Heike Wieske of Stubbs Whale Watching presented Tourism Vancouver Island’s Best Marketing Campaign award award to Tourism Ucluelet’s Denise Stys-Norman and Tourism Tofino’s Jenn Houtby-Ferguson. Tofino and Ucluelet shared the award, which recognized the Real West Coast - Canada’s Surf Highway campaign, with the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce and Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Photo - Tourism Vancouver Island / HA Photography)

Tofino, Ucluelet and Pacific Rim Park Reserve share tourism award

“Everyone, from each community, did their part to make ‘The Real West Coast’ campaign a success.”

Local tourism professionals sprinkled some destination marketing magic over Highway 4 this summer and transformed a perceived barrier into an alluring attraction.

Tourism Tofino, Tourism Ucluelet, the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce have received Tourism Vancouver Island’s Marketing Campaign of the Year award for their ‘Real West Coast- Canada’s Surf Highway’ campaign.

“We believed this campaign would create interest to slowdown, explore more and enjoy the journey to the West Coast along highway 4, Canada’s Surf Highway,” Tourism Ucluelet’s Denise Stys-Norman told the Westerly News.

“There is so much natural beauty to appreciate along the way… Sometimes it’s not about the end result, but the path you took to get there.”

The multi-community collaboration encouraged visitors to take photos of various locations along their journey to the West Coast and post them to social media.

“We were hearing increasingly from people coming to Tofino and Ucluelet, the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and to Port Alberni, that there was an attraction in the highway itself,” said Tourism Tofino’s Lynda Kaye.

“We had never really promoted that before, even though we all drive it all the time and know how beautiful it is. So, we put our heads together as a collaborative group and just said, ‘OK, let’s do something cool to make that travel from the east coast of Vancouver Island to the West Coast of Vancouver Island even more interesting for people…It is a long drive, you’re not coming over to the West Coast by accident so let’s see if we can make that more interesting.’”

She said the idea quickly took off and became a popular contest for both frequent and new visitors.

“It evolved into this really multi-faceted campaign that made the most of what it was like to drive that highway,” she said. “Sometimes, these campaigns can be a bit conservative and this one gave us a chance to do something really fun.”

While boosting the drive’s enjoyment, the photo contest also helped capture a continuous carousel of free advertising throughout social media channels as shots of breathtaking spots, curated together through the Real West Coast and the Canada’s Surf Highway hashtags frequently popped up in front of potential guests.

“We’re seeing more and more people who are using social media as their primary source of information for travel,” Kaye said.

“That’s a huge part of why we think this was as successful as this was. Those things are very powerful when they come together because, even if you’re just thinking about maybe coming over to the West Coast and you’re engaged in that fashion, it’s going to affect your decision.”

She adding working together on a multi-community collaboration, rather than competing against each other as individual markets, brought a huge boost to each stakeholders’ resources.

“This campaign, in our opinion, really is an unprecedented, in our opinion, level of cooperation and collaboration between regional groups and we feel like this is a revolutionary way to do destination marketing that for all intents and purposes blurs the competitive boundaries to enable us to do a better job of marketing,” she said. “We thought that, rather than just individually spending marketing resources on promoting just one part of that destination equation, let’s put our heads together and come up with something that is very inclusive.”

Stys-Norman agreed.

“Everyone from each community did their part to make ‘The Real West Coast’ campaign a success; the Tourism Tofino team was especially dynamic and spearheaded this award winning campaign and collaboration,” she said.

“We all want the same thing for our guests; the best experience possible when traveling to the West Coast. Each community and organization has something unique and special to offer visitors as they make their journey to the West Coast. And, by working together, we amplified the experience.”

Kaye added the award was a huge honour because it showed the respect local tourism professionals have amongst their peers around Vancouver Island.

“There’s tons of people doing lots of cool things and destination promotions so, to be recognized by our peers is very important, but also it’s another platform for us to get the word out about how cool it is to drive over here.”

The Real West Coast Canada’s Surf Highway campaign will remain open until Oct. 31 and locals and visitors are encouraged to see it in action at therealwestcoast.ca.