The hard-hit travel sector has started exploring digital tourism experiences but marketers doing so need to consider the mindset or reason for travel rather than traveller types or specific audiences.

So says one of the people behind Tourism New Zealand’s recent PLAY NZ campaign, a gameplay walkthrough of the real world, where people can experience the best of New Zealand in the style of a video game.

Writing for WARC, TBWA’s Mathew Moran explains how, pre-COVID, New Zealand’s position as the favoured destination for Australian travellers was coming under threat from domestic options and further-flung ‘trending’ destinations such as Japan, Iceland and the USA.

“We had a very real responsibility to keep travellers connected to our people and place while international borders remained closed,” he says. “We chose to do something bold and disruptive.”

That was to jump into the world of gaming, which multiple research reports (including The WARC Guide to Marketing in the gaming ecosystem) have identified as a major opportunity.

Already the biggest digital entertainment channel in Australia pre-COVID, during lockdown gaming surged as people turned to this channel for escape and connection.

TBWA’s research also found that gamers have a lot in common with travellers: gaming and travel go hand-in-hand, both are about exploration, wonder and adventure.

“Gamers and travellers also have a very similar mindset,” says Moran. “They thrive off challenges, shared experiences, and learning new things – everything travel can offer. Above all else, we found one common mindset, the desire to escape to new worlds.”

Launching an immersive nine-minute film on Twitch was a risk, but using a gaming influencer to lead the stream and share a live walkthrough of her experience of the ‘game’ enabled Tourism New Zealand to address the consumer in context while authentically using the platform.

“Tourism boards and marketers will have to push themselves to create new story telling devices which go deeper than the traditional film approach,” says Moran. “Sharing their people and place in new ways will take a leap of faith, but so far, it has paid off for us.”

For more details, read Matthew Moran’s article in full: PLAY NZ: How to gamify a country and playfully disrupt tourism marketing.

Sourced from WARC