Tourism institute bets $6.5 million on social media

Here's the new mascot for the $6.4 million campaign. Instituto Costarricense de Turismo graphic

The tourism institute has adopted a three-toed sloth as a mascot for a $6.4 million promotional scheme that will give away 80 free trips for two and hope that the recipients say good things about the country on the social networks.

The promotion is keyed to the incorrect assumption that Costa Rica is the happiest country in the world, and the giveaway is called “Costa Rica’s Million Dollar Gift of Happiness.”

The promotion is the brainchild of 22squared, Inc., the Atlanta, Georgia, ad agency.

After an eloquent introduction, this sloth falls off the branch. Instituto Costarricense de Turismo graphic

The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo picked 22squared in January after what it said was a five-month courtship in which 30 agencies were considered. The firm has a two-year contract to develop and execute an integrated marketing and advertising campaign to promote Costa Rica as the premier travel destination for North America.

The campaign includes social and digital media, media buying and planning, and creative.

Based on a presentation Thursday the social media networks, like Facebook, play a large role in the initial, $2.9 million part of the campaign.

Tourism Minister Allan Flores said that Costa Rica’s campaign goes beyond traditional publicity. It aims to break standards and transcend time, thereby leaving its mark on history and on how life is perceived, the institute said in a release.

During the first phase of the campaign, visitors to a Facebook page will participate in a raffle to win a trip for two to Costa Rica. A winner will also be able to bring a companion. Everyone in the United States and Canada is eligible except those in Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico and Quebec, the institute said without explanation.

Said the institute: “Trips will be given through various channels: via Facebook, a trip will be given daily (from Monday to Friday) to one winner and a companion, until 80 trips have been given; in other words, 160 tourists will win a trip. Likewise, individuals who need happiness in their lives will also be selected via a constant monitoring of social networks and the news. Additionally, key people will also be chosen who deserve to be awarded for defending different causes related to promoting happiness in others or sharing Costa Rican values. This aspect will benefit 95 more people.”

The institute cited in a release the Happy Planet Index that it said listed Costa Rica as the happiest country in the world. Of course, as A.M. Costa Rica reported at the time, the politically charged index did no such thing.  The introduction to the index said:

“The Index doesn’t reveal the ‘happiest’ country in the world. It shows the relative efficiency with which nations convert the planet’s natural resources into long and happy lives for their citizens. The nations that top the Index aren’t the happiest places in the world, but the nations that score well show that achieving, long, happy lives without over-stretching the planet’s resources is possible.”

The campaign has put up a one minute, 14 second video on YouTube featuring an unidentified talking sloth. The production is similar to the talking toucan that Paragon Properties used to attract land buyers to Costa Rica before the real estate boom collapsed. The sloth ends his talk by falling off a branch.

A tourism institute spokesperson said that a sloth was picked because market research showed that North Americans liked the creature.

The sloth also appears on the institute’sFacebook page. Facebook also contained thecontest rules.

The campaign will promote selected operations that hold certificates of sustainable tourism, said the institute. Raffle winners will stay at these hotels.

For the second stage from March 2012 to February 2013 the campaign will focus on positioning Costa Rica, and the investment will total $3.5 million, said the institute. Part of the campaign is a full-page ad in USA Today.

To enter the raffle, a person has to be at least 21 years and have or open a Facebook account. The first drawing is Oct. 17. When someone registers for the raffle, the individual must select one of five different vacation packages. If they win, that is the package they get. Air fare is included. Four of the packages include arrivals at Juan Santamaría airport. One has an arrival at Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia. Winners cannot take their trip over Christmas or Semana Santa. They also have to pay their own departure tax.

Those who enter must be residents of the United States or Canada, so Costa Rican expats are not eligible.

The tourism institute estimates that the retail value of each prize is $7,846 or $8,239.63 Canadian.

Canada appears to have different rules on raffles, and winners from that country will have to successfully pass a math test to demonstrate their skills before being awarded the prize.

In addition to the raffle, the tourism institute is giving away those 95 vacation packages they call gifts that are supposed to be awarded randomly.

In most cases. the gift trip includes two people, but one gift would include three of more members of a single family.

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