We’ve all dreamed of traveling to exotic locales, living like locals halfway around the world, or taking that long-discussed epic road trip across the good ol’ U.S.A.  When it comes down to it, travel is a luxury, and in the recent economic downturn, budget-friendly trips have been the ones most frequented.  As the economy picks up and a new generation of eager travelers matures, we’re noticing a revived investment in local business growth initiatives and tourism advertising and marketing budgets for cities across the country and around the world.

The Way I See It

  • Stateside, cities are reinvigorating their taglines, investing in digital and social media advertising as opposed to the traditional, often-cheesy commercials, and encouraging visitors to try hidden spots, embrace local traditions, and support local businesses.
  • I see states and cities trying to draw business and economic development in order to grow tourism and business travel.  Everyone wants to get in on the start-up boom, and initiatives like New York’s “We are Made in NY” campaign, which now covers the sides of buses across the city, is aiming to revive Silicon Alley and draw more startups to the city with incentives like subsidized office space and grants, and increased resources and support from the community.
  • I see states and cities around the country opting for local creativity rather than relying entirely on national agencies.  Colorado is the latest with its announced of a “Making Colorado” initiative which will bring together advertising and marketing professionals from the state and also rely heavily on an online forum for feedback from residents on new ideas.

The Way The Industry Sees It

I sat down with Edward Hogikyan, Senior Vice President, Marketing, of NYC & Company, New York City’s official marketing, tourism, and partnership organization, to discuss advertising and marketing strategies used by cities to attract tourists and boost local economies.



Let’s talk a bit about the recent revival of local business growth and tourism initiatives in cities like New York.  How has the general approach in NYC to drawing tourism changed in recent years?

New York City itself is constantly changing.  If you were here six months ago, there are now new things to see and experience, places to dine, exhibitions, shopping, or even new places to stay.  Reminding people of that is important in keeping NYC top of mind as a destination and core to our messaging.  There are also new segments to focus messaging on, such as families – they have been a priority for us.  Over 15 million families came in 2012, a nearly 3% increase over 2011.  NYC is the top U.S. destination for gay travelers and the passage of the same-sex marriage bill, combined with the recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage, has afforded us a new way to message to the LGBT community.  The youth travel market continues to grow, and they are often more intrepid about exploring parts of the city that are outside the typical tourist destinations.  International markets have also been shifting dramatically.  The exponential growth in visitation from China and Brazil, for example, has resulted in a significant influx of cash into the city’s economy as both markets are comprised of serious shoppers.

Considering a city as a brand, how do cities typically measure Return on Investment (ROI) and success, especially with the tie-in to local businesses and growth?

There are several different metrics for success that we use.  One, of course, is total visitation.  In 2012, NYC reached a record 52 million visitors, up from 43.8 million in 2006 when our current organization was created.  We are also the top U.S. destination, with a 33% share of international visitation (the second highest in the country is at 11%).  Next we look at jobs and the economic impact of visitation.  In 2012, we had a record $55.3 billion in economic impact.  There are 356,000 jobs currently supported by the leisure and hospitality industry.  By 2015, we are projecting $70 billion in economic impact and 390,000 new jobs.  Other key indicators include hotel room occupancy and the Average Daily Rate paid for those rooms, and attendance at Broadway and other cultural attractions.

How have digital and social media changed the way cities are marketing and advertising themselves?  What other key components still make up typical tourism marketing and advertising campaigns?

As for any business today, digital and social media have become an integral part of any marketing plan. Mobile, in particular, is seeing seismic growth.  The ability to instantly message via the social networks has proven to be a formidable resource for not only sharing news and promotions, but also adding to an organization’s database and following.  While travel publications, out-of-home, and broadcast, for those that have the budget, are mainstays of tourism marketing and advertising campaigns, digital and social media have proved to be real game changers.  There are many travel and destination websites and blogs that are highly influential in a consumer’s decision making process.  Instant access to information vs. waiting a week or month to receive a publication is a big benefit.  Of course, most traditional print publications have a robust online presence.  Earned media through PR communications can be an invaluable (and cost effective) way to promote a destination.  Our team has been instrumental in generating coverage that we would have never been able to afford had we paid for similar media space.

NYC & Company recently announced its new initiative, “Neighborhood x Neighborhood” designed to increase visitation, support local businesses, and encourage exploration in areas outside traditional tourist locations across the five boroughs.  Recent focuses include Long Island City, Lower Manhattan, Jackson Heights, and Coney Island.  How important is tourism to local economic development and business success?

Based on the numbers shared previously, there is clearly a huge dependency on tourism to local economic development and business success.  Mayor Bloomberg’s strong support of tourism as an economic driver for the city has helped drive much of our success.  “Neighborhood x Neighborhood” will put a spotlight on the broad range of restaurants, retailers, hotels, and performing arts and culture venues across all five boroughs.  As more tourists visit different neighborhoods, it results in more hotels being built and tourism-related economic activity happening in those areas.  This program, in particular, allows us to highlight popular attractions, hidden gems, and off-the-beaten-path activities to help broaden the NYC perceptions and helps to disburse visitor spending among our local businesses.  Fortunately, NYC is filled with hidden gems that tourists and residents alike will want to explore and enjoy. Of course, for a comprehensive guide to all there is to see and do in NYC, be sure to visit www.nycgo.com.

What is the coolest object in your office right now?

My personal humidifier that is fueled by a standard bottle of water.  I should be getting a commission based on the number of colleagues who have seen it and gone right out and purchased one for themselves.