WILMINGTON, N.C. — Kim Hufham, President/CEO of the New Hanover County Tourism Development Authority, is pleased to announce that the Wilmington and Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) recently received a Tourism Marketing Achievement Gold Award in the Leisure Marketing category for the organization’s “Fall is the New Summer” campaign. The 2020-2021 Tourism Marketing Achievement Awards were presented by the N.C. Travel Industry Association (NCTIA) during the N.C. Tourism Leadership Conference held September 29-30 in Winston-Salem.
The “Fall is the New Summer” COVID-19 recovery marketing campaign was developed as a unified campaign that branded Wilmington and Beaches as one destination encompassing all four destinations within the county. The goal of the winning recovery campaign was to increase destination awareness, preference, engagement and visitation. By positioning Wilmington and Beaches as an ideal and safe destination, our intent was to recapture summer visitation that was lost as a result of COVID-19. While there are many factors beyond marketing that impact travel, including the hard work of our tourism industry partners, Wilmington and Beaches had one of its best fall seasons on record in 2020.
As with most destinations heavily reliant on tourism, the impact of COVID-19 on our area was unprecedented. Industry research indicated that visitors were postponing summer travel until fall, prompting the CVB to quickly launch a research-based, unified recovery campaign intended to impact 2020 fall visitation. Paid media efforts focused on messaging and promotion that the destination was open for visitors, offering a safe and relaxing summer-like vacation experience they missed when travel restrictions were in place. The “Fall is the New Summer” digital campaign ran across all paid channels including paid search, paid social, custom content, eblasts, programmatic and streaming video. Creative elements highlighted Wilmington’s three nearby island beaches well into the fall, focusing on outdoor activities that visitors perceive as safe. Supporting content was promoted across earned media outreach and social media.
“It is exciting for the Wilmington and Beaches CVB to be recognized by NCTIA and industry professionals for the ‘Fall is the New Summer’ marketing campaign that was developed and executed as travel restrictions eased and tourism-related businesses began reopening. We are proud to serve our travel partners and to represent the destination with award-winning, multi-faceted marketing programs,” states Kim Hufham, president/CEO of the New Hanover County TDA.
Shawn Braden, CVB Executive Vice-President of Marketing and Strategy, adds: “We are especially honored to receive this award given the fierce competition for share of voice during a time when all destinations were trying to make up for lost revenues due to COVID and resistance to travel due to safety and financial concerns. The campaign was developed in partnership with multiple agencies to get the word out quickly that we were open for business and to establish Wilmington and Beaches as a safe travel destination. The CVB shares this industry recognition for marketing excellence with the agencies who worked side-by-side with us on a strategic paid and earned media campaign.”
The NCTIA Tourism Marketing Achievement Awards are given to honor and showcase innovation, best practices, creativity, and the results accomplished through the travel and tourism industry’s marketing efforts. Separate award categories are established for the target audiences that destination marketers and tourism-related businesses communicate with on a daily basis. The awards judging committee is comprised of travel and tourism professionals representing many facets of destination marketing, including CVB peers from other states, meeting planners, website designers, and editors from international meeting and convention trade publications.
The New Hanover County Tourism Development Authority (TDA), d/b/a Wilmington and Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau, markets and develops the county and its communities’ leisure and group travel experiences for economic growth and quality of place.