Using Anniversaries, Celebrations and Awards for Tourism Marketing

Break the Ice Media celebrated a milestone anniversary in 2019, 10 years since I started the company. In that year, I was also recognized with the Small Business Person of the Year award from the Small Business Council of Rochester. Many celebrations, anniversaries and awards are integral to successful tourism marketing campaigns. Some of the ingredients that made our 10-year celebration successful are shared by Destination on The Left podcast guests.  

Start planning early

To get a jump on the 10 year celebration planning at Break the Ice Media, we started talking about the anniversary over a year before it happened. We started by collecting ideas and inspiration from other companies who had celebrated a milestone birthday. About 6 months before the anniversary we formed a committee or as our team liked to call it the “Party Planning Committee,” also known as the PPC.

In episode 149 of Destination on the Left, I got to talk with Ross Levi and Sarah Emmert from I Love NY about the success of the celebration surrounding the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising in NYC. This historic NYC event credited with starting the modern LGBTQ movement. One of the keys to their success was the advance planning. The I Love NY team recognized the anniversary as an opportunity to reach this important niche audience and showcase New York State’s varied attractions and welcoming communities across the entire state.

With the advance planning, New York was successful in attracting 2019 World Pride to NYC, which provided an international platform. With the anniversary and World Pride in the works, communities across the state were encouraged to promote pride events. Those events were folded into the overall campaign, strengthening the message that NYS is welcoming while taking advantage of an international limelight. While these events broke all kinds of records, most impressive is how those events provided a boost to attractions. One attraction saw a 20% increase in visitation, while another reportedly surpassed projections by 1,000 visitors.

Engage a committee

Whether you are planning an internal celebration such as a 10 year company anniversary, or a community-wide milestone like the Bicentennial of the Erie Canal, the more people you can pull together, the stronger your celebration will be. 

On episode 161 of Destination on the Left, I talk to Aileen Ramos from Visit Laredo Texas. She describes an upcoming anniversary celebration they were planning for May 2020. Visit Laredo was involved with the planning and promotion of the 265th year anniversary of the founding of Laredo and 180 years since Laredo was part of the Republic of the Rio Grande. For the Laredo community, this annual celebration is a way to show off their community pride by bringing together various groups committed to the future of the city. Even when the course of events in 2020 changed the nature of their celebration, the celebration pivoted to virtual and found ways to commemorate their anniversary.

Identify the audience

At the first PPC meeting for BTI, we focused on who we wanted to include in our celebration. We needed to identify the audience before we could figure out how we were going to celebrate. In our case, we had three audiences: our team, our clients and those supporters who have been part of our journey. Then we started to brainstorm what we wanted to do and how we could include each of them in the celebration. I go into great detail about our planning in my solocast on Destination on the Left, Episode 155.

In my interview with Rob Casetti from Corning Museum of Glass on episode 148, we talk about his organization’s 150-year anniversary celebration in 2018. The museum had gone on the road with their Hot Glass Demos to show off the artistry and skill of glassmaking. These road trips were often outside of New York State where the museum is based. When approaching the 150th anniversary, they wanted to celebrate with the communities who had been part of their journey when the company moved from Brooklyn to Corning, NY in 1868. The trip took place on the Erie Canal and Rob’s team thought recreating that trip would be the best way to celebrate with their audience.

Over the course of five months in the spring and summer of 2018, the Glassbarge made its voyage along the Erie Canal. It made 30 stops in communities stretching from Brooklyn to Buffalo and through the Finger Lakes region. Rob credits the success of such a massive undertaking to partnerships with numerous outlets, including CVBs, museums, canalside villages, and other key partners. Understanding the complexity of the project and leveraging these partnerships helped bring the Glass Barge to 55,000 people!

Collaboration for Celebration

For the Break the Ice Media anniversary, collaboration meant engaging the entire team and not just the PPC. Of course, collaboration is a core value at our company and we wouldn’t have approached this special occasion any other way. We also know how powerful working together can be.

2020 marked the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in the US. As the epicenter of the Women’s Rights movement 100 years ago, the Finger Lakes vacation region highlighted the celebration. As a woman owned business, we are especially excited about what the Finger Lakes did to celebrate this anniversary. To help bring attention to this monumental year and the role that the Finger Lakes played, they collaborated with the 14 counties that make up the region to compile a list of 100 ways to celebrate women empowerment in the Finger Lakes. The impressive list includes historical stops, women-led workshops, female foodies, women and craft beverages, women in education, entrepreneurs and more.

About the awards…

In October 2019, I was recognized as the Small Business Person of the Year by the Small Business Council of Rochester. I have also had the honor of interviewing award winners for the NYS Tourism Excellence awards from 2018 and 2019. Through these experiences, I’d like to share a few final thoughts on celebration.

  • Awards are a fantastic way to celebrate your hard work and passion so when you see an opportunity to nominate yourself or someone else, GO FOR IT!
  • Once you have been nominated or notified that you are being recognized- PROMOTE IT! Everyone who has been part of your journey will want to celebrate right alongside you.
  • When you are at the award ceremony and afterwards, show gratitude, be humble but most importantly – ENJOY IT! You deserve it!

NYSTIA Award series

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