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DMOs leverage arts experiences, local creatives to engage travelers

By Lindsay Wright 09/11/2018

With the vast amounts of travel-worthy amenities available in California, it’s not always easy to determine what makes a visitor book a trip to the Golden State. When it comes to arts and culture, while many may only happen upon museums and galleries in town, a distinct segment of travelers are driven by nationally-recognized events and unforgettable exhibitions.

For two California destinations, targeted marketing for the arts is a strategic way to attract new visitors, as well as recognize the attributes that make their cities unique.

“Los Angeles is at the crossroad of global commerce, culture and creativity, and the arts are a fundamental driving force behind our dynamic destination,” says Mary Carley, senior director of business affairs at Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board. “L.A. is an iconic cultural capital, and the richness of our arts and culture assets is in the city’s DNA.”

No matter the reason for their visits, tourists expect to experience art in its many forms, Carley says, from murals and architecture to concerts and theaters.

Acknowledging the importance of these attractions, Discover Los Angeles has included Arts and Culture as one of its four marketing pillars. The destination uses its blog, website, social media — while also working with global social media influencers — to showcase the destination through an arts lens. Each year, over 200 international media come to the city to cover its cultural diversity.

The tourism bureau has even partnered with the Los Angeles Arts Commission to launch the Discover L.A. app, which offers personalized suggestions on things to do like visiting world-class museums. The technology can make up-to-the-minute recommendations to showcase what’s happening in each of Los Angeles' neighborhoods. Discover Los Angeles sums up its 2018 arts and culture highlights on their blog, which details several celebrations and trip-worthy events.

In the Bay Area, Oakland is homing in on arts travel in similar fashion. To pay homage to its vibrant arts and culture scene, Visit Oakland launched Oakland Art Month in May 2018 to highlight the city’s robust gallery offerings and visual artists.

“We wanted to ensure no part of the arts community was excluded and decided to expand it from just visual arts," says Ben Taylor, destination development manager at Visit Oakland. "We felt a monthlong celebration was necessary to be able to tell all the stories and highlight as many events as possible working with such a diverse network of artists,” 

To showcase the city’s variety of experiences, Visit Oakland aims to promote both individual artists and larger institutions to highlight the city’s greater creative community.

“The most enjoyable role we’ve fallen into over the last few years is that of facilitator," Taylor says. "With such a wide range of artists within Oakland, it’s always great to be able to help pair organizations up and allow their combined creative energy to produce great collaborations. We also try to intertwine local arts into every aspect of our organization."

To further promote its arts and culture scenes, Visit Oakland commissioned local muralists to design backdrops for its mobile visitor center that are then used by its sales team while on the road. Familiarization tours include interviews with artists and visits to museums and galleries. The team also creates video features and solicits social media takeovers with prominent local artists as part of its fully integrated arts marketing strategy.

“We feel the arts community gives Oakland its soul," Taylor says. "It keeps us connected to the past as well as provides innovation and opens minds to new ways of thinking.

“Oakland is a city filled with creative minds from an incredible array of racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, and the arts often provide the best opportunity for visitors to understand the culture of The Town and what makes this place so special.”



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