The making of a hit tourism video

Hamsini Shivakumar and Khushi Rolania of Leapfrog Strategy Consulting, share actionable insights for tourism content creators, marketers and video makers that can help them create outstanding tourism videos

Hamsini Shivakumar
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India is known for its rich cultural diversity, historical significance, and natural beauty. With each state offering a unique blend of traditions, landscapes, and experiences, the State Tourism Departments of India have embarked on video campaigns to showcase their respective destinations. These campaigns not only aim to attract tourists but also serve as a window into the cultural tapestry of India.

Tourism content creators and marketers are tasked with making such videos that will attract tourists to the State. They know the templates and formats of tourism videos. And yet, they need also to think of ways of creating video content that is distinctive enough to attract audiences.

In our view, this is not just a task for creative ideation, trying to come up with something new. What is required is a deeper insight into how tourism communication works with audiences, how it shapes their minds, their expectations, and indeed, their experience of the places that they visit.

Video campaigns by State tourism departments enchant us with montages of mesmerising locations, heritage sites, monuments, and local people in their milieu, how they dress, and where they live. The target audience for these campaigns nowadays is the youth, especially since travelling has become a rite of passage for them.

Travel influencers push the youth heavily to their bucket lists and the must-see locations and must-do activities in those areas. Weekends are not to be wasted in stillness. Instead, every opportunity to travel must be seized. Travel influencers are increasingly pushing solo travel, too, in case you do not have anyone to travel with.

The real function of the tourism videos vis-a-vis potential tourists is not just to attract them to the destination. It is to shape their imaginary of the destination. A potential tourist, sitting at home and dreaming of visiting a new country, a new city, or a new place, seeks the most "authentic experience" of that place. Yet, for one who has never been there, what is "authentic"? How is he/she to judge? Who sets the expectations of authenticity? How does a tourist rarely visiting a place decide what authentic or inauthentic is?

Before encountering the "real" or "authentic" monument or locale, we always meet its markers - an Eiffel Tower keychain, a postcard of the Taj Mahal, and your Shimla fridge magnet. In the modern era, pictures and videos of a location serve as markers. Before we book our flight tickets and hotel rooms, we often search for videos of the destination to see if a place is worth visiting.

By encountering copies or markers of the Taj Mahal in videos and images, we are more convinced about what the actual Taj Mahal is. We may also use videos and pictures to make sense of the place. We might say, "Taj Mahal looks more beautiful in real life than in pictures!". Our expectations about an authentic experience of Agra have been set by the signs and symbols of Agra and the Taj we encounter before visiting. Our Imagination has been shaped to influence our experience. This is the real role played by tourism videos, content, and symbols; this is how they build the Imagined Destination as a magical place.

Three recent video campaigns by Rajasthan, Maharashtra, and Kerala Tourism Departments illustrate these insights about how tourism videos build the imagined destination to set up expectations of the 'authentic' experience.

Rajasthan's campaign "Lage Kuch Apna Sa!" introduces several elements to communicate what authentic Rajasthan is. First, there are several monuments, such as the Hawa Mahal. Natural aspects of the dunes, camels, streams, and caves are also invoked. Authentic experiences of local life are presented as trying local snacks and watching performances by the singing and dancing communities. In addition, the central protagonist (every tourist) is pulled into immersing herself in authentic Rajasthan experiences, such as tying a pagdi and travelling on the top of the bus with the villagers.

But, in the Kerala campaign titled "Come together in Kerala," only the lush green hills and the painted local performers are shown as markers of authenticity. There is nothing more as the emphasis shifts to the family's story.

Kerala Tourism:

In the Maharashtra campaign titled "Maharashtra Tourism Song," the legitimacy of the monuments is showcased by making direct associations with the historical figures. There is an emphasis on the traditional aspects of Maharashtra, including the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi. The travellers interact with the traditional elements by taking photos or sketches. The video features solo travellers, friends, and a young couple, clearly targeting young people. There is a sense of careless abandon in the travellers who directly interact with natural elements in the vineyards, beaches, and orchards, an essential part of the Maharashtra experience.

Maharashtra Tourism song:

Building the magic of the destination imaginary, showing tourists as active participants, immersed in the many delights the destination offers, elevates the promise. Portraying them as passive observers and note-takers does not promote the destination's promise to the same degree.

In addition to building the imagined destination, some videos add layers, such as storytelling and emotional connection, to attract audiences and make the video hold their attention. The Rajasthan campaign does just that. Tripti Dimri, (the up-and-coming actress) who features as a solo traveller, nostalgically embarks on a journey to rediscover Rajasthan through her mother's eyes, using the pictures her mother left behind as markers to make meaning of the places as well to grant authenticity to locations within Rajasthan.

Rajasthan also presents itself as an international tourist destination by showcasing foreigners as tourists and the bond that Tripti forms with them. There are several references to youth-centric activities like zip lining, off-roading, and hot-air ballooning in the Rajasthan video. Thus, the five-minute-long video manages a great blend of Destination Imaginary with emotional storytelling.

Rajasthan Tourism video:

While the Kerala video makes the audience invest emotionally in the story of the distance and eventual coming together of the nuclear family, it does not focus enough on the authentic aspects of Kerala. Perhaps the content creators take for granted the magic of the imagined destination of Kerala. They believe that everyone now knows what it is; hence, all the markers of the authentic Kerala experience need not be repeated. But this could be a fatal flaw in the narrative. It would be good to invest in a longer-duration video that allows for the blending, as the Rajasthan video does.

Actionable insights for Tourism content creators and video makers:

  1. The videos must highlight the markers of the 'authentic' destination experience to build and/or sustain the magic of the imagined destination.
  2. Engaging storylines can layer on emotions for added engagement.
  3. Showcasing a tourist's immersion in the place's unique culture elevates the destination's promise.  
  4. Featuring solo travellers and female travellers in the video can emphasise the safety that the state offers.
  5. Youth-centric activities, like adventure sports and solo travel, are good hooks to keep the audience engaged.

For those of you who would like to view the videos yourself, the links are given below:

Yeh Dooriyan | Come Together in Kerala | Kerala Tourism

महाराष्ट्र पर्यटन गीत | Maharashtra Tourism Song | @TenX-Official @AmrutaFadnavisOfficial

Rajasthan: Lage Kuch Apna Sa!

Kerala Tourism Hamsini Shivakumar Leapfrog Strategy Consulting Maharashtra Tourism Tourism video hit tourism video Rajasthan Tourism