Tourism Marketing Trends from the VA-1 Summit

Unpacking The Top 10* Tourism Marketing Trends from the 2018 VA-1 Summit


The VA-1 Summit, hosted annually by the Virginia Tourism Corporation, is designed to help the commonwealth grow tourism. Vendors, destinations and marketers learn about trends in tourism and gain insightful knowledge from expert panelists and presenters over three days. This is The Vacation Channel’s second year, and we’re proud to once again support the event as an exhibitor. 

We went to as many talks as we could, and we’ve compiled our top ten* takeaways:

1. The value of Video

It’s no surprise that this was on our list, as video production is our wheelhouse. But we were encouraged to see several talks underscoring the importance of video production and how it is the ultimate storytelling medium. Shameless plug: to learn more about our video production services, click here.


2. High-quality visuals make a difference.


“Visuals are the coin of the realm.” – Felicia Feaster, HGTV/Travel Channel.

As marketers, we know that Millennials are a coveted demographic in the travel sector. They’ll even skip the avocado toast to take a memorable (and Instagrammable) vacation. Millennials are also the savviest consumers ever, and they recognize the difference in visual quality. In other words, the better your visuals look, the more perceived value you have.


3. Leverage POV visuals that help users see themselves in the experience.

POV, or point-of-view, is a trend that some destination marketers are using effectively to help consumers picture themselves on vacation. Remember the couple on Instagram that invited you to #FollowMeTo? It’s fun to come up with creative ways to showcase your destination! Behind the wheel of a car or over the handlebars of a bike, or even over the bow of a boat would make a compelling shot. Think of what makes your destination unique, and find fun ways to highlight that in your photography and video. 

4. User-generated content is a big trend.

Remember how we said that Millennials want Instagrammable experiences? That means they have beautiful photos to share with their friends. And if you’re lucky, they’ll share them with your brand as well. Amateurs can get some beautiful shots of your destination, and they’re a nice complement to the professional-quality content you’re already producing.


5. Tourism spending out-performs other advertising

This one blew our minds! Coca Cola might outspend the a destination like Virginia with 10x the advertising, but we’re both getting relatively similar results in terms of revenue. That tell us that we’re doing something right. Tourism marketing is an easy sell. And with all the terrific destinations in Virginia, it makes our job even easier.


6. TV is still king, but the domain is bigger than ever.

Contrary to what you may have heard, many consumers are cord-stacking, not cord-cutting. This means that in addition to keeping cable and network TV, they’re adding Video on Demand and streaming services like Hulu, Amazon and Netflix (especially if there are multiple generations in a household). TV isn’t going anywhere, but it’s evolving. Advertisers can place their video content in multiple broadcast and digital platforms, and target it more than ever. It’s less about having to choose and more about opening your eyes.


7. Maximize your budget with bundles.

When you’re working with a small budget, see if there are opportunities for saving by bundling production + airtime. The Vacation Channel has packages where we can provide both. Bonus: The content we produce is yours to share on other channels, online, and in your digital marketing!


8. VTC is a GREAT resource for Virginia destinations.

There are perks to marketing with VTC! You have access to research data that can tell you where your visitors are coming from, stats to help you sell your destination or attraction, sales materials, co-ops, grants, and more! Check it out and see how they can help you in 2019!


9. 50th Anniversary grants available!

Speaking of grants, it’s the 50th Anniversary of the Virginia is for Lovers campaign, and the VTC is kicking off 2019 with a national campaign that has opportunities for everyone! Check out 50 Years of Love to see how VTC is revisiting this iconic campaign and how you can participate! From grants and giveaways to co-branding opportunities, this is a unique opportunity for the entire commonwealth to celebrate 50 years of tourism success! The Vacation Channel would love to help you create content for this special anniversary.


10. A great brand stands the test of time, evolves, and unites people!

In addition to learning more about the original Virginia is for Lovers campaign, we heard a talk from George Zimmerman, who was part of the wildly successful Pure Michigan campaign. The key to their success was statewide support–once the governor got behind it, everything else fell into place! Pure Michigan led to co-branding opportunities with Kroger, Coca Cola and Ford Motor Companies. Michigan even decided to fold their department of economic development under the tourism brand, to great success.

11. Be authentic in your content.

Whether it’s the influencers you choose to align with, or the content you create–make it specific to your brand and make sure it aligns with your audience. Don’t try to reinvent your destination because you’re trying to be everything to everyone. Focus on doing what you do best and finding the audiences who can really connect with your brand. The Vacation Channel specializes in having real people and families in our commercials as often as we can, so that viewers can see spontaneous moments that make our clients look unique.


12. Layer your marketing.

No advertising platform is the final word in advertising. Know where your customers are and create high-quality content that will grab their attention across a variety of media. Television is considered a brand-awareness medium, whereas Digital Marketing is more of a targeted, actionable medium. Figure out how to balance these efforts and how they can meet your brand’s needs.


*There are more than ten takeaways. What can we say? It was a really good conference.


If you’d like to meet with The Vacation Channel to talk more about what we learned at the conference, contact us!

Martin Walsh is an owner of The Vacation Channel, and filmmaker with over a decade of experience making engaging travel content. He’s on a mission to make sure your family has fun this year with a trip to Coastal Virginia. If you would like a local’s opinion, you can always send him a question via email. Now get outside and go have an adventure!

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