With the largest Native American population in the U.S., California’s 109 federally recognized tribes have rich histories spanning 15,000 years. Yet, they hadn’t unified for tourism marketing. California’s official destination marketing organization, Visit California, embarked on a mission: to amplify tribal voices and boost their economic growth. Supported by the American Rescue Plan Act and in collaboration with tribal advisors and MMGY NJF, the “Visit Native California” campaign was born.
Launching in September 2022 and peaking in March 2023 with an online hub showcasing 600+ visitor experiences, the campaign aimed to:
- Elevate the initiative through impactful media coverage.
- Direct audiences to a plethora of Native travel experiences across California.
- Foster genuine relationships with tribes, integrating their voices throughout.
- Achieve 150 PR placements and 500 million impressions, emphasizing tribal diversity.
Visit California and MMGY NJF launched the “Visit Native California” program, a curated content series celebrating California’s rich Native American heritage. We forged connections with the state’s tribal communities, inviting them to share their narratives with travelers in search of unique Golden State experiences.
Our approach was collaboration over narration. Through a tribal liaison, MMGY NJF ensured that the stories told were from the communities themselves, shared authentically in their own words. The campaign began in September 2022, leading to the launch of a comprehensive content hub in March 2023, accessible at visitcalifornia.com/Native. This platform showcases an array of Native travel experiences, from cultural centers to culinary delights.
Core Strategies & Tactics:
- Announcement Event: Hosted at the Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza, this event celebrated the initiative’s launch with tribal representatives, artisans, chefs, and dancers from across California.
- Press Trips: Invitations to key travel journalists enabled firsthand experiences of California’s tribal offerings. Attendees included voices from Lonely Planet, Fodor’s, and AFAR, among others.
- Media Outreach: A robust media relations strategy ensured sustained campaign momentum, with features in renowned outlets and PR tradeshows.
- Content Creation: In collaboration with Outbound Collective, MMGY NJF produced genuine assets, allowing Native communities to share their tourism stories firsthand.
- Our mission was clear: Communicate the unique cultural attributes of California’s indigenous people to a primary domestic audience, with KPIs focusing on views, click-throughs, and site engagement.
The “Visit Native California” campaign surpassed expectations, achieving 720 stories and 1.5 billion impressions in just six months. The launch drew significant media attention, with over 600 stories emerging within a week and notable features in AFAR, The New York Times, and a special segment on NBC’s Today show.
Collaborations with Native content creators like Kendra Jessie Rosychuk amplified the campaign’s reach, leading to 4,000 engagements and 166,000 impressions across her social channels. The campaign’s digital hub garnered significant attention, attracting nearly 100,000 pageviews.
Visit California’s commitment to these communities remains strong, with plans to expand the campaign as an ongoing brand initiative. Upcoming features in Bloomberg and Vogue, along with planned media tours in 2024, highlight the campaign’s continued growth.
Ultimately, the campaign’s heart was in celebrating California’s tribal communities. As Reid Milanovich, Chairman of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, expressed, the project enabled tribes to share and thus preserve their rich culture for generations to come.
Photo Credits: Max Whitaker