We have done work with many travel brands. Destinations, CVBs, airlines and hotel chains all offer unique experiences of their own. We tap into your hospitality side for promotional campaigns…giving travelers a taste of your brand before they even book their flight. Here we provide five tourism marketing ideas for you to try. We challenge you to take a fresh look at tourism marketing that extends beyond digital and print.

tourism marketing ideas

One of our favorite niches is the tourism industry. Destinations know all about experiences, so it’s fun to wrap those same values up into their own advertising campaigns. Here are the top five tourism marketing ideas we’ve seen travel brands activate with experiential:

  • Scavenger Hunts
  • Adventure Stunts
  • Music
  • Pop-Up Activations
  • Virtual Reality

Also, while you’re here, travel over to our list of top 10 experiential marketing examples for travel brands.

1. Scavenger Hunts

New Mexico’s Catch the Kid campaign is one of the most well-known examples of a scavenger hunt for tourism promotion. The New Mexico Tourism Department, with M&C SAATCHI, created a campaign that challenged residents and visitors to take part in a summer-long scavenger hunt. They would use a website or app to gather clues to determine the whereabouts of Billy the Kid. After scanning a banner or uploading a photo from that destination, a new clue would be revealed. Weekly prizes, such as lodging or meal packages, were given as incentives to keep the scavenger hunt exciting. Players had to download a warrant for Billy’s arrest. A grand prize of $10,000 was to be awarded to the person who would nab Billy the Kid. There were actually two winners who both reached Billy simultaneously, and they agreed to split the reward. (Source: Event Marketer)

Scavenger hunts are one of the most popular tourism marketing tactics, and there are many ways they’ve been executed. Delta Air Lines took their version of a scavenger hunt to Snapchat this fall. Visit Baltimore is running a promotional scavenger hunt through June. Explore Minnesota celebrates an annual scavenger hunt they call Checkpoint MN. Whether designed to attract travelers or just entertain them once they arrive, scavenger hunts are widely enjoyed.

2. Adventure Stunts

Teaming up with FCBX in Chicago, Experience Kissimmee offered about 1,400 free zipline rides to Chicagoans one February. The slogan of the campaign was “Escape Cold. Warm Your Heart.” In addition to the free adventure, participants enjoyed a warming tent, where they could enjoy hot cocoa and take pictures with a baby alligator. They could also register to win prizes, including a Kissimmee vacation. (Source: Redeye)

While not all in tourism, there are many examples of marketers giving a thrill-seeker a taste of a brand. This summer, Jack Links activated the Ultimeat Meatathon on National Jerky Day with an obstacle course that was designed to feed one’s wild side. Video game Assassin’s Creed Syndicate created a life-size version of their product for Comic-Con. And Red Bull, known for its extreme stunts, hosts an annual event to inspire fans to build their own aircraft at Flugtag.

Excitement, adrenaline and euphoria are all emotional responses people have to travel brands. That’s why this is one of our favorite tourism marketing ideas.

When a tourism bureau can showcase an adventure, one that a vacationer can experience in their market, the marketing campaign breathes new life. Of course, these adventures must be bite-sized, as to not replace the vacation, but be exciting enough to motivate the booking.

3. Music

It’s become a rite of passage for the Millennial generation to camp out for three nights at a music festival, a rite of passage that is being passed down to Gen Z. These music festivals are valuable to tourism; they draw millions of people to their event to experience music, culture and community. How tourism bureaus work with a festival organizer can make a difference in the overall destination’s reputation. Many travel brands are jumping on the music economy of today to bring large festivals to market. Yet, others are finding unique ways to benefit from this movement.

Nielsen’s 360 music report shows that music is as popular as ever. More people are streaming music, making it possible for the vast majority of us to listen to music more than 24 hours a week. With music so ingrained within our culture, it’s not surprising that brands are trying to associate a sound with their marketing. For examples, W Hotels has launched a traveling music festival. And Southwest Airlines sponsored the Blues Porch during the Chicago Blues Festival.

If you’re considering a sponsored activation space at a music festival near you, take a look at our comprehensive list of pros and cons for activating at a festival.

Music and tourism go together, whether someone is coming to town for a concert series or festival or not. The trip, itself, usually consists of music – a roadtrip playlist. So when tourism bureaus plan their experiential activations, it’s an important piece to consider. What does your destination town sound like? And how can the experiences we create convey that musical mood?

4. Pop-up Activations

What makes experiential so exciting is the creativity behind designing a campaign. When your brand can pop-up and into someone’s everyday life, force you to ‘look up’ from a device or stop to take notice, that’s powerful.

This surprising ice block challenge did just that. To promote JetBlue’s new direct flights from New York to Palm Springs, Greater Palm Springs encouraged New Yorkers to “break out of the chill.” They could literally break the ice to score prizes. People who posted online with a hashtag were entered into winning even greater prizes. (Source: Event Marketer)

Montana’s famous mercantile building popped up into Chicago, Seattle and Minneapolis. Fairfield Inn & Suites encouraged New Yorkers to #StayAmazing. Tourism Victoria produced a mall activation using phone booths, tablets and video content.

Europe promoted its cities ‘next door’ with this inventive campaign using pop-up doors and live streaming feeds.

Pop-up activations allow a passerby to ‘escape’ for a moment, and that’s a fitting way for a tourist destination to attract someone. Offer a quick, shareable moment that elicits fun and laughter, and they’ll remember your brand when they’re planning their next vacation.

Combining these surprise pop-ups with a strong social media strategy can be very effective advertising.

5. Virtual Reality

Virtual reality for tourism really does make a lot of sense. If you want to give someone an immersive look at your destination, VR can accomplish that objective. Today with the accessibility to 360-degree video production (like this one by Visit Hamilton Island) and inexpensive VR viewers, giving a consumer an experience is a cinch.

Marriott, for example, treated newlyweds to a virtual honeymoon.

Virtual reality is so versatile, and that’s why it makes for one of our best tourism marketing ideas.

With virtual reality on the rise, we expect to see many more of our tourism and travel brands leveraging the technology to create brand-to-consumer engagements.


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This article was originally published on December 19, 2016. Updated.