The end of tourism as we know it

The end of tourism as we know it

Doing, Seeing, Being or Belonging?

The passive tourist is a dying breed. Today’s visitors seek unworn paths and authentic experiences over official guidebooks and are happy to spend more money in the process. Above all else, their holiday must leave them feeling something and they need the picture on Instagram to prove it. So how are destinations responding?

Here’s a few key trends I could pick out:

People first. It’s a destination’s population and their passions that matter most to tourists. Not stuffy museums or generic farmers’ markets. Cities are finally recognising that they need to help tourists embark on personal adventures and enhance their brand stories.


  • Brand worlds over slogans. Most destination marketing tends to be pretty transferable between locations. Cities increasingly looking to design to stand out from the crowd, creating bold identities that are dynamic enough to celebrate the diversity of local life.
  • Agencies are the new DMOs. Cities can no longer simply spend millions pushing official slogans to the masses. Nobody can outspend the likes of Dubai. Their job today is to find new ways to support residents and the sector to become the best hosts and curators they can be.
  • Optimisation over maximisation. Bed nights have been a misleading KPI for many years. Volume alone takes its toll on infrastructure, margins and resident morale, plus the benefits aren't spread widely enough. An inspired guest on the other hand, particularly from a high growth nation, will spend more during their stay and be keen to return with their friends, families and colleagues in tow.
  • Paint a picture of tomorrow. The key to attracting younger visitors is to pitch them where you’re headed as a city and how they can catch the wave early. So whether the plan is to be a more sustainable, creative, fairer or happier place, destination marketers shouldn’t shy away from a big vision. We're all suckers for a good story.

So, who is leading the way?


Sapporo – The city of smiles

Sapporo believes happier citizens equals happier tourists. It’s a simple philosophy that translates to the warmest welcome and highest standards of hospitality I’ve received anywhere in the world.

The city’s focus on spiritual wealth isn't a gimmick. It allows the city’s tourism sector to draw strength from the community and provide an intimate bond that’s difficult to replicate. It’s also the inspiration behind the SAPP ‿ RO tourism branding, which incorporates a smiling mouth in the form of an undertie (‿).

Sapporo, city of smiles

The city’s Smile Index tracks resident wellbeing and tourist happiness alongside all the usual growth metrics and the Sapporo Citizens’ Charter, established in 1963, contains the following clauses: “We shall make our city a happy place for our children who will build the future” and “We shall raise our cultural standard through cultural exchange with the people of the world.”
There’s always a risk that such lofty ideals could fall flat. Few cities could pull it off. But in Sapporo it’s a promise they actually over deliver on, making your trip that much more special.


Copenhagen – Localhood, wherever you’re from

The days of glossy, picture-perfect advertising for Copenhagen have been confined to the history books. A quieter and more thoughtful strategy is replacing it, encouraging you to live like a local and zig when the guidebooks zag.

Copenhagen - Localhood tourism strategy

The idea (you can read it here) is to transform visitors into temporary locals and residents into willing concierges. It’s a strategy that can be delivered 365-days-a-year and can provide a wealth of content to fuel campaigns. The ultimate currency being sharable moments that will be happily amplified on social media.

 “Localhood is a long-term vision that supports the inclusive co-creation of our future destination. A future destination where human relations are the focal point. Where locals and visitors not only co-exist, but interact around shared experiences of localhood. Where our global competitiveness is underpinned by our very own localhood. And where tourism growth is co-created responsibly across industries and geographies, between new and existing stakeholders, with localhood as our shared identity and common starting point.”

Porto – a Porto for everybody

“For each citizen Porto represents a different thing. If you ask someone “What is your Porto?” the number of answers is endless. We felt like we needed to give each citizen their own Porto. We needed to show all the cities that exist in this one territory.
Thus it became clear to us that Porto needed to be much more than a single icon, much more than a single logo. It needed complexity. It needed life. It needed stories. It needed personality.”
Porto, city tourism branding

Porto’s many charms are expressed by an inventory of geometric icons inspired by the city’s famous blue tiles. Walk around the city and unique combinations of the Porto-specific icons pop up everywhere. Each capturing the pride that community has for its city.


New York – kinetic energy

The iconic I ❤ NY logo designed in 1977 was originally intended to be used for a few months. Developed as tourist-friendly alternative to the crime-ridden image of New York that adorned newspapers around the world at the time. It’s probably the most successful city branding of all time. For many years it was enough to attract visitors to New York, however they would then be left to their own devices to explore the city.

With so much going on tourists were becoming overwhelmed.
Now you could argue that New York the city that never sleeps is intended to have this effect. That the energy of the hustle and bustle doesn't need to be tamed. However, with so much fighting for attention, all with its own look and feel, tourists needed some help making sense of the chaos.

New York City, tourism branding animation

NYC & Company – the official tourism organisation for New York – has responded with a new visual identity and framework. It forms an alliance from New York’s many offers and acts as a springboard for discovery for tourists.

New York City, tourism branding illustrations

The unique personalities of New York’s boroughs are represented by custom icons and typefaces that are big, brash and full of character – just like the city itself. The framework also features a vibrant colour palette drawn from landmarks – the yellow of taxi cabs, the green from the Statue of Liberty, Staten Island Ferry orange, and so on. New York will always be a hectic melting pot but it’s finally found a way to communicate with its many types of visitor.

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Stuart Goulden