Bucket List Worthy
Forget the 1950s—the Golden Age of Travel is upon us in 2017. With airfares at an all-time low, travelers are increasingly embracing global adventures. And as for the state of tourism? Now, courtesy of the shared economy, it includes everything from luxury resorts and #glamping hotspots, to backpacking excursions and peer-to-peer living accommodations.
Photo Credit: Davor Rostuhar
But as consumers flock to the farthest corners of the Earth, competition amongst marketing giants has also kicked up a notch. Industry mainstays like Lonely Planet, TripAdvisor, and Time Out, remain at the forefront of tourism trends, and travelers minds. Yet there is another innovator on the rise: tourism bureaus. With websites rivaling even the most viral online outlets, select bureaus around the world are finally making a name for themselves by featuring content, culture, and insider tips that can’t be found elsewhere.
No problem — just wait until you dive into this list of the world’s best tourism boards.
Photo credit: NYCGO
From stunning timelapse footage in the heart of the Big Apple to in-depth reports on New York City’s inner-workings, NYCGO is the premier tourism bureau when it comes to website design, and invaluable insider content. Looking for the latest scoop on Broadway shows? Not sure what to do when the city is blanketed with snow? Interested in off-the-beaten-path pizza? These questions (and many, many more) are answered throughout the website’s twelve categories, which are stylishly designed to help tourists navigate their way through the concrete jungle.
Defer to the site’s “Plan Your Visit” tab for downloadable city guides, bike and subway maps, wifi information, as well as a borough-wide breakdown of the best places to go in Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and yes, even Staten Island. The “New & Now” tab is particularly helpful for scoping out weekly events. And in one of the more innovative content pushes, “#SeeYourCity” is a photo collage curated from dynamic sites that travelers find along their trips. In the end, what sets NYCGO apart from other bureaus is a keen awareness of what every type of traveler might want out of their trip, and how to translate such information into an attractive consumer experience.
At the heart of Keep Exploring Canada are lively, photo-friendly themes that educate travelers on the country’s diverse landscape and cultural make-up. There are listicles, adventure guides and immersive articles sprinkled throughout categories that include “Natural Wonders,” “Adventure,” “Vibrant Cities,” and more.
In addition to an extensive breakdown of how to plan every type of travel method into Canada, the “Top 10s” campaign goes a step further by showing how visitors can explore the Great White North to the nth degree. In better-than-Buzzfeed fashion, these articles employ vibrant panoramic photos and energetic text to show the top attractions in Newfoundland, Montreal, British Columbia, and beyond. Aside from a sleek, easy-to-navigate website design, Keep Exploring Canada manages to get to the core of what makes Canada a welcoming destination, and it is that kind of approachability that gives the bureau an edge in relation to others around the world.
The Wyoming Office of Tourism recently took its bureau to the next level by rolling out “That’sWY,” a cutting-edge brand campaign connected to the people and landscapes that deeply shape Wyoming. Told through a series of powerful video vignettes, the brand is rooted in the human stories that would draw visitors to the “Equality State” by providing them with an epic preview of the kinds of people they might find along their trip.
What this tourism bureau does well is know its audience. Individuals headed to Wyoming already understand its middle-of-nowhere reputation, and “That’sWY” does a remarkable job of putting a face (and voice) to sites that normally remain relegated to pretty screen savers. From Yellowstone National Park to the snowy peaks of the Grand Tetons, it’s a well-known fact that Wyoming as a landscape largely sells itself. But it’s the storytelling strategy proposed by the Wyoming Office of Tourism that gives the website dynamism, and results in an average monthly traffic of approximately 200,000 visitors per month.
Furthermore, by leveraging iconic images of the American Cowboy lifestyle, and giving adventurers a sense of intimacy with the people behind the landscape, the bureau is able to establish Wyoming as a valued place to visit over megacities around the world. What’s more? Their customized “road trip itineraries” rival anything you’re likely to craft on Google Maps.
The tone of “Visit Jamaica,” a website managed by the Jamaica Tourist Board, aptly aligns with the feel of the country itself: easygoing, spirited, and ready for pretty much anything. In terms of content, this tourism bureau wins on its latest “Feel The Vibe” page, which orients tourists to the cuisine, culture, music, people and sports that make the country iconic.
Through appealing to a wide variety of individuals, “Visit Jamaica” is aware of its universal appeal, especially when it comes to weddings and honeymoons. This explains why there is a separate category on the website devoted to nuptial-related planning, which comes equipped with helpful activities for couples looking to live it up in Dolphin Cove or relax on a catamaran.
So whether you’re looking to snorkel, scuba dive, or bask in the breathtaking presence of local waterfalls, the Jamaica Tourist Board lays out all the stops on an action-packed website that has amassed nearly 1 million likes on Facebook.
Originally founded in 1909, San Francisco Travel remains one of the largest partnership-based destination marketing organizations in America to date. Given the upscale visual interface of the website, and its unique, nuanced content, it’s evident why they have been able to stick around so long in the travel sphere.
San Francisco Travel is a prime example of a tourism bureau who is successfully managing to promote a destination based upon the active personalities within it. Through insightful interviews with local choreographers, museum directors, and chefs, the “How I See San Francisco” campaign serves not only as a profile of some of San Francisco’s finest, but it acts as a fresh way to plug both must-see attractions and lesser-known neighborhood joints. Aside from a solid map functionality on the homepage, there is also an Airbnb-supported component where hosts can log their favorite hangouts. It’s a creative spin on celebrating San Francisco’s diverse communities and hotspots—something other bureaus would benefit from taking note of.
Visit Stockholm is an activity mosaic of sorts. While looking at the colorful homepage, bright boxes orient visitors to everything from the best Instagram spots in the city to museums that offer free entry, how to traverse Stockholm in 24 hours, and where to go if you’re in search of the “gayborhood.”
This tourism bureau takes inspiration from the Scandinavian capital by incorporating its tech-savvy origins into the overall feel of the interface. The categories are simple (“See & Do,” “Eat & Drink,” “Areas,”), yet the modernity of the site allows visitors to easily enjoy articles without the stress of ads. Overall, Visit Stockholm does a fine job of relaying Sweden’s international vibe and openness by keeping to a similar aesthetic on the website. There are few design frills, and that makes for a universally navigable consumer experience.
“Why Aruba?” is rarely a question that comes out of anyone’s mouth. That’s because the tiny Caribbean island is the quintessential destination for beachgoers and honeymooners alike—meaning it’s on the top of most travel lists, perhaps in part thanks to the Aruba Tourism Authority.
By promoting Aruba as one of the safest islands around, and incorporating consumer feedback into destination development plans, this tourism bureau has long made a point of improving visitor vacation experiences by listening to the visitors themselves. It’s this kind of collaborative spirit that is further reflected in the bureau-supported website “Aruba,” which incorporates a creative mix of high-quality images, videos, news articles, blog posts and social media feeds.
Currently boasting a monthly traffic of 529,000 visitors, it’s clear the Aruba Tourism Authority has a sense of what sells: a safe, clear depiction of an island filled with jeep tours, national parks, and award-winning beaches. Yes, we can hear even the travel veterans swooning.
Fellow tourism bureaus, if you’re reading this, please jot down the name, Tourism Nova Scotia. Then, take a few seconds to watch each and every one of the six videos related to discovering the Canadian province. These supremely shot and edited 15-second vignettes offer an enticing window into a small part of the world that few travelers recognize. This is perhaps the most effective video technique of them all: capture people’s attention just long enough to make them crave more.
Another stellar example of this tactic can be noted on the “Traveller Photos” section of the website, where images are crowdsourced and formed into a puzzle of Nova Scotia’s most stunning sites. Although text is fairly limited, the site more than compensates with original content such as news on upcoming farmer’s markets, wine tour itineraries, and primers on Nova Scotia’s extensive cultural history.
If there is one thing most valued by travelers in 2017, it’s unforgettable experiences. The Cozumel & Riviera Maya Tourism Board clearly understands this idea, considering the vast range of high-energy activities make up the “Riviera Maya” homepage. This tourism board manages two destinations which are Cozumel Island, just across the sea from Playa del Carmen the heart of the Riviera Maya, and Riviera Maya itself.
Photo credit: Grand Velas Riviera Maya
Fond of exploring Mayan ruins? Interested in a possible eco-adventure, traditional and delicious Mayan cuisine, archeological sites, sunbathing, golf day or spa excursion? In terms of content, it’s safe to say this tourism board promotes the age-old adage: there’s something for everyone. And yes, that includes niche experiences, too. Information on pet-friendly hotels or adults-only resorts are plentiful, as well as beach clubs and eco-adventure themed parks, as is a monthly newsletter about what visitors can expect to find over the course of their trip. In promoting a destination where “Paradise is Forever,” Cozumel & Riviera Maya Tourism Board effectively capitalizes on the amazing geography at their disposal, without skimping on events that go alongside.
Only when visiting Santa Fe does one truly understand Santa Fe. And yet, there is something to be said for Visit Santa Fe, which works to show the intricacies of the quaint New Mexican town through the journeys that make it what it is today.
What this tourism bureau does exceptionally well is aggregate hyperlocal knowledge of events for first-time visitors. One category features insight on a $3 “passport” that tequila enthusiasts can pick up and use at any participating restaurant along the beloved Margarita Trail. Another category offers exclusive deals and specials for visitors, while promoting businesses in the area. Although most people consider Santa Fe to be a small town, this tourism bureau makes a point of generating buzz through social media, crafting itineraries, blogging, and hosting contests. Just like the city, it seems we can expect a lot more to come from Visit Santa Fe.
When it comes to forward-thinking strategies, Niagara Falls Tourism has the mechanics down pat. The website already has a countdown going for Valentine’s Day 2018, as well as a calendar of seasonal events that lists everything from upcoming Northern Owl exhibitions to movie nights and country music shows.
Not enough to convince you? Check out the 360° VR video of the cascading waterfalls available on your computer or mobile phone. There, prospective travelers can get a firsthand glimpse into the high intensity experience that is visiting Niagara Falls. Not to mention the epic beauty of the surrounding landscape. Perhaps this is what Niagara Falls Tourism does best: establish the Falls as the catalyst for visits, but ultimately then segway into more original content that focuses on the events and experiences unique to the region. But while the website doesn’t appear to have a targeted demographic, it’s clear that is not a problem in terms of popularity. The page currently boasts over 90,000 Facebook likes, and counting.
Cheers to a tourism bureau with a beat. Driving organic content out of Colombia’s favorite port city, This Is Cartagena offers travelers access to real insiders, independent city guides, restaurant listings and the “real” Cartagena experience. They have done more than just curate the best the city has to offer, it is also geared to make life easier for users with the option of booking and making reservations at the city’s best hotels, luxury vacation rentals, tailor-made tours, boats, yachts and restaurants.
What sets This Is Cartagena apart from similar smaller-sized bureaus is its sense of adventure. The website doesn’t just offer visitors a picture-perfect postcard of the city center. Instead, it features tours with iconic Cartagena characters, such as local fisherman in one of the city’s working-class neighborhoods, or street vendors in the cultural quarter of Getsemaní. It’s this kind of authenticity that speaks volumes for any tourism bureau, and This Is Cartagena impressively masters the task.
Photo Credit: Julien Duval
Croatia may consistently pop up on lists of must-see travel destinations, but one has to wonder whether the Zagreb Tourist Board might be the silent party involved in puppeteering this newfound fame.
Photo Credit: Davor Rostuhar
From the moment you pull up the website, you are met with drone aerial footage of Zagreb in all of its twin-spired glory. Head to the “LoveZagreb” blog and you just might be finding yourself booking a trip to Croatia’s northwestern capital in no time. Why? The blog is the epitome of insider knowledge, written from the perspective of local bloggers, and devoted to daily habits over tourist traps. That means visitors receive the best advice on where to find back-alley live jazz performances, great craft beer, secret streets, and fresh bread.
Though the content on the website is primarily informational, “LoveZagreb” provides a much fuller insight into why travelers would find Zagreb special, and what they shouldn’t miss throughout their trips.
The Bratislava Tourist Board might be a lesser-known bureau, but it has already established itself as a viable force in destination marketing. Aside from offering detailed information on cultural programs, gastronomic adventures, special tours, and public transportation support, its website, “Bratislava,” also employs an ingenious original content strategy: customized 1-4 day trip guides.
Aimed at travelers short on time, these guides breakdown the bare basic destinations across all cultural aspects of the city. This is exactly the kind of intelligent strategy many tourism bureaus need to employ, given the fact we’re living in an increasingly globalized universe with travelers who are bombarded with destination options, and often at the whims of 24-hour layovers.
Arguably the most sustainable tourism bureau around, the Slovenian Tourist Board exemplifies the perfect intersection between destination marketing and responsible tourism efforts. In working alongside local businesses, the board makes a consistent push for bold and sustainable adventures that preserve Slovenia’s status as the first country to be declared a “green” destination in the world.
This message can further be inferred from the subtle green accents spread throughout the new website, as well as a content emphasis on the nation’s determination to preserve its current landscape. According to the Slovenian Tourist Board, these types of efforts have already contributed to an increased recognizability of the country, and over the next two years, the bureau will place a special focus on cultural tourism.
That said, did you realize Slovenia boasts over 100 diverse festivals, 50 museums and galleries, one of which houses a 30,000-year-old needle? If not, it’s time to read up on everything Slovenia has to offer, and we have a feeling the official website will serve as the ultimate starting point.
Northern lights. Whale watching. Dog sledding. Article Circle Races. These fixtures may evoke Instagram images or memorable movie scenes, but they also represent strong digital efforts on the part of Visit Greenland.
For one thing—Greenland is a complex destination, and yet, this tourism bureau successfully manages to break its local sites down into digestible, attractive experiences that would appeal to different calibers of travelers. Southern Greenland, for example, is home to “explorers by nature,” where experimental living, sheep farms and greenhouses are more readily found. The capital region of Nuuk, on the other hand, is slightly more hip and urbanlike.
Visit Greenland makes a concerted effort of delineating these regional facets, so that travelers know what to expect before they arrive. What’s more? The bureau excels at providing practical information in a creative medium. Whether than means delivering quirky stories on how to dress, drum dance, or even get to Greenland in the first place, both video and text are often employed throughout the site to get visitors aware of local customs, and helpful tips.
Where exactly do we start with Visit Omaha? The stylish, imaginative website, managed by the Omaha Convention & Visitors Bureau, manages to reflect all aspects of Nebraska’s largest city—even the Midwestern humor.
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium
Instead of simply listing a popular 3,000 ft. pedestrian bridge, Visit Omaha engineered a quirky, first-person video from the perspective of the bridge itself. Formally entitled, “Hi I’m Bob. I’m a Bridge,” the video comically explains everything visitors can enjoy while walking across the steel mammoth by hearing from none other than the bridge himself. Similar fun and friendly experiences are the DNA of Visit Omaha. From a foodie video series on the legendary Reuben sandwich to an “Entertaining Neighborhoods” page, where distinct cultural pockets are outlined for their music shows, history and local bars, Visit Omaha promotes the city from a number of creative vantage points often unseen in other bureaus.
In terms of website specific features, Visit Omaha also boasts a responsive web design that makes for seamless viewing on smartphones, iPads and desktops, as well as seasonal color palettes that contribute to the website’s quarterly fresh look. Perhaps the most original feature of all, though, is the “Facility Search” tab, which allows businessmen to compare meeting rooms throughout the city according to their size, region, venue type, and more.
The beautiful town of Vernon might be small, yet it is filled with access to more nature than most people can imagine. There are 100 lakes within the span of a 1-hour drive. There are five provincial parks, and a champagne powder ski hill that remains the third largest in British Columbia.
Not only does Tourism Vernon manage to showcase this information, they do so across a number of mediums. Either through the Vernon Visitor Information Centre, inquiries via phone or through social media, Tourism Vernon maintains an open line of communication with all visitors, which rivals many other bureaus. Vernon might be the oldest community in the Okanagan, but its board is certainly keeping up-to-date with the times.
Montenegro may only have roughly 700,000 inhabitants, but every year, the Balkan country boasts millions of tourist who come in search of medieval villages, unparalleled nature, and a sandy string of beaches. This is where Visit Montenegro comes in.
Showcasing the so-called pearl of the Mediterranean is the bureau’s strong suit. Through using a mixture of high-resolution photos, news updates, and sponsored content, Visit Montenegro energetically uses the website to reflect the Montenegrin landscape, and rich cultural history. Having amassed over 350 pages, and thousands of articles, the bureau is undoubtedly prolific across the arenas of transportation, visa regimens, accommodations, and more.
Photo Credit: Dave Steers
One of the most notable aspects of Tourism Pemberton is its increasing embrace of mobile marketing. In collaboration with the Pemberton District Chamber of Commerce, the tourism bureau recently launched an official app that features activities, local business listings, and a community event calendar.
This a move that proves no matter how small a tourism bureau may be, they can still manage to innovate their digital strategies on the whole. Not only that, but they can maximize their reach by appealing to visitors and long-time residents. So although Pemberton remains a lesser-known gem of British Columbia, you wouldn’t know that from the endless adventure content on the bureau’s website.
This global competition was packed with titans of the industry, making it difficult to narrow down top picks without recognizing other excellent tourism bureaus promoting their destinations in compelling ways. That said, the Flight Network team is proud to present our list of tourism boards that reached honourable mention status. Meet the tourism bureaus who currently standout on the global stage, and that we should expect to see a lot of innovation from in the coming years.
Bern Tourism | Visit Helena Montana | Ruta47 GE | Cluj-Napoca Tourist Information Centre | Romanian Ministry of Tourism | Liechtenstein | Municipal Department of Tourism – Plovdiv, Bulgaria
Anyone who has traversed Bern understands the all-around attraction of the stunning riverside capital of Switzerland. The buildings clustered around Old Town are medieval marvels, and the entire city itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Then there are the people — laid back, relaxed café dwellers who often spend the summer swimming in the Aare River. But how exactly does one bask in the uniqueness of the Bernese lifestyle, as a tourist? Ask the team at Bern Tourism, the bureau which makes a solid point of showing everyone how to truly feel the Bern.
When perusing Bern Tourism’s website for the first time, a few fixtures stand out among the rest. The “Multimedia” tab, which features 360° panoramas, webcam shots and historical pictures, is one of them. The “Travel Planning” tab is another, since it is filled with helpful information on how to book city tours online, obtain museum cards, and plan various travel methods into Bern. Furthermore, if visitors don’t have ample time to grab a keepsake, they can simply buy Bernese souvenirs in the bureau’s online shop. So although a new website is slated to launch this Spring, we are already pleased to see the amount of promising content originating out of Bern Tourism.
In many ways, Helena, Montana is a hidden gem of the greater American landscape. Built upon the shoulders of rugged gold miners, the storied capital is a charming testament to perseverance, and originality. This is also why Visit Helena Montana deserves recognition. Offering a genuine approach to destination marketing, as well as innovative visitor services, the Montana-based bureau understands how to relay the important history of Helena, while keeping visitors informed on the latest happenings around the city.
Within minutes of acquainting oneself with Visit Helena Montana, it becomes infinitely clear just how often the bureau steers away from stale commercialized content, and instead, prizes local businesses and intimate insider knowledge that educates travelers. From recommendations on the best microbreweries to lurid day hike descriptions, restaurant listings, a free historic walking tour app, and an in-depth visitor’s’ guide on the city as a whole, the bureau isn’t afraid to experiment with diverse content across a number of digital and in-person mediums. Not only does Visit Helena Montana offer daily tours of the oldest Pioneer Cabin in the city, the bureau makes a continual point of forging ties with honest, helpful partners who showcase the vibrant community in all of its glory.
Equatorial Guinea might be the sixth least visited country in the world, but that is not for lack of unbelievable beauty. The colonial architecture of the capital port city of Malabo is legendary, as are the five volcanic offshore islands, which frequently come equipped with fishing villages and dense primate-filled rainforests. But while the tense political reputation of the country is well-known, Visit Equatorial Guinea, operated by Ruta47 GE, is trying to redefine the world’s view of the land at large.
Since Equatorial Guinea remains an undiscovered marvel, Ruta47 GE makes a point of walking travelers through the country’s most famous sites, and travel rules. The website offers a step-by-step guide on everything from booking airport transfers to waterfall excursions, and the visa specifics in between. First-time visitors should defer to the “Travel Tips” tab, which explains important health and currency details, as well as the best attire for a country known for heavy rainfall.
It should come as little surprise that Cluj-Napoca, the heart of Transylvania, houses a host of marvelous mysteries. There’s an electronic music festival set amongst the grounds of a 14th-century castle, and a night tour in one of the world’s most haunted forests. It’s northwestern Romania at its finest, and Cluj-Napoca Tourist Information Centre is dedicated to showing travelers why the European city is worth their while.
First and foremost, Cluj-Napoca is known for its city festivals, which is why the tourism bureau has dedicated an entire section of the website to the annual events. There, you’ll find information on the Transylvania International Film Festival and various music gatherings—all of which showcase the city as an unofficial, albeit international, capital for culture and lifestyle. Another helpful tab is the “Best of Cluj-Napoca,” which features a list of the top historical monuments and parks that make up Romania’s second-largest city.
Romania is a year-round destination, and the Romanian Ministry of Tourism is devoted to explaining why by highlighting the hospitality of local people, and the diversity of sites around the country. Because while one person might recognize the wonders of the Black Sea and Danube delta in summer, another traveler might prefer the snowy winter peaks of the Carpathians, or the throbbing 24/7 nightlife that Bucharest has to offer.
The Romanian Ministry of Tourism is ardent about highlighting the authenticity and uniqueness of their homeland, while promoting major events and cultural exhibitions around the country. Although the website does lack visual content, there are a number of detailed posts on Romania’s cultural heritage, UNESCO world heritage sites, Black Sea resorts, climate, economy and famous historical regions that have marked the country for years. Perhaps the most interesting element of the website, however, is the “Special Interest” tab, which features niche activities travelers can partake in throughout the year. Pay special attention to caving tours and ecotourism destinations—we have a feeling you won’t be disappointed.
Not many countries can promise travelers a fairytale experience, and actually deliver. Not to mention when said country is, in actuality, one of the smallest (and richest) micronations in the world, wedged between Switzerland and Austria, with a true prince at the helm. But that’s precisely what makes Liechtenstein a novelty destination, and one that its tourism bureau, Liechtenstein, does well to try to promote.
Let’s get straight to the good stuff. Not only does Liechtenstein offer a special tour for visitors to walk through the Alps alongside a golden eagle, they promote a wide-range of unforgettable experiences the principality has to offer. From whiskey tours at the local Telser Distillery to winter hiking adventures, museum outings, and wine tastings, it’s hard not to notice the passionate and dynamic approach Liechtenstein brings to modern tourism.
Plovdiv has long been heralded as Europe’s oldest inhabited city, but thanks to the Municipal Department of Tourism, that doesn’t mean the Bulgarian hideaway has become old news on the travel scene. In fact, today, Plovdiv is well-regarded for its young nightlife, scattered amongst ancient ruins, and that is a reputation helping to put the cosmopolitan city back on the map in the 21st century.
Even outside of the website, Plovdiv’s Municipal Department of Tourism participates in a number of destination marketing efforts. The multilingual staff is frequently on call to provide assistance to visitors from Bulgaria and abroad. Furthermore, the team is often engaged with organizing tourism forums, and offering a wide range of information about the Plovdiv region when it comes to traveler needs. Check out the website’s “Cultural Calendar” for a comprehensive take on what’s happening inside the ancient city. From there, pop over to the “Useful Information” tab to collect online maps, brochures, and other accoutrements designed to help tourists navigate the area. And considering Plovdiv is slated to become the 2019 European Capital of Culture, there’s no question we can expect to see interesting things from this tourism bureau over the next few years.