For New Yorkers who wouldn’t dream of hitting a crowded Times Square a year ago, the city says now is the perfect time for local exploration.
In November, nearly 78% of travelers around the world remained concerned about Covid-19 and 60% were not planning to travel to the country, according to travel research firm GlobalData. And the cities feel the pain. California could lose $ 54 billion in tourism alone from Covid-19, and New York City is not expected to recoup its nearly $ 47 billion in traveler spending by 2025.
Without international tourists and business travelers, tourism marketers tell residents about the wonders of their cities.
“Destination Marketing Organizations [DMOs] have had to be more responsive and creative in marketing strategies, and for many this has prompted them to invest more in promoting domestic tourism, ”said Johanna Bonhill-Smith, Tourism Analyst at GlobalData.
Many DMOs have relied on local heroes to speak directly to neighbors, serving as local influencers with direct connections to businesses and retailers in need of support.
Launched in late September, San Francisco Travel’s “Our Gate Is Open” campaign specifically targeted Californians. A series of interviews drew on recognizable residents, including Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr and Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola, to detail their love of San Francisco.
Since their launch, the videos have collectively reached 117,000 viewers with an engagement rate of 5%. More importantly, a partnership with Expedia, where part of the campaign took place, has booked over 14,000 nights in the past two months.
Unfortunately, it’s not close to what the city is used to. International visitors represent 28% of overnight visitors and nearly 60% of all overnight stays. According to Howard Pickett, director of marketing at San Francisco Travel, “for us to fully recover … we have to reclaim international markets.”
Instead of star-studded celebrities, Visit Baltimore bet on the city’s emerging artists and youth, spotlighting local artists, photographers, and small business owners. He even wrote a local poet to serve as the campaign’s senior editor.
“The idea of hometown tourism is something that we are tapping into,” said Sarah Schaffer, Director of Marketing for Visit Baltimore. “True Baltimorians are the heart of the countryside, so there is a sense of pride.”
Visit Baltimore, meanwhile, was in the midst of a rebranding that had been underway since 2018. The pandemic has also forced it to abandon plans to activate SXSW experiential marketing. The WCO has instead invested heavily in OOH advertising (some purchased before the pandemic) in neighboring cities to the northeast.
Since the campaign’s launch, total website traffic has increased 41% and pageviews for the city’s to-do list have increased 156%, according to the DMO. Web traffic from New Yorkers searching the site increased 56%, while searches from Washington, DC and Philadelphia increased 95% and 78%, respectively.
Likewise, instead of campaigning overseas and preparing to welcome its usual 13.5 million international tourists, DMO NYC & Company is advertising in its subways.
“Tourism marketing campaigns have had to shift from the typical ‘visit us now’ slogan to ‘hope to see you soon’ for international tourists aspiring to spark the urge to travel for future demand,” Bonhill-Smith said.
NYC & Company has teamed up with guerrilla documentary filmmaker Nicolas Heller (or New York Nico), to showcase local businesses to his nearly half a million Instagram followers as part of his “Everything in New York” campaign.