the Getty Museum, followed suit.
Make it your own: Social media is the ideal forum for irreverent, humorous tourism campaign marketing, and it can be quite low effort in terms of production cost to produce fun original content. Lean into the more social-savvy members of your team for original ideas for fresh content.
These are just a few of the dominant themes of tourism campaigns in 2021, and we can’t wait to see what 2022 has in store. Will your museum, attraction, or tourism agency make next year’s list?