The film "Cayman Went" tells the story of a failing Hollywood actor, sent to the island Cayman Brac to help a real estate mogul acquire the land in exchange for a career boost.
It had a red carpet premiere in Los Angeles, was released to limited theaters on June 5 and even got a review in The New York Times. Despite being a full-length feature (the flick runs 88 minutes), "Cayman Went" wasn't created purely for entertainment; it's actually an extravagant promotional vehicle for the Cayman Islands.
With the economy keeping travelers closer to home this summer, cities, states and countries around the world—New York, Oregon and India among them—are rolling out attention-getting ads and promotions, some for the first time.
Some aim to lure travelers seeking a respite from the stresses of urban life. The latest spot in a campaign for Michigan, for instance, beckons tourists "back to what's real and true."
Hoping to woo folks interested in a more raucous vacation, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, meanwhile, recently re-launched its "What happens here stays here" campaign, which was first rolled out in 2003.
Budgets are tight. TNS Media Intelligence, the ad tracker in New York, says travel and tourism groups spent a total of $205 million on advertising in the first three months of the year, $32 million less than they spent during the same period in 2008.
That isn't affecting creativity. Consider Queensland, Australia. It launched a $1.37 million campaign in January, when Queensland officials offered the "best job in the world"—managing Queensland's Hamilton Island—for six months. Folks who were interested had to create a video of 60 seconds or less explaining why they were the best candidates for that posting. More than 34,000 people applied. Winner Ben Southall, a 34-year-old British adventurer, takes the position July 1 and invites people to follow his adventures through his blog, bestjobben.com.
The campaign was also a winner at the recent Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival. It's a "brilliant campaign at a time of economic despair," says travel journalist Peter Greenberg, who notes that the ongoing PR will last an entire year. Greenberg is the author of the book "Tough Times, Great Travels".
Queensland isn't the only off-the-radar place that's looking to attract travelers. Canada's newest tourism campaign, "Locals Know," which was launched at the beginning of June by the Canadian Tourism Commission, uses hand-held camera work and postcard-style print ads to showcase some of the country's hidden gems. Locals are also invited to submit photos of their own favorite spots.
Even places that are typically hot spots for tourism are trying to lure more visitors. Florida wants residents to help it gin up interest in visiting the state. Instead of advertising elsewhere, Visit Florida, the state's official tourism industry marketing corporation, is running ads asking Floridians to "Share a Little Sunshine." When they visit the campaign's Web site, Florida residents can send one of three video invites to family and friends, encouraging them to visit. The hope is that Floridians will be motivated to do so by the chance to win one of 12 weekly mini-getaways. The more invitations someone sends, the better their chances of winning.
Meanwhile, New York City & Company, the city's official marketing, tourism and partnership organization, seeks to lure more visitors to Manhattan and its other boroughs. The first part of its 2009 "NYC: The Real Deal" campaign, which has appeared in the U.K., Spain and Italy, as well as throughout New York and on the Internet, features buy one, get one half-off deals on attractions and lodging throughout the city.
A second iteration of the campaign, targeting families and kids, will launch in July. The biggest hurdle for the group, which spent about $290,000 on advertising during the first quarter of 2009, has been convincing people that they actually do have the money to spend in NYC.
Is it working? "Over the last year, people have been saying that trips to New York City weren't even a possibility," said Christopher Heywood, vice president of Travel and Tourism PR for NYC & Company. Now "there's more awareness that the city is certainly affordable."