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Promoting local travel in New Brunswick in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic

Boats and lighthouse in St-Andrews New Brunswick

In April 2020, at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses were reeling trying to adapt to a work-from-home reality or pivot their operations as a means of survival. With the entire world shut down and borders closed, no one knew what the next few months would look like. What we did know, was that the tourism industry was going to be among the hardest hit and needed to move from a state of reactivity to forward-looking proactivity. Promoting local tourism was going to be paramount to the survival of many small businesses tourism operators.

In partnership with Tourism New Brunswick and the Government of New Brunswick, NATIONAL saw an opportunity to inspire New Brunswickers, give them hope during a challenging time, and ultimately plant the seeds to encourage local travel in support of the tourism industry.

As the restrictions and the emotional sentiment were changing so quickly, we knew speed and flexibility would be key. We recommended a phased integrated campaign approach to ensure messaging and tone would evolve along with the changing circumstances. Working collaboratively with New Brunswick Tourism, government stakeholders, tourism operators and partners Rose Wagner Media and Hemmings House video production, we developed #NBAlways/#NBToujours, a fully integrated, multi-phased, bilingual campaign in about half the time it would typically take to create.

The first phase, Apart for now, not forever, featured pride of place videos, a landing page, stakeholder mapping and outreach as well as a fully integrated owned, earned, and paid campaign.

The second phase planted the seeds of future travel, asking Where will you go first/Où irez-vous en premier?, complemented by a paid multi-channel campaign, influencer marketing partnerships and a series of live stream videos created by tourism operators, giving the public a sneak peek into their experience.

Building on hope, community and the natural beauty of the province, the #NBAlways/#NBtoujours campaign represented a welcome change in tone for New Brunswickers, a sign of optimism and pride juxtaposed against the grim news cycle. As a result, New Brunswick was one of the first provinces to proactively encourage local tourism, and in July, 62% of New Brunswickers said they planned to vacation within their province, the highest of any province in Canada.