San Francisco Travel Wins U.S. Travel Association’s Destinations Council Destiny Award

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“49 Hours of SF: Arts & Culture” wins Best Full Marketing Campaign.

The San Francisco Travel Association has received the 2012 Destiny Award from the U.S. Travel Association for best Full Marketing Campaign.

The award honors the “49 Hours of SF: Arts & Culture” campaign which ran in June-September, 2011. The cooperative multi-media marketing program leveraged the city’s world-renowned arts and culture offerings to attract overnight visitors during the summer months. San Francisco Travel led the development of the campaign, bringing together arts and cultural institutions including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), the San Francisco Symphony and the California Academy of Sciences, as well as corporate partners American Express and Virgin America.

“Why 49? It’s a number forever linked to San Francisco - from the thousands who came seeking gold in 1849 to the 49 Mile Scenic Drive. San Francisco is forty-nine square miles brimming with a mix of arts, culture, curiosities and experiences that could only happen here,” said Joe D’Alessandro, president and CEO of San Francisco Travel. “Forty-nine is also one hour more than the average weekend and this campaign demonstrated that 48 hours is just not enough to explore everything San Francisco has to offer.”

The winners were announced last week during U.S. Travel Association’s annual Educational Seminar for Tourism Organizations (ESTO) conference.

“It’s a great honor to receive the Destiny Award,” said Lynn Bruni, San Francisco Travel’s director of consumer marketing. “The ‘49 Hours of SF: Arts & Culture’ campaign showcased San Francisco Travel’s strategic and creative approach to marketing the city and our arts and culture institutions, as well as the contributions of our partners in the program. We’re so pleased to be recognized for our accomplishments with this campaign.”

The Destiny awards are given to destination marketing organizations at the local and regional levels by U.S Travel’s Destinations Council, recognizing members for excellence and creative accomplishment in tourism marketing and promotion, and inspiring the continued development of exciting destination marketing and promotion programs. The awards are comprised of six categories, including: Single, Targeted Promotion; Full Marketing Campaign; Travel Website; Digital Campaign; Best Use of Social Media Platform; and Special Promotion.

This year, the awards were judged by JWT, an internationally recognized marketing and communications firm. Judges offered a unique perspective because the agency was chosen to help develop Brand USA’s national tourism promotion strategy.

San Francisco Travel’s “49 Hours of SF: Arts & Culture” campaign included:

  •     Advertising billboards in areas of Los Angeles likely to have high concentration of the target demographic (upscale arts and cuture lovers).
  •     Print advertising in Los Angeles Times Magazine; and online banners utilizing behavioral and retargeting capabilities, plus page-takeovers on the Los Angeles Times website. The team also tested a new Twitter beta advertising program to draw more followers.
  •     Development of print and online itineraries utilizing partner content, as well as content from local San Francisco luminaries such as Craig Newmark of Craigslist. Itineraries were developed from the perspective of historical icons relevant to each partner: ie. Gertrude Stein’s 49 Hours (Stein Collect exhibition at SFMOMA), Mozart’s 49 Hours (SF Symphony) and Charles Darwin’s 49 Hours (California Academy of Sciences).
  •     New online technology allowed users to create their own itinerary and share via email, Facebook or Twitter.
  •     The “49 Hours of SF” microsite included a Google map with events of “the next 49 hours,” a Twitter feed with all #49HoursofSF posts, and a video feed from San Francisco Travel’s You Tube channel, including 49-second videos of each cultural institution: .
  •     To generate buzz and media coverage, the team developed a guerilla marketing campaign in which they drove a San Francisco motorized cable car down Highway 101 to Los Angeles. The cable car sported an onboard art gallery from SFMOMA and the California Academy of Sciences, a soundtrack by the San Francisco Symphony, a snake handler and ambassador from the Academy of Sciences (to promote their “Summer of Slither” exhibition), a drag queen performer dressed as Matisse’s painting “Femme Au Chapeau,“ and a fog machine. During the first two days, the cable car stopped in Paso Robles, Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo, Solvang and Santa Barbara, working with local tourism colleagues to coordinate cultural stops for photo opportunities and prize distribution. The final two weekend days, the cable car visited key events and cultural institutions in Los Angeles, and a street team distributed “49 Hours of SF” collateral and promotional items, and entered members of the public to win a trip to San Francisco. A social media campaign on and the partner institutions’ Twitter accounts promoted the cable car’s whereabouts and invited visitors to see the car and win prizes.
  •     Twitter and Facebook were used heavily to promote the cable car stunt, and create conversation around “49 Hours.” A Twitter trivia contest was held in July, driving users to the 49-Hour itineraries to find trivia answers and to be entered to win San Francisco prize packages.
  •     The team developed a “49 Hours of My SF” video contest, asking consumers to submit a 49-second video about why they love San Francisco for a chance to win a trip to the city. The public was given three weeks to submit videos, which were then narrowed down to five finalists by an internal judging staff. Via social media, email, and through the finalists, the community was invited to vote and decide the winning video. The winning video can be found here:
  •     To drive more overnight visits, American Express and 12 San Francisco hotels offered 49% off the third night (for the 49th hour). The team worked closely with Living Social Escapes to develop room packages including tickets to the Symphony.
  •     San Francisco Travel partnered with San Francisco International Airport to include signage throughout each of the terminals, with messaging about SFO’s own status as an accredited art museum.
  •     The campaign was extended in-market to enhance the visitor experience. The Visitor Information Center displayed window signage, and staff was outfitted with “49 Hours of SF” t-shirts during the campaign.
  •     Radio promotions in Los Angeles and San Diego were negotiated with Virgin America tickets, hotel nights, and tickets from participating partners at no additional media cost.

The resulting economic impact is estimated at over $935,000 with 179% return on campaign investment.

The San Francisco Travel Association is a private, not-for-profit organization that markets the city as a leisure, convention and business travel destination. With more than 1,500 partner businesses, San Francisco Travel is one of the largest membership-based tourism promotion agencies in the country. Tourism, San Francisco's largest industry, generates in excess of $8.4 billion annually for the local economy and supports over 71,000 jobs.

The San Francisco Travel business offices are located at 201 Third St., Suite 900, San Francisco, CA 94103. San Francisco Travel also operates the Visitor Information Center at Hallidie Plaza, 900 Market Street at the corner of Powell and Market streets. For more information, call 415-974-6900 or visit

Join more than 450,000 people who follow San Francisco Travel on Facebook at Follow “OnlyinSF” on Twitter at

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) offers non-stop flights to more than 31 international points on 28 international carriers. The Bay Area's largest airport connects non-stop with 74 cities in the U.S. on 17 domestic airlines. For more information, visit Follow SFO on and

American Express® is the official Card partner for the San Francisco Travel Association.

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Laurie Armstrong
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