A great tourism campaign can have an impact even beyond drawing visitors to a destination. Think about Las Vegas and its timeless tagline "What Happens Here Stays Here." The quip has entered into the American lexicon, become one of the most recognized ad campaigns in history, inspired the Hangover trilogy and even, as Thrillist recently argued, "changed the way an entire generation goes on vacation." But where the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority got it so right, others have failed, making the campaigns memorable for all the wrong reasons. Here are our picks for some of the worst tourism marketing campaigns in history.
1. Rhode Island
Everything went wrong for Visit Rhode Island's $5 million spring 2016 campaign. The website featured restaurants in Massachusetts, an accompanying video featured footage shot in Iceland and its uninspired slogan "Cooler and Warmer" was quickly mocked on social media and derided as "Dumb and Dumber" (actually appropriate as part of the classic movie was set there).
A 2014 promo video aimed at the Phillippine market is a strong contender for the worst tourism advert we've ever seen. Cringe as you watch a grinning couple stroll through the city-state uttering such inanities as: "Oh! Let's go there!" and "Wow, amazing." Stick around for the full two minutes to see the woman present her partner with a pregnancy test in a jewelry box. Yes, really.
In 2006 an advertising campaign demanding to know of potential visitors "where the bloody hell are you?" proved to be too confrontational to continue. The U.K. objected to the use of the word "bloody," while Canada wasn't down with the depiction of brazen alcohol consumption. In the end, Tourism Australia dumped it and revealed that the $180 million campaign did not generate any major increase in visitor numbers.
It almost seems almost a cruel statute-of-limitations violation to dig up a video from as far back as the 1970s, but we couldn't let Miami's 13-minute-long groovy and innuendo-laden "Color Me Fun" video pass by. The story begins with three sultry women turning to the camera one by one to say, in order: “I'm red, I love.” “I'm yellow, I groove.” “I'm blue, I … appreciate.” Later another purrs, "forgive me for not going in the front way," and it gets steadily more embarrassing from there.
You would think that the mockery Rhode Island received for using footage of a different country would have served as a warning. That warning appears to have gone unheeded in Lithuania where the department of tourism used images of Finland and Slovenia on its Facebook page to lure potential visitors. Ironically this shambles of a marketing campaign was given the unironic slogan (wait for it) "Real is Beautiful."
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