While it’s not the sole reason for a destination’s success with travellers, a good tourism slogan can do great things to boost a place’s reputation and image. Coming up with a good one is not easy, however. Behind every great slogan is a lot of work, research and debate. Marketers need to consider the current reputation of the destination, the new direction, and whether locals and city officials want to get on board with the image. More importantly, whatever the slogan aims to claim—it should be somewhat true, and easy to understand too. Good timing also helps tremendously. With that said, we’ve compiled a list of top tourism slogans and the reasons behind their success. Here they are:


Whatever Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas

In 2003, Las Vegas ditched its efforts to appeal to just gamblers and families and had fun with its reputation for sin. The slogan, “What Happens Here, Stays Here,” was created by advertising company R&R Partners and immediately became a hit for several reasons. For starters, it really honed in on Vegas’s true demographic: adults looking for a week or weekend of debauchery and fun. It was also funny, carefully playing on the city’s reputation for sin, but in a way that was tongue-in-cheek, appealing and enticing. It also encouraged visitors to experience this all-adults playground where they could forget their worries—a critical desire that R&R did a ton of research on and really nailed with their choice of words.

In their own case study, R&R detailed their approach to the successful campaign, stating:

“The emotional bond between Las Vegas and its customers was freedom. Freedom on two levels. Freedom to do things, see things, eat things, wear things, feel things. In short, the freedom to be someone we couldn’t be at home. And freedom from whatever we wanted to leave behind in our daily lives. Just thinking about Vegas made the bad stuff go away. At that point the strategy became clear. Speak to that need. Make an indelible connection between Las Vegas and the freedom we all crave.”

The slogan also increased visitors to the city by the millions within the first year and continued to increase it up until the recession.


Virginia Is for Lovers

In 2012, Advertising Age ranked “Virginia is for Lovers” as one of the most iconic ad campaigns of the past 50 years, and it’s easy to see why. Less focused on what the state has to offer in terms of attributes, activities or scenery, the slogan works because it makes people want to get behind it, whether they’re locals or visitors. But, it also had impeccable timing.

On their website, the Virginia Tourism Organization explains the story behind this famed slogan, writing:

“The phrase came from a creative team headed by George Woltz of Martin & Woltz Inc., the Richmond advertising agency that won the Virginia State Travel Service account in 1968. According to Martin, a $100-a-week copywriter named Robin McLaughlin came up with an advertising concept that read, “Virginia is for history lovers.” For a beach-oriented ad, the headline would have read, “Virginia is for beach lovers”; for a mountains ad, “Virginia is for mountain lovers,” and so on. Martin thought the approach might be too limiting. Woltz agreed, and the agency dropped the modifier and made it simply “Virginia is for Lovers.” The new slogan debuted in a 1969 issue of “Modern Bride.”

They continue, “The phrase was considered bold and provocative, but it was also just plain smart from a marketing perspective. It planted a seed—a new image of a more exciting Virginia—with a generation that would become the most sought-after group of spenders ever to wield a credit card.”


Canada: Keep Exploring

In 2012, The Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) and DDB advertising agency launched Canada’s “Keep Exploring” campaign. With a vision to invite visitors to keep exploring Canada, the CTC and DDB conceived a multi-channel initiative that focused on “…sharing authentic traveller-to-traveller experiences, brought to life by the invitation to Keep Exploring. With travel decisions significantly influenced by friends and the larger online community, all elements of this social media-inspired campaign led to the Keep Exploring blog, where consumers could join and share in the conversation as they explored all the Canadian travel experiences available,” states DDB on their website. They also used YouTube content, TV ads and Google Maps and Street View technology to show visitors what it was like on Canada’s streets—and this really got curious travellers involved in the discovery process.

And for all their work, the payoff has been huge. Winning countless awards, and able to reverse the decline of international visitors to Canada, the campaign delivered a record high ROI of 101:1 for every dollar invested.


I ❤ NY

As one of the best-known slogans in the world, this particular one has an added benefit of being exceptionally merchandisable. The idea was spawned in 1977, when William S. Doyle, Deputy Commissioner of the New York State Department of Commerce, hired the advertising agency Wells Rich Greene to create a marketing campaign for the state. Milton Glaser, a productive graphic designer was brought on to create a design based on the advertising campaign, and he eventually sketched out the iconic slogan in the back of a cab. The timing was right too. Robert Indiana’s art was popular, and Glaser himself later said he might have been subliminally influenced by the artist’s LOVE pop art piece.

What followed was a major campaign success, as the logo was emblemized on shirts, cups, and endless merchandise while cementing itself in locals’ and travellers’ minds. Moreover, it zeroed in on New York pride, a deep and well-known aspect of the city and state’s culture. It’s interesting to note though, that it wasn’t until 2009 that “I Love New York” was officially designated as the state slogan.