Why so little and so late for tourism promotion?

Two questions arose when the tourism institute announced its $3.3 million promotional campaign for the U.S. and Canada Thursday.

Why so late, and why so little.

The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo said it was using social media to mount a low-cost campaign. That is a strange approach for an entity that has as one of its few reasons of existence to promote the country and a $15-per-head airport entry tax to support it.

Most would agree that the promotion should have started in July. By now, most affluent tourists already have their destinations selected for the high season.

The tourism institute noted that the United States and Canada are the source of about half the tourists who come here each year.

When one considers that Nicaragua contributed 20 percent, the value of the northern countries becomes greater.

The year-long campaign features two Web sites: savetheAmericans.org and savetheCanadians.org. The idea is that these populations need to be saved from their boring, overworked lifestyles.

The tourism institute probably should have had these sites, which may become valuable, in its name instead of that of its Atlanta, Georgia, ad agency, 22Squared.

The ad firm plans to promote the country online with YouTube, Google, The New York Times, Yahoo, Outbrain, Matador, Network, Twitter, Linked-In and Instagram, tourism officials said. No doubt the firm will win another award. It already has won three since 2012 for work with the tourism institute. One came from the Word of Mouth Marketing Association.

There is a danger in the advertising and news businesses to shoot for awards instead of results.

The tourism institute calls the campaign non-traditional, and that it is. We would have preferred print advertising in the tourism sections of major U.S. and Canadian Sunday newspapers as well as the magazine of the American Association of Retired Persons. We would have liked to see spots on DestinoTV and the Travel Channel.

We get the impression that 22Squared is targeting the 13 year olds with smartphones instead of those adults with money who could come to Costa Rica.

Time will tell as will the statistics relating to the Web pages. And most importantly, the money in the pockets of tourism operators.

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