Loading video...

NBTC: Holland City Strategy

The Netherlands Board of Tourism and Convention or Holland Marketing focus on the branding and marketing of destination Holland through a public-private funding model. Each year, Holland's number of visitors and value is growing which is a really positive development for the destination. To grow further, Holland Marketing is now focusing on distributing this growth across the entire country to achieve an optimal balance for the Dutch economy and society. Especially Amsterdam as a city is struggling with the ever growing tourist numbers and the negative impacts on the city, working on spreading visitors across the wider Amsterdam region. This is a really interesting but also challenging situation to be in for a national tourist board, wanting to keep destination Holland livable, lovable and valuable.

We interviewed Jos Vranken, CEO of Holland Marketing, to get more insights on their new Holland City Strategy aimed to facilitate growth by distributing visitors in terms of time and space. He shares the background and implementation of the new Holland City concept, focusing the attention of the 70 people strong Holland Marketing team on inbound traffic honing in on the biggest opportunities to attract more visitors for all destinations and regions within the country.

Holland City Strategy

Holland Marketing experiences a growing urgency to look at other destinations in the country and provide a reason to travel, as Amsterdam is getting really crowded, impacting on the overall visitor experience. To turn the negative into a positive, Holland Marketing use the urgency and opportunity as a basis for the strategy. By 'supporting the known and introducing the new', Holland Marketing is undergoing a change in the mindset of how they market, brand and communicate their offering to international visitors.

Holland Marketing is mentally positioning Holland as a city state, taking into consideration the global scale in combination with different perceptions of distance and travel time by travellers. For most international visitors, distances in the Netherlands are relatively small - making it quick and easy to visit various destinations. By investing in the development of new products and the positioning of Holland as a City State, the national tourist board is creating new reasons to travel. The aim of the strategic shift is to encourage people to explore and go off the beaten track when visiting Holland as a destination. Holland Marketing is positioning the Netherlands as a metropolis with several attractive districts that enrich the overall visitor experience.

The Holland City strategy was developed two to three years ago, starting with an analysis of external dynamics and market potential in close collaboration with partners in Holland and abroad. Through various roundtables and strategic sessions, extensive input was gathered from partners and stakeholders, aggregating their views and reflections to actively steer the strategic direction and development.

The final strategy is kept simple and is not focusing on growth as such as global travel is expected to grow and Holland will receive a fair share of the growth in visitors. Holland Marketing's strategic focus is based on providing room for growth, steering growth in the right direction through the geographical spread, in time and regions. The Holland City strategy is a fundamental change in mindset for Holland, which supported by clever marketing and branding will encourage people to travel off the beaten track.

Holland Brand

Holland as a destination is a strong brand in Europe, providing a positive image of the Netherlands among international visitors. As their strategic focus shifts, it is crucial for Holland Marketing to further strengthen their international positioning. The tourist board needs to establish a strong brand policy, that helps to create a positive image and translates the core values of the Netherlands into compelling storylines that can be communicated in a rich and powerful way.

With competition growing among destinations, it is equally important to use the destination's brand and image to differentiate Holland from competitor destinations internationally. Holland Marketing will focus their brand positioning on being an attractive destination for tourists as well as for business. In the future, it is critical for Holland to position itself as an open-minded country and highlight tolerance and openness as key components of the Dutch DNA. Based on this, Holland Marketing will focus its brand values on being welcoming, colourful, inventive and enterprising.

Storylines, Districts & Themes

Holland's City Strategy focuses on two key pillars: districts and storylines, connecting and linking cities and regions with Holland using common themes. An example of that is visitor's interest in learning more about Van Gogh by visiting the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. However, there are other interesting museums and places in Holland that have a direct link with Van Gogh and are worth exploring. The Van Gogh storyline combines Amsterdam with the Arnhem region and Brabant, giving a complete Van Gogh experience. Holland's events are another great reason to distribute visitors throughout the country and are also an opportunity to encourage visitors to travel in the off-season.

The concept of storylines is structuring Holland into imaginary metro lines, connecting visitors with destinations based on their interests and preferences. Each storyline highlights some familiar landmarks and attractions along with lesser known but equally interesting sights across the Netherlands. By actively encouraging consumers to go off the beaten track, consumers can enrich their experience in the destination, dispersing visitors from highly visited destinations. The aim is to entice people to visit a range of destinations through highlighting the most attractive themes and consumer interests.

holland city strategy

Holland Marketing is focusing on the above storylines, developing the Mondrian to Dutch Design storyline in collaboration with Tourism Flanders which is a really interesting project. The cross-border partnership is a great way to market both destinations to international visitors, growing awareness and interest in the new products. For Holland Marketing, it is crucial to go beyond municipal or provincial borders when marketing and communicating the destination to ensure it does not kill the visitor experience. Having an international focus for the development of the storyline, it is much easier for two tourist boards to work together and create the demand in the first place, then dividing the pie and growing demand further.

As part of Holland City, three Dutch districts will be promoted to visitors by working with partners to position individual cities and regions within the Dutch metropolis. These include:

  • Design District Eindhoven
  • Architecture/ Port District Rotterdam
  • Lake District Friesland

Marketing & Communications

Having spent the last year to develop the products and put a strategy into place, Holland Marketing is now shifting its focus to the marketing and branding of the Holland City concept. To market Holland, its storylines, themes and districts, it is critical to convince partners about the power of the group and the power of the storyline. By developing the product and joint proposition, it is also much easier to put together concrete plans for marketing, communications and targeting international visitors.

For Holland Marketing, digital provides a fantastic opportunity to entice consumers through augmented reality, virtual reality and new forms of gamification. These new tools can help the tourist board to excite people to look beyond the beaten track and focus on things they do not know now but which they might want to explore in the future. Digital tools and technologies can support this process which is something Holland Marketing will explore in the future.

Organisational changes

The Holland Marketing city strategy is not only representing a complete change in the way the destination and products are developed and marketed but also an internal shift that is taking place. Public funding is continuing to decrease and the Netherlands Tourist Board is not the only national tourist board that needs to re-think its approach and secure funding increasingly through private partnerships. More support and financial investments are needed from the private sector committing to the overarching Holland City story and strategy to create value for all. Funding is allocated internally for areas in which Holland Marketing can see the greatest opportunities with regards to value, seasonal and regional spread. This is then translated into particular projects, prioritising where funding can have the biggest impact.

In addition to that, partnerships and collaboration are becoming such an integral aspect of Holland Marketing's work too. The process of bringing people together to create marketable tourism products is a really labour intensive task. However, building partnerships is a key skill and resource needed within the organisation and Holland Marketing understands the importance of business development and partnership marketing. A core responsibility within Holland Marketing's team is to build meaningful partnerships to ensure the success of the strategy.

Digital is another area in which Holland Marketing want to invest in more also as a necessary step to bring the Holland City strategy and activities to life. The goal is to innovate here too and get really interactive with the marketing and communications to open up the stories, products and experiences around Holland as a City to the world. Due to limited funding, Holland Marketing is focusing on eight storylines as a starting point and will develop further storylines over the next four years.


Holland Marketing's City Strategy is a great example of a national tourist board focusing on efforts to distribute visitors across the country, by introducing a strategic framework to change consumer perceptions and brand positioning. Especially when targeting international visitors to steer growth, it is critical for Holland to position themselves as a City State, where destinations and regions are really accessible, enabling visitors to experience various destinations in a short amount of time. A lot of work has been put into developing storylines and products that appeal to international visitors based on their interests.

Working in close collaboration with various partners, visitors are now encouraged to visit Holland based on exploring certain themes and storylines covering various districts. Holland Marketing has successfully built the foundation for extensive marketing and communication activities. A lot of work still has to be done, developing the storylines in more detail, getting more partners on board and securing funding for future activities, however, the strategy is a major opportunity to steer growth in the right direction, benefiting the entire country, rather than those destinations that are already popular among international visitors.

It will be interesting to see how this overall change in mindset will translate itself into innovative digital marketing campaigns and activities. Partnerships are such an integral part of destination marketing and Holland Marketing is certainly investing a lot of time in developing and securing partnerships inside Holland and with partners outside of the country too. By understanding that it is important to raise awareness internationally and create a demand, leading to growth, Holland Marketing is certainly focusing on the right strategy that will enable them to take a considerable share of overall tourism growth.


comments powered by Disqus

More from all insights

© 2017 Digital Tourism Think Tank

Digital Tourism Think Tank logo imge