Holland Tourism: Masters of Cool

Amsterdam Clipper Ship Sign2 Cropped“I never had such a good backdrop”, said President Obama. During a recent state visit to The Netherlands, he took a side trip to Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, home of Rembrandt’s renowned Nightwatch painting. As his comment indicates, he was duly impressed. Only select destinations worldwide merit presidential visits, and a visit to The Hague prompted Obama’s trip.

The President’s visit may help put The Netherlands front and center for U.S. travelers, who represent the country’s fourth largest source of visitors. The Dutch tourism effort in the U.S. has been quite active lately, as Holland continues to upgrade its star attractions. Many of its famous museums are being renovated, and they’re reopening in stages.

We checked with The Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions (NBTC) about its PR and marketing programs. They partnered with Amsterdam Marketing, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines for a 3-year joint marketing program, “Holland. The Original Cool”. The campaign’s video series has been the most visible joint effort. Launched last year, it features Pim de Koel, the country’s cool brand ambassador, as he teaches an American traveler about unique aspects of Dutch culture. Last year the video received over a million views, and this year it’s a three-part series, with the second episode debuting today.

Tulips FinalWith its diverse offerings, Holland has a wealth of material to work with: bicycles, canals, windmills, tulips, architecture, design and the art masters, among others. NBTC collaborated locally and with other partners in Holland to get the word out about all the destination’s reasons to visit. The “Faces of Holland” campaign promotes various Dutch assets throughout the country. VisitHolland.com serves as the central resource for information and visuals.

Holland’s ongoing U.S. outreach includes timely media events. This past winter, the tourist board hosted a program with the city of The Hague at New York’s Frick Collection, where an exhibit of paintings by Dutch masters Vermeer, Rembrandt and Hals was on loan from Holland’s Mauritshuis Museum. That museum, located in The Hague, is reopening in June, and the museum’s director led a group tour at the Frick.

This spring, the media event moved outdoors to the “Stad Amsterdam” clipper ship, docked at Chelsea Piers. Referring to the city’s tourism plans, Frans van der Avert, CEO of Amsterdam Marketing said, “there’s so much going on, we’re bundling it”. As for the ship, the city of Amsterdam owns the 1900 replica boat, hosting corporate events on the seven seas.

Speaking of water, that’s another topic where Holland has turned a potential issue around. Since 26% of the country is below sea level, the Dutch have mastered flood-control techniques. The Netherlands often serves as a model for other cities worldwide and media outlets like The New York Times often cite its expertise in this area.

Overall, if it seems that there’s a steady stream of content about some aspect of Holland or Amsterdam in a range of travel, design and news outlets, it’s not a mirage. It’s all part of a cool, calm and collected approach.