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Where do destinations find inspiration for their campaigns during COVID-19? How do they convince people to travel again and engage with the local tourism sector? With the focus on recovery and the domestic restart, we have seen many different campaign approaches aimed at the domestic market. The latest national tourism campaign by Visit Estonia really stood out to us as one to watch. As destinations are no longer engulfed by the crisis, we dedicated our thirteenth Tourism Impact call to discussing the opportunities presented by domestic tourism and Visit Estonia’s emotive campaign.

Week 13 - 09/06/20

On this week’s Tourism Impact call, we were joined by Shardee Rebas from Visit Estonia. In a full interview with #DTTT, Shardee revealed the magic behind Visit Estonia's new staycation campaign, which uses storytelling to inspire local people to discover Estonia in a new unique way.

Key Takeaways


Create a New Narrative, beyond Supporting Local 

As a destination, Estonia has experienced a fairly rapid recovery. It is almost operating as normal but without the tourists. To reflect on its situation and to reach out to the domestic market, Visit Estonia created a new narrative that went beyond the usual “support local” campaigns. The tone and style of its latest campaign #eestissearmunud, is inspirational and showcases a different style to what we usually see in tourism. The campaign connects with local people at lifestyle level, its organic approach is designed to reach people emotionally. For DMOs, taking a reflective and emotional approach to staycation campaigns will ensure a strong connection with the local market. By understanding local people’s emotions and responding to them, destinations have the opportunity to really connect and convince local people to experience domestic travel.

Inspire with Local Storytelling 

There are many components to the campaign that make it so compelling to the local market. The campaign is based on the story of two local people who cannot be together during COVID-19, but travel around the country independently until the situation resolves itself and they can finally meet. It tells two stories with a split screen documenting their individual journeys, before merging into one screen when they meet at the end. The theme of the campaign is discovering places to fall in love and falling in love with Estonia. The soundtrack of the video is a song that uses lyrics from an old Estonian love spell. According to an Estonian legend, you have to say the spell three times so it will work. With clever reference to this on the campaign page, locals can find three places in Estonia where they can go this summer to fall in love.

This is a great example of local storytelling and showing local people experiencing and enjoying their country. To appeal to the domestic market, DMOs can incorporate storytelling into their campaigns and feature aspects that are special to local people. Every DMO should now be focusing on the experience their destination can offer, particularly to their local market. Through storytelling, DMOs can develop an appreciation for their destination and forge an emotional connection with their local audience.

Encourage Hyper Local Discovery 

The slow-paced campaign promotes the freedom to meet and connect and most importantly, the heartfelt “Love Estonia” message is a distinct call to action. Encouraging hyper local discovery, the campaign promotes nature and the outdoors, with no reference to face masks. With input from fifteen local regions, covering the natural and cultural sides, Visit Estonia were able to identify three secret places, one from each part of Estonia for local people to discover. The campaign effectively highlights the lesser known locations that offer nature, culture and space to social distance. It responds to people’s needs and allows them to see Estonia in a whole new light. As a campaign, it prompts engagement on all levels and was designed to be used by all DMOs and entrepreneurs to promote local places and products. For DMOs, identifying your destination’s local hidden gems is a great way to encourage local people to discover them.

Strengthen the Campaign with UGC 

The campaign targets local markets, with the key objectives of encouraging domestic tourism and spend within the local economy. Visit Estonia’s strategy was to approach these objectives emotionally. It was aware that people were already supporting local, but it wanted to strengthen the campaign using user-generated content (UGC). It encouraged people to create their own content through the website and make their own split screen picture, re-creating what they had seen in the campaign. The campaign was about inspiring people in the wake of COVID-19. The split screen video emphasising distance until it’s ok to meet up. It was launched as the government lifted restrictions and distributed on all Visit Estonia’s media channels. It has been a success as people have already started making UGC and sharing content of places to visit. Every DMO should introduce UGC into their recovery campaigns as a way to build trust and confidence in potential travellers and also the domestic market. Audiences are really craving authenticity now and UGC is a powerful tool to deliver it.

Create an Evolving Campaign that appeals to Different Markets 

In terms of strategy, the biggest change for Estonia has been to shift its focus to its small domestic market. Its current target market consists of local Estonians and Russians. As it is such a small market, there was a huge incentive to start the campaign quickly and kick-start domestic tourism. Through its landing page, it is able to reach the domestic market and offer the smaller regions direct packages. However, Visit Estonia’s campaign will soon be evolving to include neighbouring countries in the Baltic travel bubble, which consists of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

In terms of the recovery phase, Estonia and its Baltic neighbours are all in the “Closer to home, cautious travel” phase which offers these destinations a head start on regional recovery. Estonia has always had a close relationship with its neighbours and will be using parts of its latest campaign to target markets in Latvia and Finland, which is its biggest market. For Estonia, it views its closest markets as its biggest markets. In the wake of COVID-19, Visit Estonia sees more collaboration happening between the Baltic countries, providing a real opportunity to do something positive. For DMOs developing domestic tourism campaigns, it is important to create an evolving campaign that finds its way into different markets. By expanding campaigns to include neighbouring markets, DMOs can tap in to the need for travel closer to home.

At #DTTT we’ve been inspired by Visit Estonia’s staycation storytelling campaign. It is unique in its message and offers a different perspective to the usual domestic tourism campaigns. Creating an intriguing, authentic story that can be developed, it inspires us with its simplicity and positively to life post COVID-19. It is a captivating campaign that we have certainly fallen in love with.

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