The coast is ready again.

In 2020 we looked at things differently. After lockdown we wanted to give Belgium a welcome breath of fresh air again and revitalise the people in a single move. Westtoer, which handles tourism and marketing at the coast, appointed us as its external partner for ongoing strategic advice, content and campaigns for the whole summer and beyond. As a result, we walked the fine line between having fun on the beach and Covid safety, dancing somewhere between relaxing and tightening the rules.

The coast’s own strengths first

The aim was simple: Westtoer wanted to kick start tourism and get the economy moving at the seaside resorts again. For that to happen, we had to tempt people back to the coast slowly – totally in line with the safety measures in place at the time. Not by comparing the Belgian seaside with other attractions, but by calling on that little bit of nostalgia in every Belgian who spent holidays as a kid building sandcastles on the North Sea coast. A simple but powerful message promoting the seaside as a holiday destination, while providing a local solution to satisfying that post-quarantine hunger to get away.

Not all at once

At a time when everything is uncertain, having the ability to adjust things constantly is essential. Not just shouting ‘Come to the Coast’. So, to avoid generating crowds, we staggered the campaigns. We also kept some of our powder dry during the summer, aiming to achieve an extended “Indian summer”, rather than just for peak times, such as our National Day in July. And we spread the flood of people, not only in time, but also in space, by also focusing the spotlight on the hinterland, directing people beyond the busy promenades and beaches to which visitors tend to gravitate naturally.

The right balance: the facts and the emotions

We structured the campaign in two layers. First we looked at the facts: do you have to book a slot on the beach? Are there extra trains running? And do I have to keep my mask on when I’m paddling?

The second layer, run in parallel with the first, was designed to make people from Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels really want to come to the seaside.

So we showed tourists what the coast had to offer – everything from horse-riding along the sand to peeling shrimps in the harbour. The focus was on people staying for a few days at the seaside, rather than on day-trippers who flock to the coast in large numbers. Which made it more about informing and inspiring.

At a time when everything is uncertain, having the ability to adjust things constantly is essential.

Broad brush

To make the coast the be-all and end-all of our summer again, we deliberately spread our message far and wide. Fun images aimed at all age groups, giving the nod to seaside classics, from ice creams and sun worshippers to flowers made from crêpe paper. These were the basic ingredients for the campaigns we planned on radio and TV, in print and on social media. Each of these channels directed people to a website: either kust.be or lelittoral.be. Rather than set up a micro-website in parallel, we filled both sites with information about local coronavirus measures and tips for outings along our 67 km of coastline.

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