Cutting-Edge Destination Marketing Strategies


Explore top destination marketing campaigns and their impact. Learn effective strategies from actual case studies and insights from industry leaders.

Cutting-Edge Destination Marketing Strategies

Travel and tourism remain one of the world’s largest economic sectors, creating jobs, driving exports, and generating prosperity all over the globe—and it is not showing any signs of slowing. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, robust consumer spending has seen the Travel and tourism sector account for 10.4% of global GDP—up 4.6% from recent years.

With this competitive and, at times, resilient growth at hand, 2018 has seen a massive shift in the way various locations are marketed. Forward-thinking destinations are putting archaic marketing tactics to bed, choosing instead to test newer, more innovative strategies that speak to travellers beyond “like,” “comment,” and “share,” with an end goal of getting travellers (and their wallets) to their destination.

REBORN has over ten years of local and international tourism marketing experience, from our first client, Tourism Ireland, to current partnerships with Destination NSW and Tourism Events Queensland. We’ve picked five of our favourite destination campaigns from around the world that pushed boundaries this year—displaying digital marketing strategies at their best—giving us innovative ideas to promote tourism and marketing a destination.

1. Denmark and Iceland leverage a partnership

A well-established co-branded partnership simultaneously leverages the audience and influence of not one but two brands, with an element of exclusivity that drives consumers. It’s one of marketing’s sweetest hotspots; just ask Virgil Abloh, whose consumer partnerships with Nike, Ikea, and Byredo have produced (and continue to produce) immediate sell-out collections time and time again.

While brand partnerships are not new or groundbreaking, their destination digital marketing strategies are seldom tackled in tourism. With the vast array of, yet frequent, similarities between destinations worldwide, tourism boards are naturally pressured to compete with each other to gain travellers’ attention (and dollars).

Denmark and Iceland recently flipped this trend on its head. Upon discovering that nearly 9% of U.S. travellers who visited Iceland in 2017 also stopped in Copenhagen, Visit Denmark partnered with Icelandair to produce a video showcasing scenes from both destinations. 

The campaign leveraged the emotional connection that travellers associate with a destination (Visit Denmark), with the mass audience reach of a commercial brand (Icelandair) to successfully sell a joint brand message that benefited both Iceland and Copenhagen as destinations that should be visited in one trip.

It begs the question, who should you work with rather than against?

Tips for Co-Branding in Tourism

Identifying the right co-branding partner begins with understanding your brand’s values and goals. Look for partners sharing similar values or targeting similar audience segments. Once a partner is identified, collaborate to unify your brand messages. 

This ensures the campaign resonates consistently with both audiences. To gauge the success of such partnerships, set clear, measurable objectives beforehand. Metrics like increased website traffic, social media engagement, or joint sales can indicate success.

2. Tourism Australia’s marketing touchdown

“That’s not a tourism campaign. THIS is a tourism campaign.” If you were one of the many who tuned in to watch The Super Bowl this year, you would have seen the trailer for the fake Crocodile Dundee film as part of Tourism Australia’s million-dollar media campaign.

The $27 million (A$36 million) destination marketing campaign launched before The Super Bowl with three teaser trailers starring Aussie Hollywood heavyweights including Margot Robbie and Hugh Jackman, leading audiences to believe that Dundee: The Son Of A Legend Returns Home was very much the real thing. The latest campaign video (released in October) is shot as a “visit the set” featurette starring Luke Hemsworth.

The Super Bowl advertisement and the social media hype that preceded it have been hailed as a tourism marketing triumph. The PR value of the media articles generated pre and post-Super Bowl was an estimated $63 million (A$84 million). 

Beyond the dollar value, the campaign successfully produced 204,00 leads from australia.com in its first four weeks. Immediately after the screening of their destination marketing campaign, there was a 1,400% increase in searches for “Australia.” Tourism Australia aims to drive an extra $450,000 (A$600,000) annually from U.S. tourists by 2020.

Strewth, they might even beat their targets.

Creating High-Impact Social Media Campaigns

Selecting an appropriate social media platform hinges on where your target audience is most active. Understand the demographics and preferences of your audience to make an informed decision. 

Crafting compelling content involves storytelling that connects emotionally with your audience. Use engaging visuals and interactive elements to enhance appeal. Track your campaign’s performance through metrics such as likes, shares, comments, and website traffic driven by social posts.

3. California enlists Pantone for Instagram analysis

It’s no secret that Instagram has singlehandedly changed how millennials seek out travel destinations within the past five years. Almost every other destination has partnered with an influencer to showcase Insta-worthy spots to see in any particular city—and, more importantly, where to take a good photo. Because if you didn’t ‘gram it, did it happen?

With this mindset, Visit Carlsbad (California) worked with Pantone to analyse 80 Instagram photos from 23 U.S.-based influencers with a combined audience of 17 million followers. The analysis saw Pantone select four of the top performing colours among all photos (omitting photos unrelated to travel and giveaway/incentive posts) to build the city’s destination marketing campaign, ‘Colors of Carlsbad.’

From blue oceans to rolling hills of pastel florals, the campaign tells the story of Carlsbad through the colours of the city, intending to drive awareness and visitation. Sam Ross, executive director of Visit Carlsbad revealed, “Now more than ever, our visitors are interested in not only partaking in these unique experiences but sharing them with their followers near and far.”

What colours are your top performing?

4. Aruba taps into the local market

For many destinations, local life and culture are some of the biggest drawcards for visitation. For many destinations, local life and culture are some of the biggest drawcards for visitation. For the island of Aruba, its local people are one of the key drivers behind why more than half of tourists are repeat visitors—and their tourism marketing campaign directly reflects this. 

Aruban locals are the stars of “This is My Aruba,” a destination marketing campaign featuring several video shorts of Aruban’s celebrating what makes the island uniquely special to them.

Approximately 87% of Aruba’s gross domestic product comes from tourism. As Sanju Luidens, chief marketing officer for the Aruba Tourism Authority, states: “Tourism is part of our DNA.” The videos encourage travellers to visit Aruba and experience the island like the locals.

Aruba’s destination marketing campaign proves that while tapping into the local market can be a massive risk for a destination (depending on the destination), it can also reap the rewards.

Utilising Local Culture in Marketing

To leverage local culture, research and identify unique cultural elements that attract tourists. Engage with local communities to ensure authentic representation in your campaigns. Assess the impact of these campaigns on local tourism and the economy by monitoring tourism growth, community feedback, and economic benefits accruing to local businesses.

5. Palau markets a change in immigration laws

A thriving destination marketing campaign tells a story that connects with an audience— bonus points go to those tourism marketing campaigns that also find a way to pull on the heartstrings and call for change. Palau’s 2017 destination marketing campaign did just that, enlisting the island’s children to send a message of preservation and protection of Palau.

The destination marketing campaign came about after new tourist routes were created in 2015, which saw an unexpected influx of tourists to Palau. While the growing tourist population positively impacted the island’s economy, Palau’s infrastructure could not manage this growth.

The Palau Pledge involved a change in immigration laws for the cause of environmental protection. Upon entry, visitors must sign a passport pledge to act ecologically responsibly on the island. Palau is the first country in the world to introduce an immigration change in the name of ecological sustainability.

The destination marketing campaign also involved a 4-minute video on all inbound flights to Palau. The video is told as a story from the perspective of the children of Palau, using the metaphor of a monster to represent former tourists and visitors to the island. 

Communicating to incoming tourists through the eyes of Palau’s children was a successful digital marketing strategy move, ensuring the emotional, human cut-through required to enact change. Who could deny wanting to leave a better world for these children?

Sustainable Tourism Marketing

Creating a sustainability-focused campaign starts with defining clear, achievable goals that align with sustainable practices. Emphasise the importance of responsible tourism in your marketing messages. 

Balance tourist influx with environmental conservation by promoting off-peak travel and sustainable activities. Regularly evaluate the environmental impact of tourism and adjust strategies accordingly to maintain ecological balance.

Defining Goals for Sustainable Tourism

Start by setting clear, measurable objectives that promote responsible tourism practices. These goals include reducing carbon footprints, supporting local economies, and preserving natural and cultural heritage.

Examples of Goals
  • Increase tourists’ awareness of sustainable travel options by 30% within one year.
  • Partner with local businesses to promote eco-friendly accommodations and services.
  • Develop and promote off-season travel packages to reduce overcrowding in popular destinations.

Crafting a Responsible Marketing Message

Your marketing message should educate and inspire potential tourists about the importance of sustainable travel. Highlight how their choices can positively impact the destination’s environment and community.

Key Message Components
  • The environmental benefits of choosing sustainable travel options.
  • How tourists can contribute to the local economy by supporting small businesses.
  • Stories of destinations where sustainable tourism has made a difference.

Promoting Off-Peak Travel and Sustainable Activities

Encourage tourists to visit destinations during off-peak periods to prevent overtourism and promote activities with minimal environmental impact.

Strategies for Promotion
  • Create attractive travel packages for off-peak seasons with a focus on sustainability.
  • Highlight eco-friendly activities, such as wildlife watching, hiking, and cultural tours that support local heritage.
  • Partner with influencers and sustainable travel bloggers to showcase the beauty and appeal of off-peak travel.

Monitoring and Adapting Strategies

Regular assessment of the environmental impact of tourism activities is crucial. Use the insights gained to refine marketing strategies and ensure they align with sustainable practices.

Implementing Monitoring Techniques
  • Conduct surveys with tourists and local businesses to gather feedback on sustainable practices.
  • Use data analytics to measure the carbon footprint of tourism activities promoted in your campaign.
  • Partner with environmental organisations to accurately assess your campaign’s impact on local ecosystems.

Where a trip becomes tradition: REBORN’s North Stradbroke Island case study

REBORN partnered with North Stradbroke Island on the strategy, creative, and digital rollout of their recent destination campaign to increase awareness and visitation to the island.

Using research gathered by Queensland University, REBORN created a tourism marketing campaign that branded North Stradbroke Island as a destination that draws tourists back again and again. The study found that 73.5% of people who had visited North Stradbroke Island continued to revisit. With this insight, REBORN developed the critical concept of the destination marketing campaign, “where a trip becomes tradition.”

We wanted to show travellers that North Stradbroke Island is a different world—a destination as different from your everyday life as you’ll find—and deserves repeat visits. The destination marketing campaign featured evocative videos, imagery featuring honest telephone conversations with regular visitors, and a soundtrack written and performed by local musicians.

Alongside the integrated media campaign and complete rebrand, REBORN is working with the island’s operators, such as hoteliers, restaurateurs, and other businesses, to help them develop their digital marketing. Part of REBORN’s ongoing strategy will see a new destination website and the implementation of a digital marketing strategy cooperative that provides local businesses with shared creative services and group media buying through REBORN.

There’s a unique story to be told in every destination.

At REBORN, we aim to uncover and showcase the unique story of a destination rather than just presenting a montage of vacation-style activities. Successful travel marketing campaigns are born by revealing the narrative behind a destination—the why and the what. This unique approach to storytelling, combined with comprehensive and intelligent digital marketing strategies, produces memorable and meaningful travel and tourism campaigns that stand out.

If you are a destination or travel brand looking to transform your digital marketing, contact us for a free consultation.