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6 Creative Airport Destination Marketing Campaigns

6 Jul 2023
Sarah Marks

While 73% of travelers are more optimistic about travel in 2023 than they were in 2022, personal finances and the general low economy are definitely playing a factor in whether people are planning to go on holiday this year. 34% of consumers say their personal financial situation has a negative impact on their willingness to travel and 33% are valuing deals such as a complimentary add-on (like free parking) in order to actually book their flights.

So with stiff competition from airlines and online travel agencies, airports must work harder and smarter than ever before to win over passengers and get direct flight, hotel and travel bookings through their ecommerce sites.

While the airport has long been seen as the ‘warm-up act’ to the airline’s ‘main event,’ it’s time for airport marketers to seize the opportunity to shine. No longer a simple gateway, airports now have the means to market themselves as a destination in their own right. How? Through proven destination marketing techniques.

We look at some of the most creative airport destination marketing campaigns we’ve seen over time for inspiration, examine why they were so effective, and discuss how you can implement similar tactics to your airport marketing to win passengers in 2023 and beyond.

1. Košice International Airport in Slovakia – Influencer partnership

Did you know 79% of Gen-Z and millennials would love to participate in “a day in the life of locals” at their travel destinations? Partnering with travel influencers is a great way to expand the reach of your airport marketing and even target a whole new audience. What’s more, 75% of travelers have been inspired by social media to a specific destination.

Košice International Airport in Slovakia launched an award-winning interactive live campaign to raise awareness that onboard Turkish Airlines, people from Eastern Slovakia and neighbouring regions can fly anywhere in the world from the airport. Košice approached five influencers, challenging them to fly ‘around the world in 80 hours,’ visiting locations such as Istanbul, Dubai, Mauritius, New York and Bangkok.

The participants received an envelope containing their boarding passes on arrival at the airport, and the entire 80-hour experience was streamed and shared online via their online channels. Followers could interact with their journeys by directing them towards interesting locations within their reach. The campaign’s total reach on social media was 6.1 million. More importantly, it resulted in a significant increase in Turkish Airlines passengers flying to and from Košice International Airport.

2. Helsinki Airport – Visual storytelling

Although a while ago, Helsinki Airport was voted best airport in the world in 2017 by a survey on booking website Travellink, and even today the follow up campaign capitalising on this is one of the best we’ve seen. To prove it was a worthy winner, the airport launched a disruptive marketing campaign featuring a series of videos in the style of a reality TV show.

Aptly named #LIFEINHEL, the campaign sought to uncover whether the airport was so good that someone could actually live in it. Chinese actor Ryan Zhu lived in an 8 square metre wood cabin at the Helsinki Airport gate area for 30 days to win a family trip to Lapland. Inspired by the Tom Hanks film, The Terminal, Ryan’s day-to-day life was broadcast on YouTube and social media. While it didn’t focus on flight destinations, the campaign showcased Helsinki Airport as a destination in its own right. The campaign was such a success it gained a global audience of over 2.2 billion people and garnered several prestigious marketing awards.

3. Birmingham Airport – B2B marketing

Birmingham Airport also developed an award-winning destinations campaign in 2017. This time the focus was on a B2B approach. The Centre of Your World campaign was designed to present the airport as a global player for the World Routes Global Forum in China and target an emerging non-English speaking market. It used film, print, press, online advertising, and multilingual exhibition panels to showcase Birmingham Airport’s benefits and position it as an easily-accessible business hub in the heart of the UK.

The Centre of Your World campaign won the airport the Routes Europe 2017 Marketing Award in the 4-20 million passenger category for its marketing activity over the previous 12 months. It also resulted in years of consecutive monthly record growth, including a rise in outstanding demand for long-haul seats of 29% year-on-year until the pandemic.

4. Scandinavian Airlines – Mobile App Destination showcase

Scandinavian Airlines used a successful campaign to promote the Point and Fly feature on their SAS app. The feature uses the compass and GPS capabilities on mobile devices to allow travellers to see Scandinavian Airlines destinations in whichever direction they face.

Customers can then book directly from the app in a few simple steps. It proved a great way to take advantage of customers’ wanderlust and ‘I want to get away’ feeling while also engaging with the desire for convenience. This idea would easily translate to an airport app as a visual, experiential and creative way to introduce and promote destinations.

5. Tourism Ireland – Emotional appeal

Travelling is inherently emotional, so it makes sense to tap into customers’ hearts and heads with emotive destination marketing campaigns. Tourism Ireland’s ‘Fill Your Heart with Ireland’ campaign is an excellent example of this.

This industry-first campaign featured a married couple from Sweden who had never visited Ireland before. They were asked to wear custom-made tech to track their physiological responses on their trip around Ireland. Tourism Ireland linked the coupe’s heart monitors to their head cams and data from the heart rate monitors to determine the footage featured in the advertising campaigns. It made for a brilliant and innovative piece of emotional destination marketing!

6. Graubünden Tourism in Switzerland – Interactivity

Graubünden Tourism wanted to encourage busy city-goers to visit its small, rural region in Switzerland and came up with a clever interactive campaign. A live video feed was set up in a nearby train station, connecting passersby with a friendly gentleman from Vrin, Graubünden. The gentleman started impromptu conversations with travellers through the live feed, chatted about his hometown, showed off his yodelling skills and even printed off free train tickets in real-time so they could visit his home that day. The live feed also captured the visitors turning up at Vrin to meet him.

The interactive destination campaign ticked all of the boxes, exciting, entertaining and even surprising the audience. The ad featuring the live video amassed over 1 million views on YouTube and was praised by travel industry experts across the globe.

Applying destination marketing techniques to your campaigns

Are you feeling inspired? Here are a few pointers to help you get started with your next airport destination marketing campaign.

1. Establish what you want to achieve – The first step is to decide what you want to accomplish with your airport destination marketing. For example, are you hoping to attract more people to your airport? Get more direct flight sales? Your end goal will influence your entire campaign and give you something to work towards. It’s also necessary for measuring how effective your campaign is.

2. What is your USP? – What do you want to tell customers about your airport? What makes your airport experience unique, and what can customers expect from visiting you? What gives you a competitive advantage, and how will customers benefit from booking directly with your airport over competing airlines or online travel agents?

3. Who are you targeting? – The next step is to establish the audience you are marketing to. For example, is it leisure passengers flying from your airport? Business travellers? Or local people visiting your airport for another experience, for example, shopping or an airport tour?

4. What marketing tools work best? – We all know video is one of the most engaging forms of destination marketing, particularly for visual storytelling. But remember, it doesn’t always have to be ‘big budget’ and ‘polished’, particularly if you’re utilising social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok. Determine what other media forms will support your campaigns, like email, which still generates the highest ROI for marketers.

5. How can you extend your reach? – Consider partnering with key travel influencers or relevant brands that will add value to your airport destination marketing campaign and extend its reach. Do your research and think up creative ways to collaborate, drawing inspiration from some of the campaigns featured in this blog post. Check out our blog: Destination Marketing for Airports: Tips, Trends and Content Ideas for help with optimising your campaigns.

Market your airport as a destination with Rezcomm

Take your airport marketing to the next level with Rezcomm. Use our state-of-the-art marketing modules to build creative destination marketing campaigns with ease and benefit from the expertise of our travel marketers, on-hand to help you every step of the way. Get in touch to find out more.