There is no question in anyone’s mind – this was a tough year for tourism marketers. With travel largely shuttered in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, shelter-at-home orders, budgets cut and so many American workers furloughed, travel was at an all-time low.

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom in the tourism industry. Destinations got creative and tourism marketing teams showed their dedication as they pivoted, reimagined, and relaunched campaigns. Strap in for a wild ride, as we round up some of the Top Travel Campaigns of 2020.

Top Travel Campaigns of 2020: tourism marketers get creative in the face of adversity

Visit Portugal: Can’t Skip Hope

We very rarely see a destination telling people to stop traveling, but that’s exactly the message that Visit Portugal choose to send – loud and clear. “It’s time to stop,” the video states, over and over again. It reminds people that beauty can be found in solitude, that we stand together when we stay apart, and that all of our biggest travel dreams will still be here when it’s safe to visit again. Showcasing stunning travel video (shot prior to the pandemic) and a soothing voiceover telling us it’s all going to be okay; Portugal hits a perfect balance of inspiring and insightful with its marketing.

The Faroe Islands: Remote Tourism

The Faroe Islands is small, but mighty. During some of the lowest points, when everyone was staying home, the Faroe Islands was inviting over 700,000 visitors to its island to participate in “Remote Tourism.” Taking virtual travel to a new level, Remote Tourism allowed future travelers to take control of a local guide – almost like a computer game – and point their real-life avatar in whatever direction their heart desired. Over 22 tours and daily guides shared every aspect of the little island community – from rugged mountaintops to nearby waterfalls – while the Visit Faroe Islands tourism team was on hand to answer questions and provide insight to the many places visitors were experiencing through their screens.

The last tour took place on June 17, but you can view a recap of the Faroe Islands Remote Tourism experience.

Recordings of the live tours are viewable on the Visit Faroe Islands’ Facebook Page.

And a bonus: without spending a singular dollar on advertising, this creative campaign generated over 500 news articles and national coverage in more than nine countries.

Travel Iowa: 2020 State Park Passport

This year marked a huge anniversary for Iowa State Parks, celebrating its centennial in 2020. Originally, the parks had huge celebrations and events planned to mark the occasion. But, with safety in mind, the state began to pivot in a more digital direction. Knowing that parks and outdoor recreation would play a large part in shelter-in-place and social distancing orders, Travel Iowa worked with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Bandwango to create the “Iowa State Park Passport” an online resource (not an app!) that encouraged Iowa residents to travel the state, enjoy the outdoors, track progress and even win prizes by visiting all 61 State Park locations.

Within just two months of launching the passport, the state tracked over 12,000 sign ups and 17,000 check-ins at Iowa State Parks. The campaign was furthered through organic and paid social media, media relations, and online efforts.

Experience Kissimmee, Florida: Vacation to Remember

It’s a whole different world down in Kissimmee, FL, one where warm weather and breezy beach-life reign supreme. And in the time of COVID-19, the destination chooses to use its platform to remind visitors that they can work and play from the Sunshine State, while still remaining safe and socially distant. In a tongue-in-cheek video from far into the future – the year 2092 – their onscreen character Blaire reminisces about the time that her mother booked a vacation home in Kissimmee to allow her family to “spread out” while boasting on Zoom calls about the glorious vacation home and poolside views.

The video does a nice job showcasing the solo side of travel, while also reminding us that this won’t last forever, and family memories are still to be had. It also gives a laugh, as Blaire quips that her mom “was on mute the whole time,” a situation all too familiar to those of us living in Zoom-land. Catch a clip of the video below.

Bonus! Experience Kissimmee also features “Stay Healthy, Stay Inspired” music playlists on Spotify, that take visitors inside the destination through song. The playlists feature sounds from the Walt Disney World Resort, Summertime Sing-a-longs, Chill at Home songs, “Whelmed” and a Christmastime compilation called “Rockin’ Around the Kissimmee Tree.”

Bristol, UK: Bristol from Home

A lot of destinations leaned into virtual and began to offer at-home activities that travelers could engage in from home. But Bristol, UK compiled a truly unique collection of online visits, tours, recipes and activities that will keep future visitors feeling like they’ve truly traveled to this bustling British city. Some of my favorite suggestions include the “Bristol on screen” listing of TV shows and films shot or set in Bristol, the #FoodFriday blog feature of Bristol-centric recipes that can be made right in your home kitchen, and the themed Instagram challenges featuring pics from followers and Bristol locals.

The destination also created its very own “Visit Bristol Bingo,” which will ensure that you don’t miss a single online opportunity that this city has to share.

While just a few favorites from the past year, these campaigns have us inspired, travel dreaming and trying new things. With 2021 on the horizon, here’s hoping that we’ll be visiting a few in the near future, as well.