TravelGuard seeks world’s unluckiest traveller

The travel insurance provider has launched a year-long contest and campaign to find the 'World's Unluckiest Traveller,' with the goal of proving to people that insurance is indeed worth it.

What’s your worst travel story?

Everyone has one: lost luggage, food poisoning on a honeymoon, stuck in Europe for a week with no bags and one pair of underwear. Well, travel insurance provider Travel Guard has turned those terrifying tales into a year-long media strategy to try and prove to people that travel insurance isn’t just a gimmick.

The contest launched in December and will run until December 2010. It asks people to submit a 200-word summary of their most horrifying travel story, along with photos or video, to the contest website, Site visitors are asked to vote on stories, and every month, a winning story and a winning voter are chosen and given a Flip Mino HD camcorder. Each of the 11 monthly winners (both voters and contestants) will go into a grand-prize draw for two $10,000 ‘dream vacations’ for two.

The idea to do the contest was sparked from the fact that, when travel insurance is brought up in conversation, terrible travel stories often follow, says Elizabeth Mast Priestman, VP, digital and direct, at Toronto-based PGE Propel, Travel Guard’s DM and online agency. So, they thought, why not just use social media to let people tell their stories to the whole world and let the value of travel insurance speak for itself?

‘It’s nice. It takes the emphasis off us as a marketing company to explain all the things that could go wrong. Instead, travellers are sharing their stories,’ Mast Priestman tells MiC, adding that the contest is not just meant to generate awareness, but sales leads as well.

Thousands of people have already shared their stories, she says, and 60,000 votes have been registered so far. The contest is primarily being promoted through social media, an effort PGE Propel sought to enhance by including Facebook connectivity into the submission-accepted form. (User submissions are vetted, and sometimes edited, by PGE Propel to ensure no one is libelled.) Contestants can then publish their entries directly onto their Facebook pages to generate votes.

Other promotional elements include US and Canadian email and direct marketing campaigns (with media handled in-house by Travel Guard’s parent agency, Chartis) and a small online media buy targeted at travel sites such as Mast Priestman estimates the email campaign will reach 250,000 people in Canada and over two million people in the US.