YVR's T-Shirts to Paradise campaign shows travelers the unexpected possibilities of travel to Asia.

YVR’s T-Shirts to Paradise campaign reveals some unexpected reasons for travel to Asia.

APEX Insight: Several airlines have campaigns to promote routes, but airports rarely do. To boost outbound travel and maximize flight capacity, Vancouver International Airport sports a travel t-shirt and takes to social media to share the lesser-known reasons for traveling to Asia.

Let’s say you’ve never been to Asia or know little about the region. What comes to mind when a colleague mentions a trip there? An exotic culture? A foreign language? Unfamiliar food? But what about visiting sumo stables in Tokyo or windsurfing the Penghu Islands in Taiwan? Probably not the first things that comes to mind.

In a campaign to promote flights to its Asian destinations, Vancouver International Airport (YVR) attempts to change just that.

“We want to get people thinking differently about Asia. Making it more accessible,” said Robyn McVicker, director, Marketing and Communications, Vancouver Airport Authority. “They might think that it’s busy or they might not know the language. So we wanted to create something that would make it a little bit more relevant and a little bit more accessible for all of our demographic.”

YVR currently has over 134 direct flights a week to Asia, and is in ongoing contention with Los Angeles and Seattle-Tacoma airports for the title of largest North American gateway to the region. In March, YVR reported an increase of traffic to the Asia-Pacific region of almost three million passengers in 2014 – a 9.8 percent increase from 2013, with traffic to mainland China alone, up 6.66 percent. A few months later, news of YVR teaming with ad agency Taxi to create an Asia travel campaign emerged. Together, they came up with the idea for the recently launched, T-Shirts to Paradise campaign.

“When people travel, they often buy the t-shirt of the destination. And so we thought, how cool would it be if we were able to create an unexpected idea of that one destination and bring it to life through an illustrated t-shirt and make these the most coveted things of the summer.”

But the idea doesn’t end there. It’s a social media contest too. Sport the t-shirt of your dream destination – China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Taiwan or the Philippines – and share it on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for a chance, or three, to win a pair of business-class tickets to the destination of your choice.

When asked why the airport initiated such a campaign, McVicker answered: “We looked at how we [could] make sure that the planes that are coming here are full, and the planes that are leaving here are full, and how do we make sure that we continue to position YVR as the destination of choice. We’ve got lots of competition around us and we need to be aggressive about how we communicate to our clientele all of the options people can reach when they leave Vancouver.”

Although participating airlines have donated business-class tickets, the bulk of the campaign – promotion at summer events, interaction on social media, digital buys for online advertising, video content – rests on YVR. For Air Canada, Air China, All Nippon Airways, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, China Eastern, Eva Air, Japan Airlines, Korean Air and Philippine Airlines, it’s an advertising opportunity with low-level engagement that McVicker said the airlines were “thrilled” about.

Airports that make an effort to nurture passenger growth are recognized in the industry. Routes Marketing Awards, which are voted for and judged by airlines, were won by Tampa International Airport (Americas), Bremen Airport (Europe), Abu Dhabi Airports (Asia) and Kilimanjaro International Airpot (Africa) last year.

T-Shirts to Paradise will not be last of the YVR’s campaigns to promote outbound routes. McVicker attributes the change of strategy to the new CEO and marketing team which were installed over the last year. “This will be our new model going forward,” she said, and without revealing too much information, she adds, “We’ve identified what we want to do in 2016 already.”