Published On: July 3, 2024By
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I don’t know about you, but when I plan a holiday, I want to get off the beaten path and connect with something authentic. And I’m not the only one. Destination Canada reported that “the pandemic has enhanced the desire to connect in meaningful ways with places visited.”

Travellers want the full experience of a destination, not just a quick pop into a well-known, mainstream attraction. They want to immerse themselves in the sights, sounds, tastes and sensations that locals experience every day.

How can your tourism business or destination take advantage of this growing trend?

While your destination alone may not be able to check all those boxes, collaborations make it possible. By using co-promotions and partnerships, destinations can broaden their marketing reach and captivate new audiences. And when done effectively, you can attract fresh travellers and even encourage return visits from folks you want to welcome back.

And because we’re here to help, we’ve put together some tips on how to leverage collaborations to expand the reach of your destination marketing program.

What should go into it?

There are a few different types of collaborations that can go into a successful destination marketing program. Here are a few ideas to get the wheels turning:

Product Collaborations

Think local! Partnering with makers to sell merch or even create limited-run products brings a local touch, creating meaningful ways for your audience to connect with your destination. Partnering with Indigenous artisans also allows you to showcase the rich cultural heritage of the destination, offering travelers an authentic and memorable experience.

A person in a Travel Manitoba shirt holding a limited edition Manitoba ceramic mug.

Lot Ceramics Limited Edition Mug

Gin tasting occurring at Patent 5

Patent 5 Wild Boreal Gin

Leather Manitoba tourism keychain framed in the snow

Wilder Goods Leather Keychain

Culinary Experiences

Food festivals add a whole new flavour to your destination, and events like Beverage Week offer an affordable option for visitors to hit up multiple spots. But don’t sleep on mocktails and non-alcoholic options! Especially if you’re looking to attract Gen Z visitors who have a different relationship to alcohol than previous generations. But while young people are more likely to completely abstain from alcohol, people of all ages are getting in on alcohol-free challenges like ‘Dry January’ and ‘Sober October’, which have grown in popularity in recent years.

Person being photographed with a mocktail at a DrinkSense event
DrinkSense shaker, tote and cutting board.
DrinkSense mocktails sitting on a bartop.

DrinkSense Mocktail Week Activation


Creating itineraries that hit multiple spots can be a spark of inspiration for travellers imagining what a trip to your destination could look like. What would a great date night look like in your hometown? What about a history buff’s perfect afternoon, or a fashion lover’s day in the district? A great itinerary blends inspiring activities with comfortable spots to stop, rest and refuel. And don’t forget a great sunset-viewing spot to wrap up the day –  always a highlight for my mom!

How to find partners

So, you’ve got the ideas, now you need to find partners to make your vision a reality!

Start by looking at who’s already participating in collaborations. These folks are likely open to new partnerships and have the drive to make it happen. These are partners who will put in the work to get it off the ground and have the systems in place to promote and execute the project. Ask them what has worked well and what hasn’t in past collaborations; they’re the experts.

It’s also important to look beyond the established or well-known spots and attractions when looking for partners. Accommodations, festivals and guided tours might be the first attractions that come to mind but make sure to consider food and beverage providers, musicians and film, arts and performances, history and shopping. Emerging attractions and experiences may not be as well-known, but they often offer something new and exciting.

Another great way to find partners is to get involved in boards and committees and see who is attending industry events like Chamber of Commerce events or tourism conferences. If you see business owners engaging with their industry peers, they are likely looking for new ways to promote their offering and will be eager to collaborate.

Who can participate?

Ensuring that your collaborations are accessible for all audiences isn’t just about social responsibility – it’s also a strategic way to reach a wider audience and showcase a positive and inclusive brand.

Programs like Rainbow Registered can get your destination in front of new audiences who are looking for a warm and welcoming experience – particularly for visitors coming from a long way who know nothing of the local culture.

Strive for accessibility, and if you can offer it, promote the heck out of that! It’s a sure way to stand out, but it’s important to be transparent with where you’re at. If you’re on your own journey for greater accessibility in your space, communicate what visitors can expect and commit to learning how to be more accessible. Following influencers like Curb Free Cory is a great way to learn about the common barriers faced by tourists using mobility aids.

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How to set up for success

Promotion plays a big part in the success of collaborations. Social media marketing is a powerful tool, and tagging or cross-promoting with your partners is a sure-fire way of getting your destination or attraction in front of the audiences of your collaborators. You can also create making-of or behind-the-scenes content for social promotion or quick vlog-style videos of the collaborators, showing why they’re participating and what visitors can expect. And if you’re using Instagram and Facebook to promote, consider asking your partners to contribute some funds to boost posts as these are pay-to-play platforms.

Influencer marketing can also be an excellent strategy when it comes to your marketing plan. They can inspire potential visitors by offering a personal and genuine perspective, while increasing your destination’s visibility on social media platforms. Influencers often have a specific niche or demographic that they cater to. By partnering with influencers whose audience aligns with your targets, you can reach viewers who are more likely to be interested in what your destination has to offer.

When to plan and promote? How to execute?

The key to putting together collaborations is to plan ahead and promote them early. People tend to start planning their next vacation during the winter blues (think February and March). Using early-bird pricing incentives can be a great way to get folks to commit early.

Platforms like Bandwango allow you to sell curated packages, but don’t limit yourself to the most common tools! See what other businesses are using to make it easy for customers to buy and redeem products and services from multiple vendors.

You’ll want to make it convenient and accessible for folks to convert (buy the package) from their mobile device, including folks who are using screen readers or located in a low-bandwidth area.

And last but certainly not least, stand for something. What do you want participants to remember long after the experience has ended? Maybe it’s that adventure is close to home, or your town is a hub for the arts, or the best place to experience a certain culture is in your neighbourhood.

Building a strong reputation is like an investment that pays returns year after year. It will give a little boost to future marketing efforts because visitors will recognize your destination and be primed to come for another visit (and even bring their friends).

We hope to see you out there!

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So, does it work?

Coming out of the pandemic, travellers had many choices on where to spend their vacation savings. In 2022, UpHouse worked with Travel Manitoba on a brand refresh, and partnered with numerous local collaborators, including 19 local influencer partnerships, to promote the new Canada’s Heart is Calling brand campaign.

We collaborated with Manitoba artisans to produce a limited run of branded merchandise that reflected the talent and character of the province. We also planned launch-week partnerships with local cafes and bakeries that served Manitoba-themed beverages and treats during launch week to help spread the word.

Our mobile digital and social media ads featured UGC  (user-generated content) licensed from Manitobans. The captivating point-of-view and selfie-style footage conveyed the emotion of the itineraries in an authentic, accessible way. The video ads featured music from Manitoba musicians which allowed us to select the perfect music bed for each video spot.

Our earned media reached over 140 million, generated more than 240 media clippings, and delivered a return on investment of over 4500%. Travel to the province rose in the year following the launch of the brand campaign, with domestic visitor spending and visitation numbers exceeding those of previous years, including pre-pandemic levels. Manitobans can be critical of initiatives that seek to brand them, but this brand campaign received an overwhelmingly positive reception.

While this case was focused on Canadian efforts, one goal was to make Manitoba stand out on the competitive global tourism market. We knew we were successful when the Canada’s Heart is Calling campaign was a finalist in the World Media Awards, earning its spot among tourism giants Abu Dhabi, London and Wales in the category of Travel and Tourism.

All of these successes were rooted in the made-in-Manitoba collaborations that allowed people in Manitoba and beyond to immerse themselves in all the sights, sounds, tastes and sensations of the province in meaningful ways.