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Thursday, December 29, 2011
Photo: Jen Davis New York's Times Square hosts a very public and gala New Year's Eve celebration with more than a million people in attendance.
With its New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square, New York’s celebration is one of the most iconic and festive gatherings on the planet.
It’s been going on since 1904 and draws more than a million people — not including all the millions of folks watching on television or via the web.
The focal point is the illuminated Waterford Crystal ball, which displays a multi-million-patterned display of colors and descends down a flagpole at 1 Times Square.
Of course, good luck finding a bathroom during the Big Apple’s big event. And forget about drinking any champagne while hanging out in Times Square.
In my own household, the debate is whether we’ll hit downtown Grand Rapids, Mich., for its first night celebration or enjoy our homestead instead.
There are other ways — like in New York, Grand Rapids and at home — to ring in the New Year with some quirkiness if you look.
TripAdvisor has compiled a list of 10 festive and fun places in the U.S. to welcome 2012.
In that other Manhattan in Kansas, the city has its own version of the Big Apple. Manhattan’s activities start at 10 p.m. with a laser light show and music.
Photo: Community Association of Lebanon At the festive New Year's event in Lebanon, Pa., a 200-pound chunk of bologna gets dropped to highlight the celebration.
At midnight, a rotund ruby aluminum-and-glass apple drops to the ground for the ninth straight year with fireworks ablaze. Basically, it’s the Little Apple Drop in the hometown of Kansas State University.
People get worked up over the goofiest stuff sometimes.
The other night when my wife returned from karaoke with the girls, she shared her set list with me. I told her that her vocal range probably wasn’t the best suited for one particular song — “Misery Business” by Paramore, which happens to contain a fair amount of high notes.
I meant it in a joking way and phrased the statement delicately, but she took mild offense. How do I know it was mild? Because when she told me I was wrong and I told her to prove it, she gave me a “grrr” look and gave it a shot. She wasn’t exactly successful. We both had a good laugh.
I just wanted to get a little rise out of her without hurting her feelings, and I did. My work and private lives both have taught me a thing or two about the importance of knowing your audience.
Last week Wisconsin’s tourism department unveiled what I considered to be a brilliant winter marketing campaign, masterful in its strategy and simplicity. I watched with fascination and admiration as an image they created — the approximate shape of Wisconsin made to look like a yarn mitten — generated a buzz throughout regional and national media in print, on TV, on the radio and online.
Michiganders cried foul, asserting that the Wisconsin had no right to lay claim to a symbol so closely associated with the Great Lakes State. As a Michigan resident, I didn’t really understand the passion about our geographical shape. Personally, I don’t care if my state is shaped like a half-eaten tuna fish sandwich as long as it’s a nice place to live.
What I certainly didn’t anticipate was just how big a stir it would create. With morbid curiosity I scrolled through the negative comments on Travel Wisconsin’s Facebook page. Person after person expressed disappointment and some went as far as to label it dumb marketing.
I disagree, but I do wonder if Wisconsin had any idea just how heated the discussion would become. When I told my wife that she probably shouldn’t try to sing a certain song (in so many words), she could see the wink. That’s not the same thing as this: ;-)
In other words, it’s tough to know how your actions will be received when you don’t have the benefit of a face-to-face encounter. Sure, we can reach tons more people more conveniently than we could 10 years ago, but that can be a blessing and a curse. Connecting with them is one thing. Effectively communicating subtle tones (good-natured ribbing, playful teasing, harmless sarcasm, etc.) is another.
With so many tourist destinations and attractions competing for clicks, online marketing campaigns do need to be sharper and grabbier than ever before, but it’s still a tightrope walk.
Regardless of the negative feedback they received, I’d still say Travel Wisconsin’s efforts were successful — both for the Badger State and for Michigan.
The two state tourism agencies today announced a mitten collection campaign to benefit the needy. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said the goal is to get both states to “shake hands” and unite for an important cause.
Kinda makes you wonder if that was the plan all along, doesn’t it?
posted by Aaron at 4:19 PM
Monday, December 12, 2011
Photo: Leslie Rae Happy birthday to Dionne Warwick! Do you think she's spending it in San Jose?
Today is Dionne Warwick’s birthday — the soul singer turns 71 today.
Why do I mention it? Sure she has a fantastic voice and sang some catchy ditties. I’m writing because of “Do You Know the Way to San Jose.” It got me thinking about songs with destinations in the title.
Songs about places have always had a place in popular culture. When songs come from the heart and people sing about what they know, they often sing about where they live, love, visit or long to travel.
John Denver, of course, comes to mind. Born Henry John Deutschendorf, the singer/songwriter adopted the name of his favorite state where he lived most of his too-short life. His song “Rocky Mountain High” has been adopted as one of the state songs of Colorado for good reason.
Update: Managing Editor Dave Hoekman pointed out another John Denver song that needs to be on this list: "Take Me Home Country Roads." Calling West Virginia "almost heaven," the song has become a rallying cry in the state and a source of pride.
Photo: Derek Keats The Rocky Mountains continue to give travelers a kind of high.
Frank Sinatra recorded a lot of iconic songs, but few have become more legendary than “New York, New York.” It’s actually called “Theme from New York, New York,” and it came from a 1977 Martin Scorsese film. In the movie, the song was performed by Liza Minnelli. Both artists had the singing chops to belt out the song of hope and swagger, so we don’t need to discuss who sang it better.
Sinatra also recorded “My Kind of Town” about Chicago. It too has roots in a movie; in this case it’s the 1964 Rat Pack film Robin and the 7 Hoods. And truly, Chicago is my kind of town, so this might be one of my favorites.
Update II: Thanks to Aaron Ogg, our intrepid staff writer, for this. He points out that today is ALSO Frank Sinatra's birthday! The Chairman of the Board was born on this date in 1915.
I asked around the office this morning, and we’ve come up with a list of some other great place songs.
How about “Oklahoma” where the wind comes whipping down the plains? Or what about “Georgia on My Mind?” Both the Willie Nelson and Ray Charles version will do.
We also brought up The Monkees’ “Last Train to Clarksville.” I assumed the song was about Clarksville, Tenn., but that is not the case. The writer of the song, Bobby Hart, was thinking about a small town in Arizona called Clarkdale. Due to some artistic license, he thought Clarksville sounded better — and a pop classic was born.
Which place gets your heart singing?
posted by Amanda at 2:52 PM
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Active Journeys has an April departure to Vietnam.
Yesterday was Dec. 7, which for people of a certain age in the U.S. means only one thing: Pearl Harbor Day.
The Japanese attack on U.S. military bases at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941, brought the U.S. into World War II.
Seventy years later, U.S. citizens routinely visit Japan and Germany. Such tours would have been unthinkable in those dark days after Dec. 7, 1941.
Here's a video about Germany:
Two recent emails reminded me that tourism in Vietnam — hardly a priority during the conflict there in the 1960s and 1970s — is now a big thing.
The first email came from Active Journeys, an adventure tour operator based in Toronto. Under the subject line of “Vibrant Vietnam,” the operator notes its upcoming April departure includes not only “incredible biking in the country, kayaking in Halong Bay, but also trekking in Sapa, away from the maddening crowds.”
Later that same day I received an email from Indochina Incentive & Cruise, a tour operator in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), Vietnam, for inbound travel professionals. The company’s tagline is “Escape to the Orient, discover Indochina countries of Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.” They want to share the “astounding grandeur of bygone civilizations.”
Indochina Incentive & Cruise offers escapes to the Orient, including Vietnam.
It’s amazing to me that a mere 30-some years after the U.S. pulled out of Vietnam following a bitter conflict, Vietnam is a vibrant tourist destination. And Americans visit Vietnam.
But I should not be surprised.
Attitudes change with the passage of time. Plus, a couple of new generations have joined the ranks of travelers since the Vietnam War ended. Vietnam does not hold negative connotations for them.
The number of foreign tourists visiting Vietnam in the first 11 months of 2011 reached more than 5.3 million, a year-on-year increase of 15.9 percent, the Vietnam General Statistics Office recently reported.
Of the total, the number of foreign tourists visiting Vietnam for recreational purposes amounted to more than 3.2 million, up 13 percent. Those who came for business and to visit relatives were 887,000 and 889,000 arrivals, respectively.
Over the past 11 months, almost all markets saw increases in the number of foreign tourists to Vietnam. China topped the list with 1.24 million arrivals, up 49 percent. The next were the Republic of Korea with more than 473,000 arrivals (up 5.1 percent), Japan with 425,600 (up 6.8 percent), the U.S. with 398,700 (up 0.8 percent) and Cambodia with 376,400 (up 6.1 percent).
I think today it would be a tough sell to get Americans to buy a leisure tour of Iraq or Afghanistan — if such tours were even available. But if past events are any indication, in the future tours with U.S. travelers will go to both countries.
posted by Dave at 1:44 PM
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Photo: Aaron Ogg The new GTM app as it appears on staff writer Aaron Ogg's iPad earns his approving thumb.
Now I find myself trolling the App Store regularly, reading Mashable daily and scouting for new, visually appealing ways that other media companies are delivering content. I still refuse to play on my iPad while dining, but I think that has more to do with my (unfounded) fear of damaging the screen with spaghetti sauce than etiquette.
How quickly our attitudes can be changed. Or is it upgraded?
A recent Forbes article revealed lofty sales expectations. The results of one survey indicated that 14 percent of North American consumers canvassed plan to buy a tablet in the next three months. Apple dominates the forecast, with 65 percent of probable tablet purchasers sizing up the iPad 2 and 22 percent looking toward the Kindle Fire.
The article goes on to discuss the implications of the devices’ rise in popularity for marketers. It sagely states:
“So, the good news is that in early 2012, we are likely to have more potential customers we can reach with marketing communications on their tablets. The bad news? We are likely to have more potential customers we can reach with marketing communications on our tablets. More devices mean more operating platforms, which means more expense to develop and deliver marketing programs. Just as marketers have been grappling with mobile platforms, 2012 looks to be the start of multiple tablet platforms as well.”
The opportunist in me wants to call this a happy problem, but not one for the inflexible.
It pleases me to say that Group Tour Media is constantly exploring new ways to effectively deliver content that is appealing to our readers and advertisers. We recently launched an app and have made notable changes to our websites in an effort to improve their appearance and user-friendliness. More improvements are sure to come. We’ll let you know.
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