Shops Lure Tourists to Northeast

Potential tourists to the Northeast are getting pitched from all angles. Massachusetts, facing a loss of $250 million this year from a drop in tourists, is scrambling to launch a campaign via Boston’s CGN Marketing & Creative Services that promotes the Bay State. In New York, a print campaign by Campbell in Baltimore is helping the Six Continents hotel chain lift its occupancy back to near-normal levels.

Many hotels and attractions in Massachusetts have been forced to cut rates since the attacks, and occupancy levels have fallen to 40 percent, down from 90 percent before Sept. 11. The two planes that hit the World Trade Center originated from Boston’s Logan Airport, a fact that has left potential visitors particularly reluctant to fly in.

Last Wednesday, Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism agency CGN presented its proposal for a six-week campaign to acting Gov. Jane Swift’s 18-member special task force on tourism, consisting mostly of hospitality- and travel-industry executives. Now the shop is hurriedly turning out Web banners and radio spots that could break as soon as this week.

The best tactic for enticing tourists is to target in-state residents and those who live within driving distance of Massachusetts, said Scott Madden, senior vice president/group account director at Boston’s CGN.

“We’re addressing the reality that there’s a lot of uncertainty about flying,” he said. The campaign will en courage travelers to take two- to three-day getaways or day trips, and will emphasize the array of special offers from hotels, restaurants and attractions around the state.

“Our message is that there’s never been a better time to book a Massachusetts getaway,” said Madden.

Radio was chosen as the best way to reach a broad audience as quickly as possible at a low cost. Consumers will be directed to a revamped section of, the Web site of the tourism office.

In late September, state tourism officials asked Swift and the legislature to free up $6 million in hotel taxes for an emergency campaign; the governor has not yet acted on that request. But MOTT has made available $225,000 that was earmarked for tourism spending next year. CGN believes it can execute an effective short-term campaign with that budget, though the agency and tourism executives are hoping that further funding will be freed up before year’s end.

The shop’s past tourism efforts have been themed, “You are here,” but the upcoming campaign will not have a tag, Madden said.

Through the first half of 2001, Massachusetts spent $3 million on tourism efforts, according to CMR. Tourism contributes more than $12 billion and 143,000 jobs annually to the state’s economy.

In New York City, occupancy rates at the seven Inter-Continental and Crowne Plaza hotels owned by the Six Continents chain plunged to less than 20 per cent immediately after the terrorist attacks. In addition to getting bookings back, hotel executives wanted to do something positive for the struggling city, said Campbell creative director Andy Dumaine. “We recognized that everybody in New York had taken a hit,” he said. “The little guys–cab drivers, souvenir-shop owners, street vendors, actors-had no safety net, no big corporation to carry them.”

A team from the shop, which has been lead agency for the client since 1988, traveled to Manhattan and created a black-and-white series that promotes not only the chain, but also the city. Street portraits of workers serve both as a salute and a reminder that livelihoods are at stake. In each ad’s photo, the subject-ranging from a horse-carriage driver to a deli owner-holds a “Still open” sign.

“Bringing travelers back to New York is just as important to the hot-dog vendors as it is to the five-star hotels,” said Michael Corr, operations president of Six Continents.

“A campaign encouraging travelers to support small business is the way to go,” said Dumaine. “Obviously, if they need a place to stay, our hotels are a good option.”

The ads, appearing in The New York Times, Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other newspapers in the East and South, are tied to a rate-reduction program. Immediately after the campaign broke at the beginning of October, the chain saw a 40 percent jump in bookings, hotel executives said. The company has now taken in more than $1 million in spot-booking revenue, and occupancy rates top 80 percent.

The campaign, set to end Oct. 31, will likely be extended and expanded nationally, sources said.