Tourist destination campaign: capitals fighting over birth rights of Christmas trees
Idea for tourism promotion
In order to draw attention to the marketing campaign of Riga in the end of 2010, KPMS created a soft conflict in Estonian media – the “Christmas tree fight between Riga and Tallinn”, in other words a debate over which of the capitals erected the world’s first public Christmas tree. The aim of the campaign was to get attention to Riga as an interesting tourist destination in Estonia and throughout the world promoting Riga’s tourist attractions and increasing the number of tourists in Latvia.
Main arguments for the strategy
Selected strategy enabled a discussion over Riga’s ongoing cultural program in media (free marketing), its topicality was high during the Christmas season, it was happening close to Estonia, it was attractive for media as the word “fight” is easily usable in press, it kept the topic in focus over a long period of time enabling various follow-up coverage, and was accomplished with a very low budget.
After going through media materials and consulting with historians in order to ensure the historical credibility of the project, the “war” was declared. Estonian “star historian” Jüri Kuuskemaa published an opinion article in Postimees, the leading Estonian daily, expressing his doubts about accuracy the legend of the first public Christmas having been erected in Riga.
Escalation of the fight
Next step was to bring the fight to our own backyard – we organised a so-called Christmas tree duel in Tallinn’s House of Blackheads that enabled local media to cover the topic. That was followed be an escalation of the fight – after the event, different opinion leaders continued to publicly comment on the issue.
Fight settled between Prime Ministers
Culmination – the meeting of Estonian and Latvian Prime Ministers in Riga, during which it was agreed that the birthplace of a Christmas tree is Livonia (historic territory of present-day Latvia and Estonia) and that the debate between Estonia and Latvia should be used by both countries in their tourist destination promotion. Nils Ušakovs, Mayor of Riga, said on LNT TV program on 13 December 2010 that Latvia had only won through this debate and it is a good tradition that can be successfully sold.
Topic covered even in China
Christmas tree war, despite the PR campaign’s budget of only €2,700, was an cutting theme in Estonian media during the holiday season. Paradoxically, the campaign launched in Estonia helped to bring Riga’s claims of being the birth town of Christmas trees to international media. During the holiday season the topic was covered by media channels starting from AFP to Chinese National Television. Until the campaign, the majority of Estonians had never heard of Latvians claiming to have started the Christmas tree tradition. Neither did they know that the tradition could even originate from Estonia itself.
Boosting the tourism
Trivial, at a fist glance, but for promotion of a tourist destination, almost as significant as the “fact” of Finland being the home of Santa Clause. Rovaniemi by itself is visited by half a million tourists by average each year. According to Air Baltic, the amount of travellers from Tallinn to Riga increased 14% comparing to the previous year. Using perfect timing and historic friendly rivalry between Estonia and Latvia, we managed to create a campaign that – using only free media – excited target groups in both Estonia as well as on the international level.