Love Is In The Air

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Love Is In The Air

Love seems to work when it comes to branding a destination. Virginia Is For Lovers may have started it all decades ago – and, of course, I Love New York is an iconic campaign. But, in recent years, love has come to the fore in the City of Brotherly Love – Philadelphia – whose “With Love, Philadelphia” campaign features customized love letters to every conceivable target market – to great success.

A recent permutation “With Art, Philadelphia,” heralded the coming of the famed Barnes Foundation art collection to the city – joining the Philadelphia Art Museum and other revered institutions who promote themselves as a group – and Philadelphia as a prime arts destination. The campaign has produced incredible press coverage – including 1,000 glowing stories in outlets like the Wall Street Journal and Travel + Leisure – about the art as well as the city.

The Philly campaigns are run by an organization called the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation – a private, nonprofit organization that was founded in 1996 and launched its first campaign in 1997. Since then, the number of annual visitors has increased by a whopping 10 million. There are, in fact, many impressive numbers for Philadelphia, one being a Saturday night hotel occupancy of 85% — the highest night of the week for nine years as a result of an ongoing effort to get visitors to stay overnight. In fact, the number of overnight stays increased six times the national average from 1997 to 2010. And $100 is spent by visitors for every $1 spent on the various “With Love” campaigns.

The marketing has been clever – taking over entire rail stations like New York’s Penn Station and Union Station in Washington, D.C.; fun billboards; and sponsorship of select sporting events – all around a big impact for a relatively small city.

With the advent of social media, the city has maintained its momentum. 2012 was a record-setting year on the web with visitphilly.com and uwishunu (an events blog run by GPTMC) welcoming 8.7 million visits – up 31% from 2011. In April, visitphilly.com made a major shift when it began running ads on its site for the first time. The move came as result of partners asking to buy increased visibility and the need for additional revenue. To preserve the site’s integrity, ads must be relevant to the trip-planning site.

It’s no wonder vendors are hot to advertise on the site: In 2012, 48% of out-of-town social media followers planned a trip to the city based on a post viewed on a social media outlet; 73% of social media followers attended an event or visited an attraction they learned about from one of the city’s many social media accounts; 169,000 views on the Visit Philly YouTube channel; 41,000 retweets; 750,000 comments, clicks and likes on Facebook.

Let’s face it. It ain’t easy being Philly. With New York and Washington, D.C. an easy drive or train ride from the target markets, the city has to scramble to get visibility. Of course, you have to deliver the goods – and Philly has it – the art, superb restaurants, as much history as any place. When it comes to promoting tourism, you need more than love.

Harvey Chipkin has been writing about travel for many years. He contributes regularly to “Travel Weekly,” “Lodging Magazine” and “Travel Market Report.”

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