How do destinations intend to bring back tourists?

18 min reading time

Published on 14/06/22 - Updated on 14/06/22

Marketing des destinations

Building a coherent and unifying image, promoting it beyond its borders to ultimately attract tourists are missions that are as crucial as they are complex for tourist destinations. They must therefore capitalise on their assets, whether they are major or more confidential, and use all the communication tools at their disposal. This issue is all the more crucial at the end of the health crisis, at a time when international tourism is picking up again. It is therefore more necessary than ever to stand out from other destinations in order to relaunch tourist activity on its territory.

The return of city breaks

Urban tourism is a tourist trend that has remained popular over time and attracts all categories of clientele, regardless of their age, socio-professional category or their desires. Cities offer such a wide range of activities that they can meet all the expectations of their customers according to their interests and needs. Large cities have a major advantage due to their size and international reputation.

ONLYLYON, the Lyon Metropolitan Tourist Office, unveiled a promotional video called "Lyon, I love you" at the end of November 2021. On screen, short scenes of life in the Lyon metropolis follow one another to the music of Woodkid. It paints a picture of a city that lives to the rhythm of gastronomy, rivers, skate parks, local shops, cycle paths and traboules, with a very aesthetic result inviting tourists to come and discover the capital of Gaul for themselves. More recently, ONLYLYON launched an immersive tour tool to facilitate understanding of the destination and its incoming offer. After an introductory film, entitled "You're right", an interactive map appears and allows users to discover the city's various event venues in a fun and innovative way. The name of the site, "Plongez dans Lyon" (Dive into Lyon), sums up the desire of the city's tourist office through this new action.

Vienna is equally imaginative in launching a promotional campaign entitled "United Cities of Tourism" in May 2022. This campaign aims to promote urban tourism in Europe, a first since it concerns both 2100 Viennese who will be travelling in Europe and tourists from different European cities. The aim is to give priority to urban and local tourism. Other European cities took part in this initiative, including London, Paris, Berlin, Milan and Barcelona. Each city has highlighted emblematic places in other European urban destinations on its networks via a social media swap. The Austrian city's slogan is "Assist your city. Come to Vienna" and thus proposes to send a Viennese to a European city for every 100th tourist arriving in Vienna. An unusual way of promoting its destination that should undoubtedly tempt many.

Urban destinations have suffered greatly from the consequences of the health crisis, and the major cities are doing everything in their power to revive tourist activity. Berlin, for example, could regain its millions of tourists thanks to the support of the Berlin Senate, which has launched support programmes for the businesses hardest hit by the crisis. With a total of €330 million, the Berlin Senate wants to assist the economy and culture to think big again. Around 290 million euros will be allocated to particularly hard-hit sectors such as gastronomy, retail and the MICE sector. The remaining €40 million will go to private cultural enterprises such as clubs and discos. The city, which is world-famous for its culture but also for its techno clubs, is thus equipped with the necessary means to return to the forefront of the European and world tourist scene.

London is also doing everything it can to put those two complicated years behind it and return to its pre-pandemic visitor numbers. Its mayor, Sadiq Khan, says that reviving tourism in the British capital is one of his current priorities. He intends to work hand in hand with the various tourism actors in the destination to attract tourists again. In particular, he has boosted the £6 million 'Let's Do London' domestic tourism campaign with an additional £3 million. This campaign increased spending by £81 million and brought 330,000 visitors to the capital. As part of plans to encourage international visitors to return to London, the Mayor has invested £10 million to attract visitors this year, including a major international promotional campaign.

Spanish cities are being more creative in their promotion, with Barcelona preparing to launch a promotional campaign aimed at the Jewish market. Indeed, Turisme de Barcelona, the local tourist promotion office, is unveiling a digital platform called "Shalom Barcelona", which highlights the city's Jewish heritage. This clientele is very well represented in the figures for visits to the Catalan capital, so it seemed obvious to address them directly in order to further increase this source market. For its part, Benidorm has chosen to invest in the metaverse in order to promote itself by addressing the young, highly connected generations. Beyond the website and social networks, BenidormLand will allow visitors to get to know the destination better, to see if it meets their expectations, and to learn more about its tourist attractions. New technologies are a major asset for destinations, allowing them to communicate in a differentiating way, like Anjou Tourisme, which called on the start-up DigitaLandmarks to teleport visitors. A digital teleportation made possible thanks to the Immersive Window which uses augmented realitý to virtually "teleport" travellers from the Montparnasse train station to several destinations in Anjou.

The call of nature

If tourists are fond of city breaks in the world's major capitals, they are also fond of large green spaces offering a moment of disconnection from the stress of their daily lives. This is a trend that destinations with a rich natural heritage have seized upon to develop promotional activities in line with visitors' expectations. Forests, mountains, beaches and other green areas are all tourist assets that destinations are increasingly capitalising on and promoting through various communication tools.

The Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Regional Tourism Committee has taken into account the fact that its numerous natural destinations contribute greatly to the attractiveness of the territory and is relaunching its campaign "We all need the South". A campaign that has already met with great success in 2020 and 2021, two years marked by the health crisis that have encouraged visitors to turn to green destinations. This campaign encourages tourists to (re)discover the richness of the different territories that make up the region, while focusing on the wings of the season in order to better distribute the number of visitors and thus preserve the protected areas and the living environment of the inhabitants. The target is the domestic public above all in order to compensate for the still notable lack of foreign clients.

The Côte d'Azur also has its own promotional campaign called "Pure Lumière", whose ambition is to highlight "a secret and contrasted Côte d'Azur, favourable to escape and emotion". With a budget of 500,000 euros, this campaign was designed to meet the need for escape in the middle of nature expressed by French and international tourists. The campaign highlights the peaks of the Alps, the crystal-clear waters of the Mediterranean, the gorges and islands of the Côte d'Azur and the Mercantour National Park. Pure Relaxation, Pure Light, Pure Beauty, Pure Emotion, Pure Nature, Pure Gentleness, six generic declensions calling for "experiences combining nature and authenticity".

Brittany is just as popular for its unique natural heritage, which attracts many visitors each year, and the destination has turned this asset into a real lever for tourism promotion. Tourisme Bretagne has chosen to partner with Petaouchnok, a travel media present on Instagram that advocates responsible tourism in an offbeat way. After a first successful partnership in 2021 promoting inland Brittany, they are joining forces again in 2022 to promote Brittany off the beaten track, a coastline in the off-season and secondary spots in the middle of the season. As the core target of the media is the Dinks, this partnership makes sense as the destination tends to attract more of this clientele who are fans of adventure in the heart of nature. The destination is also (re)conquering foreign visitors by working on its global reputation via video, social networks, affinity media partnerships and co-branding actions. If culture and gastronomy are given pride of place, the coastline and nature are given greater prominence because they are the very essence of the destination and the reason why tourists want to visit this territory.

On the other side of the border, the German National Tourist Board (GNTB) is putting its natural heritage even more prominently on the map with its new "Embrace German Nature" campaign. Germany is home to more than 130 protected natural landscapes, including a plethora of forests, lakes, valleys, hiking and cycling trails just waiting to be explored. There are also three UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites, 16 UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, 16 national parks and 106 nature reserves. GNTB is highlighting these sites to show that there is much more to visit outside Berlin. The campaign is centred around four of the country's major nature reserves, namely the Arnsberg Forest Nature Park, the Spreewald Biosphere Reserve, the Hainich National Park and the Wadden Sea. 

Germany's diverse selection of outdoor activities ensures that there is something for everyone, from hiking trails to relaxing spa towns. Our Embrace German nature campaign will further improve access to and information about these opportunities in a sustainable way. 

Yamina Sofo, Director of Sales and Marketing at the German National Tourist Board

The Croatian National Tourist Office has also launched a new promotional campaign in 14 markets, including France, to promote the destination's assets. Called "Croatia, Naturally Yours", this campaign highlights the many natural treasures of the destination, including the famous Plitvice Lakes National Park. This is a way for the country to ease the congestion on the streets of Dubrovnik as the summer season approaches and hordes of tourists take over the city. Reducing the negative impact of tourism on communities is an art, as the latest campaign from the Spanish Tourist Board demonstrates. SlowTravelSpain promotes sustainable forms of travel in Spain and its islands while recognising the importance of connecting with local people and cultures when travelling. The campaign will focus on geographical diversification and will aim to showcase low-impact activities and trips that fit into the theme of slow tourism. Tourists are invited to use the hashtag #SlowTravelSpain to share photos and videos of low-impact activities, quieter itineraries or other topics related to slow tourism in Spain. Later in the year, the Office will award special prizes to some of the most outstanding contributions.

Humour, still and always

While many destinations rely on beautiful visuals and heavenly videos, others opt for more offbeat communication to stand out and make a greater impression on potential visitors. Humour, whether absurd or more subtle, allows a message to be delivered in an original way and helps to build the image of the destination.

It is undeniable that the Nordic countries are the champions in this field, as the various campaigns of the tourist promotion organisations of these destinations attest. Last year, Iceland gently mocked the Metavers launched by Mark Zuckerberg by presenting the Icelandverse and Visit Iceland has just unveiled a new campaign that is as offbeat and fun as ever. "Outhorse your email" offers travellers the chance to make the most of their holidays by entrusting Icelandic horses to handle their emails. On the campaign website, it is possible to choose the personality of the horse that best suits you to obtain an automatic message typed by the horse itself on a giant keyboard. "Your boss won't know the difference" promises this highly original campaign.

For its part, VisitDenmark is taking up the theme of the Tour de France, which starts in Copenhagen this year. The video "Detour de France" features professional cyclists who leave the official race route to visit the destination. The campaign highlights the diversity of experiences the country has to offer in lesser-known areas. Press trips and thematic pages will complete this communication operation.

Sweden is no exception and invites locals and international travellers alike to discover its landscapes through a variety of humorous and offbeat spots. At the end of 2021, VisitSweden launched two promotional campaigns via YouTube aimed at the European market. The first one is called Sweden Calling and follows the different adventures of a young girl during her stay in the destination. The main thread of the video is that while she is having all the experiences she seems to be enjoying, she is on the phone with a friend and explains to her that there is really no point in visiting Sweden. She concludes by explaining to a Swedish woman that she came here first and therefore does not want to share. The Discover the originals campaign takes the humour a step further by explaining that while the words Bolmen, Toftan and Ektorp are associated with furniture and accessories such as dustbins and toilet brushes sold by Ikea, they are originally places in Sweden. VisitSweden decided it was time to put an end to these laughable misunderstandings and to show the exceptional places that are actually behind these names.

On the other side of the world, 100% Pure New Zeland is also playing the humour card by encouraging people who dream of discovering this destination to take the plunge through the New Zealand, Within your wildest dreams campaign. The video follows the adventures of a young Australian man who sets out to discover the country in his dreams in the company of a famous New Zealand rugby player. The video is meant to be light-hearted and fun, and concludes that if you don't want the dream to end, you should go to New Zealand for real.

Switzerland too has enlisted the help of celebrities in its latest campaign to promote the Grand Tour of Switzerland. Roger Federer and Anne Hathaway appear in the destination's latest promotional video, but from very far away. While every landscape is highlighted in wide, vivid shots, the two stars are barely visible. A detail that irritates them during the viewing session with the film crew, who justify this choice by the fact that nothing can surpass the magnificence of the Swiss landscape. A video that under the guise of humour manages to get its message across to the public by highlighting the fact that even world stars cannot compete with what the destination has to offer.

Greece also relies on a mix of subtle humour and aspirational imagery in its new promotional campaign called "Greece: You will want to stay forever! The video is based on a true story about a man who started out as a tourist in Greece and ended up becoming a local. He begins the video by saying that you should never come to Greece, followed by various images and videos showing the beauty of the country and the wealth of experience it has to offer, and concludes by explaining that you should never come or you will never want to leave. The message of the campaign is clear, "sometimes it only takes one visit to Greece to realise that you have just found your new home". The Greek National Tourist Board's intention was to tell a story "that touches travellers' feelings and focuses on the authenticity of the destination".

Tourism Ireland chose to partner with Derry Girls, a Channel 4 comedy series, by sponsoring the third and final season. This sponsorship resulted in short video clips being shown before, during and after each episode highlighting various tourist attractions in the destination such as Mussenden Temple, the Giant's Causeway and Culdaff Beach. These short videos were created with the humour of the series in mind and adopted the style of a school project, filmed with a 1990s camcorder and performed by two "classmates" of the main Derry Girls characters. This is a very original way of promoting a territory and ensuring a large audience, as the series is watched by thousands of viewers in the UK. A promotional approach that is in line with the times, as series and films become real ambassadors for tourist destinations. The Italian tourist office intends to follow this trend by signing a memorandum of understanding with Netflix to strengthen the link between audiovisual production in Italy and the promotion of tourism in the land of the Dolce Vita.

New image for new targets

While some destinations continue to capitalise on the tourism assets that have contributed to their reputation, others are choosing to change their image in order to attract new customers and to meet the new expectations of travellers. Changing one's image is not an easy task and building an image from scratch for emerging destinations is even more challenging in a world where many destinations are already well established in the minds of international tourists.

Cyprus has thus decided to put an end to the promotion of the seaside offer and wishes to display a new face in order to reconquer the French market. The ambition is notably to better distribute the tourist flows by highlighting the inland areas but also the expenses which result from them so that more actors on the island can benefit from them. A turn towards more sustainable tourism thus seems to be taking shape under the aegis of Sávvas Perdíos, the Cypriot Minister of Tourism. An ambitious project that began a few months before the start of the pandemic and which, despite a forced pause of almost two years, has not been forgotten, quite the contrary. This new way of promoting tourism on the island corresponds perfectly to the new expectations expressed by tourists, at a time when the values of sustainable development are increasingly advocated by professionals in the sector. A series of labels around well-being, gastronomy or sport has been created in order to promote actors who honour Cypriot culture, gastronomy or local products. By promoting other lesser-known facets of the island, the national tourism body hopes to attract a more expensive clientele. And France is now the island's priority target, as the Ministry of Tourism believes that the Cypriot tourist offer has reached the quality necessary to attract French tourists, notably with direct flights, promotional operations and a more diversified offer.

Morocco is also getting a makeover as the requirement for a PCR test to cross borders is lifted and airspace is once again open. The destination has a new visual identity with the slogan "Morocco, Land of Light". The Moroccan National Tourist Office (ONMT) wishes, through this new identity, to "speak to everyone, throughout the world, in France as well as in the Netherlands" by addressing tourists who already know the country as well as those who have not yet discovered it. The objective is to arouse emotions because, as the ONMT reminds us, Morocco is "much more than a country to be visited, it is a country which is lived, through its arts, its living culture, its crafts". It thus wants to reach a new, younger target, but also in search of the unexpected. The slogan was not chosen by chance since "the light of Morocco is a true source that is multiple: both a source of inspiration for artists of yesterday and today, it is also a source of movement and energy that stimulates all our senses". It is a real invitation to awaken the senses that Morocco is putting in place with this redesign of its destination image. A territory already appreciated by many Western visitors, the country is seeking to show the extent of its assets that go far beyond its most popular tourist attractions.

Iceland has been a growing destination for the past decade, with a significant increase in visitor numbers each year. The current problem is that international passengers have no choice but to land at Keflavík International Airport, a town about 40 minutes from Reykjavik, the capital. Reykjavik has its own airport but it is only used for domestic flights. The country's ambition is to promote other entry points in order to relieve Keflavík and also to develop the tourist attractiveness of the lesser known territories in the North and East. Iceland wants to attract new airlines and tour operators to develop air traffic to the regional airports of Akureyri in the north and Egilsstaðir in the east of Iceland. It is therefore necessary to create new routes to offer direct flights to leisure and business travellers. In order to make this a reality, the Icelandic government has established an Icelandic Route Development Fund, which will provide up to EUR 1.5 million in grants each year until 2023. In addition, Isavia Regional Airports is offering a 3-year subsidy programme for all companies operating scheduled flights to these regional airports. These actions should enable the discovery of the destination in its entirety, highlighting sites that are still little known to the general public.

A change or repositioning of image makes it possible to reach different targets, outside the usual field. Brittany intends to showcase its territory from a new angle through a communication action that is unusual in the sector: podcasts. The objective behind this device is to modernise the image of Brittany in order to attract the attention of DINKS (active couples without children) and encourage them to discover the destination outside the summer. To carry out this project, Tourisme Bretagne has teamed up with the agency SONIQUE-le studio to produce a series of 6 podcasts. The theme, "roadtip between friends", revolves around a Breton personality who acts as an ambassador for the podcast, trying to deconstruct the clichés surrounding Brittany. Each episode breaks down a cliché about a given territory and takes the listener on a roadtrip punctuated by challenges and adventures alongside producers, craftsmen and professionals. They will be broadcast in two stages, the first three highlighting Destination Brocéliande, the Gulf of Morbihan and the Brest region will be broadcast throughout June. The other 3, which highlight the Coeur de Bretagne destination, Quiberon and St Brieuc, will be available in the off-season, from September.

The Savoie Mont Blanc Agency is also seeking to attract new targets, namely young people under 30, by launching the "Montagne Mon Trip" website. A "holiday conversion scheme" offering attractive prices, "flexible in the choice of holiday duration and in the diversity of experiences to be had" within the mountain destination during the summer period. In order to best meet the specific expectations of generation Z, 6 partners have been selected to offer a wide range of outdoor activities. In addition, the agency has become a partner of FISE Montpellier, the world's largest urban snowboarding festival, in order to promote its new offer for young snowboarders. The two entities are co-organising a "Freestyle Tour", with demonstrations, initiations and workshops in various resorts in the destination at the beginning of July. Rejuvenating its image is thus becoming a major ambition for the destination, which is also developing its mountain tourism offer in summer.

Other destinations are still relatively young on the tourist market and must therefore work on their positioning in order to build a real identity. Qatar has announced that it is ready to open up to the international market as the 2022 Football World Cup is fast approaching. Although tourism already existed in the young country, it was limited to the domestic market and business travel for the Saudi neighbours. International tourism is becoming a major development axis in the country's "Vision 2030", with the objective of welcoming 6 million visitors per year by the end of the decade. Qatar wants to position itself as an upmarket destination with the ambition of increasing visitor spending by a factor of 4 compared to 2019, but also for travel and tourism to contribute 12% of GDP by 2030. Qatar Tourism intends to position Doha as one of the top 20 cities in terms of spending per tourist. To achieve this, Qatar Tourism is developing 6 main lines of communication: sea, sun and sand; active holidays; relax and recharge; culture lovers; luxury city breaks; romantic escapades.

This ambition is shared by Saudi Arabia, which wants to triple the number of foreign visitors, from 4 million to 12 million over a short period. The destination has only recently opened up to international tourism with the introduction of tourist visas in September 2019. However, the growth in domestic travel in 2020 and 2021 has helped to save the fledgling Saudi tourism sector and the country now wants to significantly increase its share of the international market. The "Vision 2030" plan sets a very ambitious target, as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salmane wants to attract 100 million visitors by 2030, including 30 million foreign tourists. Another aspect of the promotion of tourism in Saudi Arabia lies in the "mega-projects" launched by the Crown Prince, such as the futuristic megalopolis Neom and the redevelopment of the historic site of Diriyah, near the capital Riyadh. The Saudi Minister of Tourism assures us that "Saudi Arabia will change the world tourism landscape". It remains to be seen whether the future will prove him right, given that certain strict regulations are in force in the country, such as the ban on alcohol.


Although it is increasingly difficult to stand out in a saturated market due to the number of tourist destinations around the world, each destination knows how to highlight its assets and address its target clientele. Communication and promotion channels are multiple and are tending to become more diversified with the rise of social networks and other platforms creating a special link with potential visitors. If institutional promotion is still the order of the day, the new generations who make up a growing proportion of international travellers are pushing destinations to review their copies in order to adapt their messages to new expectations but also to new concerns, particularly of an ecological nature.

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