Visit Stockholm’s Instagram competition: why exclude those who haven’t been?

When Facebook duly nudged me towards a travel competition in its ads today, I was happy to click and find out more. After all, who wouldn’t want to hop over to Stockholm, home of ice-cool fashionistas, a gorgeous archipelago of tiny islands to explore and a medieval quarter (Gamla Stan) where you can wander through tiny side-streets and discover the city’s past? As you can probably tell, it’s been sitting on my wish list for a while.

This also sounded like a cool competition because the tourist board took advantage of current technology and made it fairly effortless for people to enter, by using Instagram, or sending a photo by email if you don’t have access to the app. How inclusive, I thought – even giving non-Instagrammers the chance to win. But then I did a double take at the other conditions: they wanted entrants to take a photo from Stockholm, in order to bag a holiday there. Say what?

Visit Stockholm competition

Screengrab taken from the tourist board’s competition.

I totally get what they’re aiming at – create a lovely collection of beautifully filtered images taken in the city and then use them as PR and for other outreach purposes. It would surely make the already super-cool city look that bit more attractive to prospective visitors and potentially encourage people to remember Stockholm when weighing up where they should take that European city break.

But my issue is that this competition will exclude anyone who hasn’t been there before, which is surely half the point of having a tourist board – to tell people who don’t know how good it is that they need to get there, pronto. Those who have been will already know about the top attractions, the cool bars and the quirky food (unless they sat in the airport and never actually left the plane), and they won’t need to be told twice, though I’m sure they’ll enjoy the prize.

Visit Stockholm Instagram competition entries

Some of the entries so far, shown on Facebook.

I’m not saying that this is a bad campaign – it’s very positive and socially integrated and is bound to get loads of entrants – but I just don’t get how it’s going to appeal to what should be the tourist board’s target audience. What I would have done instead would be to make this a PR campaign and not a competition; ask locals, previous visitors and bloggers to submit their photos and then turn them into something amazing; maybe project the images onto buildings around the city?

I would then run a competition aimed at people who had never been, asking them to say what they’d most like to see or do in Stockholm, then collate the data and use it as a sort of appraisal of the tourist board. For example, if most entrants said they wanted to enjoy fika (a coffee break), but nobody mentioned going to bars and clubs, I’d then realise that maybe more needed to be done to raise the profile of nightlife in the city, whilst I’d know that the local coffee culture was being clearly communicated to potential tourists. It’s a win-win situation, especially as someone who’s new to the destination would get to see it for the first time.

If this sounds like a bitter post then I apologise, but I’m just really disappointed that this competition isn’t as inclusive as I hoped it would be. That’s not just because I can’t enter, but because loads of other people can’t either. After all, how many of your friends, family and colleagues have actually been to Stockholm? And how many more would like to, but have never had the chance – or perhaps the money – to go?  It would be great to see tourist boards like Visit Stockholm being that bit more inclusive in the future, so keen travellers can feel one step closer to visiting, and not left out in the cold. We want to be involved, so let us.

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