Local tourism advertising: Our formula to pull in the crowds

Of all the sectors taking advantage of outdoor marketing,  local tourism advertising presents some of the most unique and intricate challenges of all.

The seasonal nature of the tourist industry, the challenges of operating in a highly competitive and saturated market, and the complex nature of tourist behaviour patterns themselves can all be challenging.

At Bubble we have developed a formula for creative and successful outdoor advertising for local tourism.

colourful ferris wheel for local tourism advertising

Seasonality + Locality = Opportunity

The first part of the tourism marketing puzzle is the characterisation of the tourists themselves.

Locality and types of tourists

The Tourism Society identifies three core types of tourists or visitors.

Tourists: domestic or foreign visitors staying away from home for one or more nights.

Same Day visitors/ Tourist Day visitors: as the name implies, these are visitors who spend more than three hours away from home yet don’t stay away for more than a day. They are not simply going about their usual leisure, recreational, or social activities, but are seeking out local attractions outside of their usual environment.

Leisure day visitors: these are essentially short-burst tourists who spend less than three hours away from home, but still outside their usual social, leisure, or recreational environment. Most leisure day visitors are residents of the tourist destinations themselves, or live in the immediate catchment area.

What emerges from these definitions is a picture of the locality which breaks down in a kind of fractal way into different, smaller, more segmented localities. It becomes clear that multiple advertising strategies are necessary to drill down properly into the localities and get maximum return from your outdoor campaigns.

Any successful outdoor campaign needs to have a firm understanding of the different types of tourists to be targeted. In America, the South Dakota Office of Tourism developed a marketing strategy aimed at three tiers of tourists, similar to the categories mentioned above.

Tier 1: encouraging visitors new to the state to learn more about its tourism offerings

Tier 2: targeting tourists living in South Dakota and those living in the neighbouring states of Iowa and North Dakota

Tier 3: encouraging potential travellers from nearby markets and local residents to take an easy weekend getaway to visit tourist attractions


Local tourism has its yearly rhythms, ebbs and flows. There are of course peak times, (like summer holidays and half term breaks etc.) where there are peak opportunities to tap into the tourism market, and we’ll look further into how to exploit those shortly. But there are also off-season moments when a shrewd advertising campaign can really reap the rewards. Our local tourism advertising formula can be applied to any seasonal context, and with the right amount of creative thinking will bring impressive results.

Here are three tips to boost your local tourism advertising during the off-season

Use down time to plan

The outdoor advertising market works around 2-3 months in advance, so use the down time afforded by the off-season to plan to attract visitors in your next season.

Be more social

Support your outdoor advertising campaigns by using this valuable down time to get on top of your email lists, grow your website’s’ blog, engage with your audience on social media, and tend to other advertising admin you don’t have time to focus on at peak times.

Get on top of strategy

Make use of the extra brain space afforded by the off-season to develop your long term advertising strategy. Take the time to assess the effectiveness of last year’s campaigns. What went well, what not so? How can you improve on last year’s marketing performance next year?


People don’t always want to travel miles and miles to see the sights. Don’t lose sight of the residents of your local area as an essential component of your audience targeting. Here are some quick tips for drawing in the crowds near your sites:

Target key transport hubs near your attraction. Tourists spend key dwell time at transport hubs; getting their bearings, meeting up with friends or family, and perusing tourist information kiosks.

Make use of roadside billboards. Take this campaign placed for Traverse City Tourism by the Outdoor Advertising Society of Michigan.

Local tourism billboard advertising coastal location

Image from http://oaam.org/

They set up large roadside billboards to appeal to motorists, with the message “even our traffic lights are beautiful”, set against the backdrop of a lighthouse on a rugged coastal landscape.

Do your research into local demographics. Who are your core target audience? Where are they likely to live, work and shop near your attraction? How are you going to target them specifically?

Local tourism advertising: Case studies

Lets take a look at some top-rate outdoor campaigns that illustrate our Seasonality + Locality = Opportunity formula.

Legoland Windsor made use of advertising vans to tap in to a sense of wonder and exploration as part of a shared family experience for their 2013 ‘Atlantis Submarine Voyage’ ad campaign.

local tourism advertising van for legoland

Image from http://www.advan.co.uk/

Bristol zoo used bus posters to appeal directly to kids with their 2015 campaign promoting their ‘animatronic big bugs’ exhibit.

The Museum of Scotland promoted their mammoth exhibit with a high-impact wraparound bus campaign that playfully used the three dimensional medium to illustrate the size and mobility of mammoths.

By way of contrast, a Visit Stirling campaign was much more low-key and made use of dwell time to present a campaign directed at the local population.

The Imperial War Museum made use of shopping mall 6 sheets to riff off of stylised fashion adverts to promote their ‘Fashion on the Ration: 1940’s street style’ exhibit.

London Zoo have long been experts at placing posters in the London underground, only narrowly being beaten to first place in the Transport Museum’s Londoners’ favourite tube poster contest in 2014.

London Zoo’s fishy rivals, The London Aquarium, used posters on the underground as part of an integrated campaign targeting children and parents in the Easter period.

Image from www.tcecreative.co.uk/

Image from www.tcecreative.co.uk

The first part of their campaign featured a series of posters inverting the voyeuristic nature of the zoo experience with the slogan “come and watch us watching you”. This was followed up with an interactive campaign encouraging children to contemplate how fish got their names and to draw them as they imagined them. The resulting images were then displayed on digital escalator panels.

The Aquarium also developed creative off-season campaigns, with a tube carriage poster of a star fish and the strap line “Where the wise people are heading this Christmas.”

In these examples we have seen how a strong appreciation of locality, combined with a creative understanding of local tourist demographics, and imaginative, season-appropriate messaging, can create effective outdoor advertising campaigns that exploit the many opportunities local tourist attractions can seize on to draw in crowds and engage with potential visitors.

Want advice on how to develop effective outdoor marketing for your local tourist destination? Want to find out more about booking outdoor advertising via Bubble? Our team of expert marketers are always on hand to guide you. Contact us today to find out more.

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