Tourism and territorial marketing: the trends

an in-depth look at global and European strategies regarding territorial promotion campaigns to relaunch the tourism and travel sectors.

Last year we experienced, observed (and sometimes suffered) major changes in consumer habits and preferences. In all activities, every single brand had to review its communication and sales strategy. Of these, the most affected were certainly the brands and institutions in the tourism sector. Indeed, no one could have imagined what has happened and is still happening. Just think of the increase in the use of QR code technology for access to events or VR fitting rooms for stores. 

What we are asking ourselves as an agency is how has the way of communicating the tourism and territory product changed? What strategies are emerging? How to support the sector by designing campaigns capable of interpreting the public’s feelings? To answer these questions we have selected and analysed some campaigns of brands/institutions that from our point of view have been able to better adapt to the present context dictated by Covid-19.

First we wanted to consider the methodological approach: as mentioned, the pandemic has changed the way people do practically everything and obviously also the way they interact with brands. Looking at these campaigns, some very important points emerge that a good designer should always keep in mind.

1. Intercepting consumer trends and where possible anticipating them

The tools we have at our disposal for this purpose are many and often based on the Data Driven approach (Hashtags, Google Trends, etc.), but it is still essential to be able to create direct contact with people in order to collect this information, by attending and being present in the physical and digital places where we discuss or meet. The experiential approach can be decisive.

2. Setting up a reactive strategy

As is the case in nature for some species, speed in adapting to new situations can make the difference between life and death. Just as a trend can change direction in a matter of hours, we must be able to make the best use of all the channels at our disposal, make unpleasant choices like cancelling an event, or courageous ones like modifying a call to action by transferring it to another channel.

3. Involving media partners

The design of the dissemination of a campaign is another very important aspect, not only for the optimisation of budgets but also for the relations and relationships that can be triggered between brands and audiences. Identifying media partners and publishers with common interests can facilitate this process and ensure that the campaign is longer lasting and more effective.

4. Listening to emotions: The concept of escapism

Finally, the most important point for us these days. Escapology always wins. Although it is undisputed that streaming services are experiencing a real golden age, it is equally true that the users/consumers of these services, which are in fact a form of escapism, increasingly want to be involved in real experiences. This is where we need to focus on figuring out how (with all the security guarantees) to engage people and ask: “what do they need now?”. Let’s get down to business and look at some of the campaigns that have worked best and that have been activated in Italy, Europe and overseas!



The first example concerns the Colorado Tourism Office in collaboration with their media agency MMGY. Instead of thinking about what can’t be done, they have tried to focus on the concept of ‘change’ and the need to connect with the local population, thus encouraging proximity tourism.

The key word has therefore become ‘staycation’, or holidays close to home (from ‘stay’ stay + ‘holiday’ holiday), rediscovering one’s local area and planning adventures and fun outings within a few kilometres and perhaps being able to experience something out of the ordinary. 

This concept, with which we are familiar in Italy (just think of “slow food”) has opened up new narrative possibilities for agencies around the world, offering the possibility of including other values to traditional campaigns such as sustainability, km0, and wellness more generally.


All this was already happening in 2020. But in the second Covid-19 summer we are witnessing other interesting dynamics. As we often hear: ‘unity is strength!’, and apparently outside national and European borders there are those who can do it really well! Staying overseas, this year we have a collective campaign that rewrites many rules. More than 70 companies have joined efforts for a common goal, to get people travelling again. ‘Let’s Go There’ is the U.S. Travel Association’s new national campaign created by agency Dentsu Mcgarrybowen. 

The message is beyond simple: let’s go there, let’s go anywhere, just go!  Beyond the ‘let’s go there’ rhetoric, the campaign involves the likes of Marriott, Disney, Delta and American Airlines, so imagine the degree of complexity these simple words encapsulate.  

Behind the invitation to return to travelling and planning adventures lies another urgency, to save an entire industry sector (12.1 million jobs at risk according to the World Travel & Tourism Council). To counteract the heavy layoffs, while not conveying a sense of danger and anxiety, the aim was to appeal to the sense of belonging, of American patriotism, whereby booking a holiday becomes more important than actually taking it, what is important is to revive the industry’s economy. The commercials were aired on the major broadcast networks NBC, ABC, CBS, ESPN and of course Youtube and Hulu. Again, the element of ‘dissemination’ literally became the focus of the campaign. At several levels, proactive involvement was required, from the audience/recipient as well as from all those involved. 

Sharing and embedding campaign materials (videos, graphics, etc.) on proprietary channels will spread the message and reach the largest number of potential travellers, a collective force that can be far more powerful than all the paid spaces combined!”

However, the summer holidays in the US have brought only a small part of the recovery to the still-struggling industry; airline bookings for the Labor Day weekend made between 1 July and 17 August were down 77 per cent, and hotel bookings were down 54 per cent year-on-year. (Data: Adara)

How we fare on this side we know, the estimates and numbers however favoured different assessments in some cases. 

holidays are returning

According to an analysis by SRM (Società studi e ricerche del mediterraneo) reported by sole24ore, tourism in the belpaese is ready to restart and will recover 67% compared to 2019 figures, especially in the south. From the report, the data that confirms a universal trend is that which refers to public sentiment.

We are talking about the desire to travel and escape, this is what people feel and seek, even from us. This desire manifests itself as an intention to purchase, of course, only if accompanied by the clarity of information in terms of health and safety protocols.

The watchwords in our case too are: experiential tourism, residential tourism or ‘staycation’, cycle tourism, and everything that can be linked to the outdoors.


But that’s not all, in fact another attractive resource has emerged in Milan to help relaunch the tourism sector thanks to the easy-going concept dedicated to the world of work. We are not too far from what we have seen with the spin-off of the stars and stripes campaign entitled ‘Let’s Go There’. The concept of a business trip is thus turned upside down, the stay in the city becomes enjoyable, an opportunity to discover the cultural heritage of the area.  Images of people enjoying aperitifs on elegant, sunny terraces by the pool contrast with the gloomy memory of last winter’s health crisis. 

Obviously there is still a lot of uncertainty, government guidelines change rapidly and do not make it any easier for consumers to plan their holiday who are forced to play with fate. This state of mind cannot be overlooked when planning such a campaign. The most widespread sentiment globally at the moment is that of escapism, going back to travelling even with the imagination, this means wanting to go back to dreaming and planning for the future! But how will a campaign stand out from the enormous ‘sea of sameness’ that will sweep over us once the heaviest restrictions fall away? Apparently many are turning to the quality of experience, another hot topic in communication in this sector.


The trend is very clear, experiential will take over, in communication as in service delivery. Spending habits have now inevitably changed and consequently if you want to attract your audience as well as new consumers you will need to think about more holistic marketing campaigns especially for in-store.

In fact, the pandemic has generated and fuelled in people the desire to ‘have experiences’, who among us has not intimately decided to do activities put away for too long in the drawer once possible? It is precisely this feeling that advertising should also focus on. After all, show business and entertainment are already doing this, just think of what happened with the phenomenon of the Netflix TV series entitled Tiger King where in a very short time, and thanks to collective word of mouth, the phrase “Carole did it” achieved the same notoriety as “Who killed Laura Palmer?”.

The other emotion that can be leveraged is the desire to rebuild relationships with loved ones, friends you haven’t seen in a long time, getting together to experience new travel experiences. This too can be a great opportunity in terms of advertising messages. Through experiential marketing and through engaging activations those who manage to bring people together through new channels or with content that helps improve connections between people will have won the challenge of our times!


Let us now take a look at some of the major campaigns that have been released in recent months that have attracted the most interest.


Iceland’s tourism campaign (by SS+K) urges travellers to ‘live life to the fullest by experiencing whatever adventure they desire’. The approach of the tourism agency Visit Iceland is precisely that of crossing points off the fateful ‘bucket list’.

The invitation is precisely to finally ‘tackle the list’, and to stimulate this process, the creatives of the SS+K agency proposed to give tourists boots made from recycled tracksuits and hiking clothes. No longer a communication focused on the beauty of the landscapes (which is taken for granted), but decidedly aimed at action and outdoor activities. Even the medium used for dissemination, such as a music video clip by Icelandic rapper Cell7 and producer Ásgeir Orri Ásgeirsson, breaks the classic promotional mould. (Launched on 24 June, the music video has already been viewed by more than 460,000 people on YouTube in less than a week).

That’s not all, the multi-channel campaign includes experiential actions, such as the pop-up shop placement on Rainbow Street in the centre of Reykjavik during the month of July in collaboration with the eco-friendly brand Will’s Vegan. Inside the store it is possible to recycle old tracksuit trousers and create limited edition bags and boots with the fabric obtained.

Finally, a bespoke website has been created that allows users to virtually try on the boots and the sports or adventure activities available in Iceland.


The Swiss woman (aided by Wirz BBDO), on the other hand, lays it on flat, just like Roger Federer! One of the testimonials of the ‘No Drama’ campaign together with world cinema icon Robert De Niro. In a campaign that was decidedly more traditional in its methods as well as in the messages it contained, the focus was on the beauty of the landscapes but which nevertheless stood out for its irony!


England with the work of Uncommon Creative Studio does a similar operation to that of Switzerland and focuses everything on the medium of video. In its campaign it uses one of this summer’s main topics, namely the desire to escape! In order to do this, they also chose to engage an international top player such as rock star Iggy Pop, who lent his voice to the commercial.


An interesting operation is the collaboration of two brands, Airbnb and Volvic (mineral water), a cross-media campaign combining promotion, sales, experience and branding. A decidedly ‘exotic’ and ‘unconventional’ destination such as a cabin (a room) immersed in greenery and surrounded by 80 volcanoes was made available at the price of 1€. Here again, the values of ecology and the feeling of escapism emerge.


New York launches a $30 million global tourism campaign as travel restrictions ease.

It is the largest investment in advertising ever made by the territorial tourism organisation NYC & Company. Comprehensive and effective, making full use of all available tools .


The goal of the campaign is one, to bring tourists back to the Big Apple and its five main districts, but with an eye on local tourists. The attempt is to make its inhabitants rediscover the city, make them fill its spaces again. After ten years of consecutive growth in tourism (with $7 billion in local tax revenues) this year the volume dropped dramatically by 50 per cent. A great deal of space has been given to the world of education through tailor-made content disseminated on the official NY City website. The other aspect is to set an example, to show everyone that it is possible to leave safely.

Safely explore and rediscover the places (including entertainment) that have made our city famous! So the city asked its citizens to become ambassadors by creating the campaign entitled “All In NYC” involving both guerrilla documentary filmmaker Nicolas Heller (or New York Nico) who produced 10 documentaries, and the users themselves through User Generated Content actions.

The result was more than positive, so much so that the web traffic of New Yorkers searching for information on the city’s website increased by 56%, with more than 89% of viewers watching more than half of each video. (the average is usually 20%)


London is no different and has planned its own campaign starting in June with a £7 million budget. This campaign, assigned to the agency TMW, also aims to shake up the local economy. It is the biggest communication effort ever. The aim of the ‘Let’s Do London’ campaign is to attract domestic tourists, who traditionally avoid the hustle and bustle of London’s international summer crowds. 

“With restrictions on international travel likely to continue this year, Londoners and visitors to the UK have a unique opportunity to experience all that the capital has to offer without the queues” – Mayor Sadiq Khan

The multi-channel campaign is supported by all institutions in the city and comes to life on TV, radio, OOH, digital advertising and social media. Activities to spread the campaign are the most transversal and include the creation and management of art exhibitions, one-off events and installations along the Thames, outdoor film screenings and night-time museum openings as part of the ‘London Lates’ initiative.  There is also room for unconventional billboards and street art, with drawings by one of the UK’s most influential artists, David Hockney, appearing on the famous London Underground, and to close the circle, installations involving and altering the urban landscape such as those promoted by the London Design Festival and Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Asphalt Art Initiative.


San Francisco has also adopted a similar ‘tourism-internet’ strategy by targeting mainly its citizens.

Launched at the end of September, San Francisco Travel’s ‘Our Gate Is Open’ campaign specifically targeted Californians and its local heroes such as Golden State Warriors team coach Steve Kerr or film director Francis Ford Coppola who, through interviews, were able to declare their love for the city, extolling its undisputed beauty.

The videos collectively reached 117,000 viewers with an engagement rate of 5%. Even more important was the partnership with Expedia, in which part of the campaign was developed: in fact, it is recorded that it led to more than 14,000 nights being booked in the last two months. On the other hand, the regional promotion agency ‘Visit Baltimore’ bet on the city’s emerging artists and young people, highlighting local artists, photographers and small business owners. 

This type of operation is proving successful. Suffice it to say that since the campaign was launched, total website traffic has increased by 41% and page views for the city’s to-do list have increased by 156%.


To conclude, another campaign that impressed us positively! The campaign launched by the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board uses promising local ambassadors and artists, while on several levels it tries to convey the message that all vaccinated tourists are welcome! In addition to this, cross-cutting themes such as inclusivity and gender freedom are used. The approach is slightly different and the campaign content also addresses proximity tourism in the ‘drive & fly’ mode.

Prominent names involved in the campaign include: Open hip-hop artist Mike Eagle, the host of comedy central ‘The new negroes’, Madame Gandhi, Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles, Jon Park and the city’s well-known Black Sand Collective Surfers

Open Mike Eagle says: “Los Angeles is a movie. The lighting is perfect. The soundtrack is just right. The costumes are incredible. The sets are amazing. Everyone’s here, ready for the next scene. L.A. is a movie. It’s a musical.” Others also call the city a musical, then a comedy, an action movie and a comeback story. They discuss the last description in English and Spanish until Open Mike Eagle concludes, ‘Nah. Hold up. It’s your comeback story.

The use of storytelling and the audiovisual medium dominates. The 60-second spot is intense and well-packaged, and Open Mike Eagle opens the commercial by saying: 

“Los Angeles is a film. The lighting is perfect. The soundtrack is perfect. The costumes are incredible. The sets are incredible. Everyone is here, ready for the next scene. L.A. is a film. It is a musical”. 

The campaign runs for 10 weeks on cable channels such as Comedy Central, Viceland, Bravo, HGTV and the Travel Channel as well as on smart OTT systems such as Roku and Sling. Interesting from a strategic point of view is the positioning on the IMDB home page starting 23 April, two days before the Academy Awards ceremony, of course the Facebook, Instagram and TripAdvisor networks close the loop.