The San Francisco Travel Association’s 2021 recovery marketing plan builds off the success of their Fall 2020 re-opening platform “Our Gate is Open” and capitalizes on resources and messaging of Visit California’s “Calling all Californians” and “What If” campaigns.
Before moving forward with the re-launch of the campaign, San Francisco Travel wanted to ensure all visitors had a positive experience of the destination. They monitored and communicated state and local health and safety guidelines, and waited until hotel quarantines were lifted and indoor dining and attractions were accessible and open safely.
Utilizing a multi-channel, fully-integrated campaign across all travel segments, the communication strategy focused on ensuring consumers and trade and meeting planners knew the Bay Area is open for business. “Our Gate is Open” invites potential visitors to indulge in everything San Francisco has to offer including food, culture, unique neighborhoods, and scenic beauty. Adherence to health and safety protocols, SFO airport’s leadership in airport safety, and the success in managing COVID-19’s spread were key messages to reinforce consumer confidence. Additionally, a toolkit was made available for industry partners to amplify the “Our Gate is Open” messaging.
The initial digital-only campaign, “Calling All Californians: Our Gate is Open” was launched in October 2020 in partnership with Visit California, who provided matching funds and creative templates to support the recovery efforts. SF Travel had created a regional co-op within this campaign to maximize investments and assist with the recovery of the entire region. Regional partners Visit Oakland and the Mt. Diablo Region, along with United Airlines, worked together to develop marketing assets to inspire planning and promote travel to the Bay Area. The campaign was paused in November due to a second state-wide closure of businesses, however, re-launched in mid-March 2021 and once again called in-state visitors to spend three days in San Francisco and the outlying region. Leveraging content and assets developed in 2020, outdoor experiences and wide-open spaces were emphasized with information about safety protocols related to the visitor experience. A second layer of the “Our Gate is Open” campaign, “The Arts are Open,” launched April 1 and promoted San Francisco arts and cultural institutions with highly targeted media to California consumers searching for arts and culture points of interest. Paid partners in that layer included Marriott Hotels and United Airlines.
In April, the team expanded the “Our Gate is Open” messaging to additionally target meeting planners, both local and national. They partnered with local business organizations to create a “Meet Local” sub-campaign and developed a video inviting meetings to San Francisco once restrictions were lifted.
Beginning in May, by once again leveraging matching funds, rates, and creative templates from Visit California, San Francisco developed another regional digital co-op to leverage VCA’s “What If” campaign. Geographic targeting was expanded to key feeder markets, including Seattle, Phoenix, and Dallas along with Los Angeles with a national layer of paid social media.
The leisure marketing campaign will continue through November and has generated over 100,000 room nights for the city to date.
Note: Portions of this article were previously published by US Travel Association in June, 2021.