The Cincy region is officially one of the best places to go in 2023

We’ve been helping our friends at Cincinnati’s CVB and Meet NKY spread the word about the Cincy region — and word has been getting around. 

A few days ago, Condé Nast Traveler named Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky one of the best places to go in 2023. That makes them one of just 23 spots in the country to be featured in the prestigious list, which predicts the places that travelers will want to visit most over the next year.

So what makes the Cincy region worthy of such an accolade? A whole lot. The region, which has a prolific distilling and bootlegging history stretching back to Prohibition, is “a must-visit for whiskey lovers”. Known as the gateway to bourbon country, Cincy is home to an array of unique distilleries, wineries, breweries, and more.

The folks at Condé Nast Traveler also cited new luxury hotels, a thriving restaurant scene, and one-of-a-kind bars. And while we’ve known for a while that Cincy is an essential travel destination, we’re thrilled that the rest of the world is discovering everything the region has to offer. 

We’re so excited to see the folks at Cincinnati’s CVB and Meet NKY get the recognition they deserve — and look forward to helping them continue to build off this buzz in the new year.

Emily Hines joins Destination ENV as Content Manager

The Destination ENV team is beyond thrilled to welcome Emily Hines to our growing ranks. As our newest content manager, Emily will be focusing her efforts on Visit Cincy while helping support all our destination clients.

Emily comes to us with a diverse marketing background, including an extensive understanding of community management, content creation, and social media strategy.

Her previous destination marketing experience includes Travel Marquette and Visit Bloomington, where she produced regular blog content, collaborated on digital campaigns, and created and curated content for the brand’s social presence.

When she’s not creating killer content for our destination clients, she’s building her own brand as a freelance travel writer and blogger. Her travel blog Em’s on the Road showcases her adventures around Michigan and beyond (with her husband and adorable daughter Fern at her side).

What is your favorite place you’ve traveled to?
That is tough! Outside of the United States, I’d say Turkey. I love architecture and food and they have both in spades. While in graduate school, I took a historic preservation/city planning class that took us around the country for a couple of weeks and it was incredible. 

In the United States, I’d say a Southeast coast destination like Savannah, Georgia or Charleston, South Carolina. I grew up in coastal Georgia and love any chance to get back home to the Southeast. Both destinations have all the things I love – architecture, great food, shopping, and gorgeous scenery. I also have a soft spot for Maui. We lived there for a few years after college and return whenever we can.

What are the top destinations on your list that you haven’t traveled to yet?
Kauai, Spain, and Banff/Lake Louise. 

Are there any destinations that stand out to you for their current marketing efforts?
Visit Williamsburg was all over my social feeds last fall because of a massive influencer campaign. They activated micro influencers and mega influencers including Julia Berolzheimer and saw some impressive results. I appreciated their approach of tapping influencers of all sizes to test performance and reach a variety of audiences. 

Visit Savannah is also a consistent leader in the space. Their branding, tone, and visuals are on point and make you feel like you’re strolling the square in Savannah. They released a podcast last year that offered a deeper look into famous Savannah places and stories like the Olde Pink House and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Finally, Visit Lexington does an incredible job holding true to their content pillars. Everyone knows they’re the horse capital of the world and an epic bourbon destination. Their pillars are on the front page of their website, highlighted in travel guides, and woven throughout their social media. They also do a great job adapting to the ever-changing social media landscape and embracing vertical video in Instagram Reels and TikTok. 

Emily in Jekyll Island, GA

What trend in destination marketing are you most excited about?
I’m excited to see how TikTok will continue to transform the DMO space. With its algorithm based on user intent and solving a problem, TikTok made a big splash and captured everyone’s attention during lockdown. I look forward to seeing how DMOs can take advantage of this to create content for the platform moving forward.

What are some of the most common hurdles or challenges you come across with destination clients?
I think the most common challenge DMOs face is focus. It can be difficult to know where to focus your efforts when the digital marketing space is always changing. Focusing on owned channels first is always a good idea because that is the space your brand has the most control over. Once you have a handle on that content you can branch out into earned and paid. 

Is there anything you wish more destination marketers were doing? Any common missed opportunities?
I wish more destinations would embrace long-term partnerships with content creators and influencers. Booking a trip is a much longer selling cycle than purchasing most consumer goods. Trips take time and planning, so activating influencers for one month or one post will likely have little impact overall. Destinations should be creating long-term strategies with creators, like bringing them in every quarter to showcase a destination’s seasonality or promote its shoulder season. 

What are some highlights from your work on destination clients?
My entire experience at Visit Bloomington is a highlight in my career. From campaign ideation to copywriting to social media management, I was able to work on everything in the digital content space. 

Also, creating website content for Travel Marquette’s 2019 campaign was really exciting. At the time, I was a relatively new resident in Marquette, Michigan and was able to experience the region through the lens of a visitor. I think the element of discovery and enthusiasm really came through in all of the articles.  

What do you like most about working at Destination ENV?
It’s exciting to work with an agency that has teams of experts that support each other. The SEO, performance, and creative teams all work hand in hand and I love to collaborate with people that have expertise in different areas and all work toward the client’s goals. 

I also love to travel, so it’s exciting to work in this space. Every town and city has something to offer and I love introducing people to places they might have never thought of for a vacation. Tourism is also a major industry in the United States and it feels good to help make a real impact in communities. 

Putting Cincy on the map with a benchmark-shattering brand campaign

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been to the Cincy region. (That is, Cincinnati or Newport, Covington or Florence in Northern Kentucky.)

No? A few yeses in the back? Well, we’re going to need to do better than that. 

Here’s why: Cincy is the most vibrant cultural destination in the midwest/south that travelers aren’t considering (yet). 

It’s a region with street art around every corner, boundary-pushing museums, dance and theater that features major Broadway shows, a bustling food scene getting noticed by James Beard Foundation, a legendary bourbon and beer scene, three major league sports teams (ahem, watch the Super Bowl this year?), and unique neighborhoods with their own flavor and charm.

Destination ENV has been tasked with transforming this undiscovered local gem to an unapologetic travel favorite. We know it’s a marathon, not a sprint. But just one quarter into it, and we’re on our way with 115 million impressions served and creative performing at or well above benchmarks across the board (I mean, as high as 24% CTRs on Twitter).

The challenge

Years of focusing on convention and sports-associated travel left a significant gap in inspiring audiences to choose Cincy as a leisure travel destination. Put simply: with more than a decade of renaissance and economic development, the reality of the Cincinnati region didn’t match the traveler’s perception. 

Furthermore, Cincinnati’s CVB and Meet NKY recently joined forces as the Cincy region — a unified brand with a colorful, energetic new look and feel that brings to life all things Cincy culture. What better time to harness their power with a new digital media campaign, especially considering the post-pandemic return to travel? 

The concept

Our Culture. Your Cincy was born from the insight that one of the most culturally packed destinations in the U.S. is also one of the friendliest. 

Across our display, paid social (including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter), paid search, and partner direct, the creative uses bold color and high-impact video and imagery to extend a warm, open invitation for travelers to experience Cincy’s unrivaled culture. 

Our goal is to showcase all the refreshing collisions of culture that make the region so undeniably unique and exploration worthy, with a strong emphasis on EDI.

The results

Since leisure travel is a new priority for Cincy, we honed in on shifting the region’s perception with prospective travelers, from weekend warriors to family road-trippers — and moving these folks from dreaming about their trip to booking one. 

Our initial focus has been on increasing travel for regional drive markets such as Nashville, Chicago, Detroit, Lexington, and more. Campaign performance has been consistently strong since launch, with some impressive initial metrics.

  • The overall media campaign has delivered over 115 million impressions, 1.2 million clicks, and 1.5 million website sessions
  • Overall engagement is high with each channel achieving or exceeding CTR benchmarks, with Twitter being the clear front runner with an average CTR of 24%
  • The campaign continues to drive new users to the Cincy website

We’re thrilled with the early momentum we’ve established — and we’re just getting started. 

This campaign has allowed us to collect new insights and understand how audiences react to new messaging. With a solid foundation in place, we’re expanding our efforts beyond media to establish a strong content program and organic presence for the region. 

And as air travel continues to pick up, we’ll be broadening our focus beyond the drive market and continuing to spread the good word about Cincy all around the country. 

Regional DMO partners rally, welcome back summer leisure travel to Chicagoland

Strength in numbers

A defining characteristic of promoting broad regional markets can be found in the symbiotic relationship between the urban center and its surrounding communities. Cosmopolitan diversity, quaint villages, outdoor adventure…no matter the initial draw, opportunities to extend a trip for broader exploration abound. Neighboring communities are often home to attractions attributed to the large city they are linked to. Working together to acknowledge the draw of the major urban center while also recognizing the added value of the entire area’s offerings leads to mutual success for all. Rising tide, if you will. 

For the DMOs comprising greater metropolitan Chicago, embracing this dynamic has never been more important.

The headwinds of our post-pandemic reality are felt across all of our industry’s stakeholders. With protocols varying by state, region, and city, supporting member’s safety messaging while responsibly informing consumers has increased the burden on DMOs already feeling the impact of constrained resources. 

With a tradition of partnership across the region, the greater Chicagoland collective see an opportunity to pool capability and resources to tackle these challenges together. As vaccinations increase, and core attractions begin to come online, inspiring drive markets to once again imagine the opportunities available to them is a must. 

However, co-branded messaging for “Visit Chicagoland” needed to be evolved to address today’s reality. Collaborating with our client Choose Chicago and 8 regional DMOs, the agency worked to quickly bring a campaign to life that reintroduced a safe, welcoming, inclusive region that is open for business.


How to let travelers know your destination is reopening responsibly

As the vaccine rollout continues and the end of the pandemic starts to feel like it’s within reach, destinations around the world are cautiously rolling back restrictions and getting ready to welcome visitors back. And travelers are eager to return. According to the U.S. Travel Association, 81% of travelers have tentative travel plans within the next six months — the highest since March 2020.

But this new era of travel is going to look a lot different than it did pre-pandemic. Today’s travelers are savvier about health and safety during every aspect of their trip, from their method of travel to choosing a destination. That means your DMO has to be actively communicating with your audience to show, not just tell, travelers what your destination is doing to keep them safe.

How DMOs can support partners during a crisis

The COVID-19 situation is wreaking havoc across a wide range of industries—but we all know that tourism and hospitality are being hit especially hard. And if your destination marketing organization is partner-based, you know that your members are feeling the effects as well.

During a crisis like this, partners will look to you for leadership and support. And it’s up to your organization to find ways to provide value and see your partners through these uncertain times. This is also an opportunity to support your tourism strategy while being mindful of local and national restrictions.

Here are four proactive ways your DMO can provide value to your partners during the current COVID pandemic.