Governor Glenn Youngkin announced that Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) received a national tourism industry award for its “WanderLove” campaign, a recovery initiative that united Virginia’s tourism industry, generated immediate economic impact for local communities and encouraged visitors to travel safely. VTC was recognized with the prestigious National Council of State Tourism Directors (NCSTD) Mercury Award for Industry and Strategic Partnerships during U.S. Travel Association’s annual Education Seminar for Tourism Organizations (ESTO) conference in Grand Rapids, Mich. This is VTC’s 13th Mercury Award. The agency’s DRIVE 2.0 program was also recognized as a finalist for the Mercury Award for Community Building.
With its Mercury Awards, the U.S. Travel Association (U.S. Travel) recognizes state and territory tourism offices for excellence and creative accomplishment in travel marketing and promotion. Winning programs serve as models to foster imagination and innovation in the development of future destination programs.
“Virginia Tourism’s latest Mercury Award is well-deserved recognition for the agency’s best-in-class marketing efforts,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “Virginia Tourism’s strategic and innovative initiatives like WanderLove are reminding people that Virginia is the best place to live, work, raise a family, and travel.”
“The WanderLove campaign was an essential component of the travel industry’s recovery efforts,” said Caren Merrick, Secretary of Commerce and Trade. “This innovative initiative helped to drive economic activity across the Commonwealth, injecting critical funds back into our communities and reviving an industry that had been severely affected by the pandemic. Virginia Tourism continues to deliver outstanding results, helping to attract more travelers to the Commonwealth and spurring economic growth across Virginia. We are immensely proud of this prestigious honor.”
The WanderLove campaign was developed to position Virginia as the ultimate road trip destination to families and young couples who live in-state. Knowing there was concern with the safety of travel, VTC focused on five thematic pillars that highlighted low-risk travel experiences in Virginia: Scenic Drives, Outdoor Experiences, Small Towns, Hidden Gems and LOVEworks, a collection of more than 300 colorful, Instagrammable, roadside “LOVE” signs. These five pillars not only captured the unique aspects of a Virginia road-trip but also promoted low-risk experiences that travelers could enjoy from their car or socially distanced from large crowds.
To further amplify the WanderLove campaign, VTC provided a DMO Recovery Grant of $10,000 awarded to 90 Destination Marketing Organizations to create their own WanderLove content. Along with funding, partners had access to a toolkit with creative templates including digital banners, social posts, logos, news releases and blog outlines, enabling them to quickly customize creative and get back into the marketplace, while also unifying them like never before in a broad-reaching campaign.
The campaign delivered impressive results, with more than 27 million impressions, 360,000 website visits, 2.9 million video views, 310,000 email opens, and 51,000 influencer engagements. According to a ROI study with Omnitrak, 72% of exposed Virginia residents said the WanderLove campaign positively impacted their perceptions of Virginia as a travel destination. Furthermore, one third of the Virginia resident audience recalled seeing an ad and 35% reported planning to visit within the next 6 months.
To learn more about WanderLove and plan your next Virginia road trip, click here.