While the tiny island of Saba – the smallest of the Dutch Caribbean – was well-known amongst SCUBA diving enthusiasts as one of the top dive destinations in the world, it was not widely known beyond that. In fact, most people had never even heard of it. One of the world’s most distinctive and beautiful places, this 5-sq-mile tropical forest soars 5,000 ft from the sea floor of which 3,000 ft are visible. Untouched, the island is visually stunning and offers extraordinary vistas that flow from every vantage point. Since the island has no beaches, it could be not positioned as a “typical” Caribbean island where travelers “fly and flop.” Rather, it needed to be framed it as a truly unique destination – visually stunning, with the vibe of “the charming old Caribbean” offering exceptional natural beauty, and wonderful characters.
The objective of the campaign was to raise awareness of Saba as a Caribbean destination that appeals to a wide variety of travelers and increase visitor arrivals. The agency’s’ goal was to achieve coverage that highlights the island’s natural beauty, focusing on both the exceptional hiking and SCUBA diving available. Gaining exposure for the island’s eco-tourism was also the focus of promoting the annual “Sea & Learn” program, which brings in global experts on the indigenous flora, fauna, and aquatic and land life. The campaign also focused on the island’s unique accommodations from charming historic cottages to boutique hotels. Positioning the island as an “undiscovered” destination – “the Caribbean island that you’ve never heard of” – was another objective to lure “Caribbean junkies” to visit and include in their next Caribbean itinerary.
The target audience for the campaign was extremely broad, with the aim of spreading the word about Saba to a national audience of travelers. Large national outlets were important to the campaign to dramatically increase awareness of Saba. While niche publications were crucial in reaching specific audiences, such as those that are Caribbean enthusiasts and travel there often. The opportunity to stay in beautiful and historic cottages was publicized to garner the attention of those that enjoy villa rental vacations, highlighting the island’s charming and affordable options. SCUBA divers are still a main stay of tourism, so that is another specialized audience that the campaign sought to reach, as well as eco-tourists keen to take in the untouched natural beauty.
At the start of the campaign no press materials existed, so a strong fact sheet and an overview of the island were created and used for media pitching. The agency principals visited the island to acquire first-hand knowledge, and fully understand its unique appeal and frame the story angles. We also surveyed the media about their impressions of Saba to determine the awareness level among journalists. Prior to the campaign, the island did not have a dedicated visiting journalist program, and there had not been frequent communication with press. The first step was to establish a schedule of press visits and assist in planning the individual media ground itineraries. Press trips and the feature articles that they generate were vital, since, as with very little awareness, the media and the public needed to be educated about Saba. In conjunction with the press familiarization trips, press releases were developed around island news and sent to the media on a more regular basis.
The overarching message of the campaign was that tiny island of Saba has big things to offer with its natural beauty, adventure and eco-activities, and a local culture uniquely its own. We wanted to increase curiosity and excitement about this little-known Caribbean spot and ultimately drive tourist arrivals. At the same, we needed to communicate the three sub messages: Saba as an adventure and eco-travel destination with exceptional hiking and diving; as a truly relaxing “away from it all” getaway with charming cottages and a luxe hotel; and, its opportunities to discover the arts and culture that are distinctly Saban.
A cover story in USA Today’s GO Escape Magazine, a New York Times travel section article, and a feature article in Shape Magazine, as well as a wire story that was published in several metro newspapers across the country, is just the tip of the iceberg for national consumer coverage. There was also 12-page feature in Caribbean Living, which is focused at the villa rental market, and coverage in national consumer outlets, including Conde Nast Traveler, Afar, Money Magazine, Smithsonian, Martha Stewart Weddings and Islands. To date the campaign created 324,167,726 total impressions and an equivalent advertising value of $15,636,187.18.
The total budget is less than $50,000 from the start of the campaign, which includes airline and transportation expenses for the visiting press.
7.4% increase in visitor arrivals in 2016