Explore Georgia, the state tourism office within the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD), was awarded the prestigious Mercury Award by the U.S. Travel Association at their recent Educational Seminar for Tourism Organizations (ESTO) event.
Explore Georgia captured the Mercury Award in the Virtual Programming category in recognition of its multi-sensory virtual Explore Georgia from Home campaign. Other organizations that were finalists in the category included notable destination marketing organizations (DMO) Pure Michigan and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. This year, the U.S. Travel Association received more than 400 entries for 30 awards, a record for the award program.
“Explore Georgia – and every destination worldwide – faced an unprecedented challenge in 2020: how to keep travelers engaged and inspired when travel stopped,” said Mark Jaronski, Deputy Commissioner of Tourism for the Georgia Department of Economic Development. “By shifting from paid advertising to an innovative new strategy based on traveler sentiment, our team was successful in keeping Georgia top-of-mind and putting our state in the best position possible.”
The Explore Georgia from Home campaign was focused on a virtual destination content hub for users to explore timely content, which touched on all senses and moods, ranging from recipes, zoom backgrounds, virtual tours, playlists, coloring pages, spot-the-difference image games, puzzles, and more.
In addition, posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest were added to help inspire prospective visitors and keep locals informed. Media relations around the campaign garnered coverage from local, regional, and national outlets.
As a result of the Explore Georgia from Home campaign, the state tourism industry started to rebound sooner and began to see signs of recovery faster than others. While 28 other travel organizations in its competitive set saw a 25% drop in website traffic from March through early May 2020, Explore Georgia experienced just a 13% drop. Explore Georgia also saw net positive year-over-year increases in website traffic much earlier than other DMOs, beginning an upward climb in March 2020.
Click here to see the content hub that earned Georgia the 2021 Mercury Award.
Multiple destination marketing organizations from Georgia were recognized by the U.S Travel Association’s Destiny Awards, which honors excellence and creative accomplishment at the local and regional level. Visit Columbia County received a Destiny Award in the Integrated Marketing Messaging Campaign (budget of less than $1 million) category for their Serene 18 Paddle Trail. Visit Savannah was a finalist in the Digital Campaign category, and Discover Atlanta was a finalist for the Destination Website category.