The City of Greater Sudbury is enlisting travel bloggers and social media influencers to help spread the word about what the region has to offer.
“It’s always the goal of marketing to have other people say good things about you because it holds much more weight than when you toot your own horn,” tourism and culture manager Meredith Armstrong said of the influencers.
“This is an audience that might not be familiar with us and we might not even be on their radar.”
Although the city has worked with the Travel Media Association of Canada for several years, they’ve only recently begun pursuing social media influencers to help get their messages out.
What started out as a hobby in 2014 became a full-time job in 2018, and the 30-year-old Ottawa resident’s Instagram page has grown to more than 47,000 followers while her blog receives an average of 90,000 page views per month.
“I still can’t believe that’s how it turned out,” Weber said, adding that what she initially did for free has grown to a point where organizations are now sponsoring her posts.
This was the case when it came to her trip to Greater Sudbury, which was sponsored by the municipality as a means of promoting the region as a tourist destination.
The resulting blog post features a number of photographs from her trip alongside reviews and suggestions for visitors.
Upon her return home, she said La Fromagerie best stuck out in her mind as a memorable attraction for its “beautiful patio, their dishes were great; their cocktails.”
The outdoor adventure opportunities and collection of downtown murals also proved popular with the writer and featured heavily in her post.
Although what she wrote about Greater Sudbury was sponsored content, Weber said she is always honest about what she writes. If she wouldn’t spend her own money on something or recommend it to friends or family, she won’t write about it.
The city has facilitated approximately seven travel writers/bloggers to visit Greater Sudbury so far this year at a cost of approximately $3,000 per trip, for a total of a little more than $21,000.
Plus, Armstrong said economic development staff members spend quite a bit of time working with travel writers before they arrive in order to help draft an itinerary that fits the focus of their writing, be it family travel, couples or whatever other bend their writing might have.
Toronto bloggers Justin + Lauren write from a vegan perspective and wrote about Greater Sudbury’s vegan dining options when they visited the city this summer.
The city would normally partner with small businesses and hotels to help cover certain expenses but have committed the full cost this year as part of COVID recovery efforts.
Destination Ontario also partners with the city to cover a portion of travel expenses.
In addition to bloggers and social media influencers, the effort also supports established travel journalists, which resulted in a travel story being published in the Toronto Star this summer titled “Ours to Discover: Enjoy the northern Ontario jewel of Sudbury.”
This eclectic range of voices and audiences is helping get Greater Sudbury’s name out there, Armstrong said, adding that every little bit helps, particularly during the pandemic.
“Recovery is incremental and we know every family we can get to Sudbury helps with that recovery,” she said.
“Sudbury is a really authentic place that is unexpected, and so bloggers in particular and social media influencers really help us capture that kind of quirky, very approachable side of things.
“Each of the social media influencers give their own spin on it, their own flair to it, and that’s why their audiences trust them and love them.”
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.