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Forget The Resorts, Belize Tourism Pitches Millennials Instagram-Ready Experiences

The country eschews the traditional tourist approach, opting for authentic local characters.

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Belize, with one foot in the jungles of Central America and the other in the Caribbean Sea, might be expected to promote itself with images of pristine white beaches, turquoise sea and all-inclusive luxury resorts. Instead, its new marketing campaign "A Curious Place" is aimed at those looking for a more authentic experience in an interesting country.

Created by the Belize Tourism Board, and agency Olson, the series of charming ads are all narrated by a local Belizean, and show a different aspect of the country, bringing to life stories of local people and their surroundings.

Olson chief creative officer Kevin McKeon says the approach is no accident, and was arrived at by looking at detailed data through a human lens. That process enabled the agency to discover that there is "a whole bunch of people out there who think of themselves as travelers, not tourists," McKeon says. "For this group, 'authentic' experiences are now table stakes. To really get their attention, you have to give them something more."

The ads certainly focus on the idea of experiences above all else. One spot explains there are no fast food chains in Belize but shows a street vendor whipping up tacos at the speed of light. We also meet "Coconut Leo" and a Mayan cacao bean farmer who apparently spends his days propelled by chocolate alone.

The playful ads are intended to convey not just a sense of the remarkable location but also the warmth of Belizean people themselves. "We gave them a peek behind the curtain at the real Belize," says McKeon. "Not white honeymoon couples romping on the beach, but real Belizeans, real experiences, unexpected surprises, and a bit of the unknown. What you see in the work is a truly unique opportunity to experience a truly curious place."

Another spot goes straight for the millennial ego by inferring that a trip to quirky and eccentric Belize will undoubtedly improve their kudos level on Instagram. This may not be unrelated to the Tourism Board's media strategy because, while Belize has had an average 12% year-on-year growth of American travelers since 2013—with record breaking growth of 20% in 2015 and 2016—its media spend has declined steadily over the same period.

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