New Brunswick

N.B. tourism contest targets 'gone-aways' with promise of free holiday back home

If you were the winner of New Brunswick's latest tourism marketing campaign, who would you invite back to New Brunswick?

Winner can invite 3 favourite friends or relatives back to the province on free 5-day trip

The New Brunswick Department of Tourism's contest to bring three "gone-aways" back closes at midnight tonight. (Government of New Brunswick)

If you were the winner of New Brunswick's latest tourism marketing campaign, who would you invite back to New Brunswick for a visit?

The government is offering up a five-day, four-night vacation for three of the winner's favourite "gone-aways" to come back home to "reconnect with them and New Brunswick."

The contest closes at midnight tonight. 

According to the rules, entrants must live in New Brunswick and have a valid New Brunswick driver's licence. The prize package includes three round-trip plane tickets from anywhere in Canada, car rental, hotels and meals. The services of a travel agent are also covered in order to help plan the whole trip, including activities. 

The prize package is estimated at approximately about $10,000, but will vary depending on where the "gone-aways" are travelling from. 

Premier Blaine Higgs recently tweeted about the contest and received some interesting, but critical, suggestions about who people would invite, including "Dr. Theresa Tam @CPHO_Canada to have a talk with you about Covid mitigation."

The prize includes three round-trip plane tickets, rental vehicle, accommodations and meals for five days and four nights. (Government of New Brunswick)

Not everyone was as skeptical, however.

"It's creative. It's different," said Lorn Sheehan, a professor of strategy at the Rowe School of Business at Dalhousie University in Halifax. 

"It's something that I haven't heard or seen destinations do before," said Sheehan, who teaches and researches in the area of tourism destination management. 

Whether it's successful remains to be seen, he said, and may not ever be measurable. 

Sheehan said the New Brunswick Tourism Department has certainty targeted an invested market — New Brunswickers who have friends and family who left the province for other parts of Canada. 

Sheehan called that the "visiting friends and relatives market" and he suspects New Brunswick's contest "will likely have some impact" by targeting that demographic.

Professor Lorn Sheehan of the Rowe school of business at Dalhousie University, who teaches in the area of tourism destination management, says the campaign will likely have some impact on the 'friends and relatives' market. (Submitted Lorn Sheehan)

"I anticipate there will be some communication back and forth between New Brunswickers that are thinking of entering the contest and the people that they're wanting to bring home to visit."

Sheehan said that conversation may get those who left New Brunswick thinking about the province and the people they left behind. 

"So even if they don't win, I suppose it will get them thinking about making a trip home or back to New Brunswick … to visit friends and relatives and to do all those great things that we can do in New Brunswick … that you can't do, perhaps in Alberta or some of the landlocked provinces that people have gone to for work."

A safe marketing target

Targeting Canadians is also a safe bet, said Sheehan, since studies show Canadians are still reluctant to travel outside the country. Research by Destination Canada, a federal Crown corporation, indicates that the further afield Canadians travel, the less safe they feel. 

Nearly 90 per cent of Atlantic Canadians, for example, are confident travelling within their own province, while 70 per cent are confident about travelling to another province.

 But that drops to 35 per cent for travel to the United States and 34 per cent for other international travel. 

As part of tourism week, New Brunswickers are asked to share some of their favourite New Brunswick locations, perhaps like this one at Herring Cove Provincial Park on Campobello Island, with friends and family. (Government of New Brunswick)

"So knowing that, it just means that any kind of a domestic campaign that we can launch, and being as creative as we can, is probably worthwhile," said Sheehan. 

He also said it's worthwhile to try new ideas. 

"We call it the 80-20 rule. You put 80 per cent of your marketing and advertising dollars in things that you know work and you will get a certain return on." 

The other 20 per cent is put into "creative, innovative things that you haven't tried before just to see what works and what doesn't. It's a little bit of experimentation, and that is a healthy thing to do."

'Very clever'

David Soberman, a professor of marketing at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, also likes the idea. 

When measuring the effectiveness of a campaign, said Soberman, you want a high percentage of your target audience to be "engaged." He said one of the most important things in marketing is to create engagement.

"And so if you're targeting people who are from New Brunswick with a campaign for New Brunswick, this is something which almost by definition, these people will be more prone to accepting and to being excited about."

And if people start thinking and talking about New Brunswick as a destination, one of the best tools to sell the place is having someone here, said Soberman. 

David Soberman, a professor of marketing at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, says the campaign is a clever way to attract New Brunswickers back home. (Submitted by David Soberman)

He said it's "very clever" to use New Brunswickers to help attract former New Brunswickers back home. 

Plus, he said, "they'll talk about it to their friends who maybe are not from New Brunswick. And that's also a way of getting buzz and added value from the campaign that you're engaging in."

And one further advantage to the campaign is developing a mailing list for future campaigns, since entrants must provide an email address, through which entry into the contest is validated.

Soberman said these sorts of digital contests also have a built-in way to give the government feedback on what's actually working. 

He said the government can advertise in different places and different ways at different times, and measure the success of that approach by how many entries are received for the contest. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mia Urquhart is a journalist with CBC New Brunswick, based in Saint John. She can be reached at mia.urquhart@cbc.ca.

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