Netherlands surpasses goal in iPhone app downloads

On April 9, the nonprofit Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions (NBTC) launched a free iPhone destination app, the Amsterdam Mobile Guide, and what was believed to be the first from a European tourism board.

Client: Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions (New York)
PR Team: Internal
Campaign: Amsterdam Mobile Guide iPhone launch
Duration: April – August 2009
Budget: approximately $5,000

On April 9, the nonprofit Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions (NBTC) launched a free iPhone destination app, the Amsterdam Mobile Guide, and what was believed to be the first from a European tourism board. The in-house PR team was tasked with raising awareness of the app and getting at least 25,000 downloads by the end of 2009.

Conrad van Tiggelen, NBTC's director of North America, wanted to offer consumers a resource to assit them in pre-trip planning as well as on the ground in Amsterdam.

“The guide goes beyond traditional tourist attractions,” he explains. “We show lifestyle aspects and local point of view. Content is purely editorial [as opposed to advertorial] and based on what American travelers like. We know conversion from interest to booking is much higher with an application like this. PR could deliver the best return on investment by spreading the word.”

Strategy
PR director of North America Rosina Shiliwala says her team used social media, blogger outreach, traditional media relations, and NBTC' s Web site and “Trippist” blog to promote the app.

“Travel was very much down in the first quarter, and everyone was struggling to get attention and travelers to their destination,” van Tiggelen adds. “Timing of the launch was specifically done… to generate interest going into the main season and during a difficult time for travel.”

Tactics
The guide includes itinerary recommendations and information on many topics and categories, including restaurants, museums, architecture, and LGBT interest.

Consumer travel outlets, travel trades, PR and marketing trades, and travel blogs were targeted. Messaging highlighted that NBTC's app was first to market, along with specifics about the app's unique features.

Launch news was posted on NBTC's Web site and its Trippist blog. Shiliwala made only two posts on NBTC's Facebook and Twitter pages. The first announced the launch and direct traffic to us.holland.com/iphone and NBTC's main site to get more information and download the app. The second post linked to a review by a writer in Amsterdam on The New York Times' travel blog “Globespotters.”

“We see Twitter and Facebook as another resource for travelers, and we want to give them what they want to see there -- we're not trying to make it advertorial by shoving information at them,” Shiliwala says.

Results
In April alone, the app was downloaded 15,694 times. By the end of October, downloads totaled 46,725. Since the app launched, Facebook fans have increased from 120 to 4,574 and Twitter followers are up from 1,419 to 2,531.

Outlets covering the story include Gadling.com, Jaunted.com, Out Traveler, Marketing Daily, and Intelligent Travel.

Future
The team is currently working to “expand people's idea of Holland,” van Tiggelen says. PR efforts will highlight authentic, local lifestyle experiences and areas that aren't typically frequented by Americans.

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