Culture, Travel & Sport

In Vilnius, a surreal tree for a surreal year

Like most other cities across emerging Europe and the wider world, Vilnius is unable to welcome tourists this Christmas season. That hasn’t stopped the city launching a new marketing campaign, however.

The Lithuanian capital Vilnius is sending a message to potential tourists that they will be welcome anytime they are able to travel again by launching a new tourism campaign, entitled Christmas in Vilnius: Amazing Whenever You’ll Be Able to Come.

The city’s previous campaign, Vilnius: Amazing Wherever You Think It Is, was one of the most original to emerge from the region in many years, making use as it did of the city’s obscurity as a tool to attract more tourists. It implemented fantasy-like images of the Lithuanian capital’s supposed location: underwater, on the Moon, or hanging off a cliff, floating in the air.

Celebrating quietly

The current campaign picks up this narrative but reflects upon the changing global situation, travel restrictions and the fact that this will be a very different Christmas that will see most people celebrating quietly at home and avoiding travel.

It conveys a message however that Vilnius will be welcoming tourists and visitors whenever it’s safe to travel.

“While getting ready for Christmas, we can’t help but think about the tourists who will be dearly missed this year,” says Inga Romanovskienė, director of Go Vilnius, the official tourism and business development agency of Vilnius, which is behind the campaign. “We are sending a message that a Vilnius Christmas will be waiting for you whenever you are able to come. We also believe that some humour and fantasy, added to patience and responsibility, can help us overcome this challenging period.”

“We approached the current travel situation in the same way we dealt with the problem of Vilnius not being a well-known city in the initial phase of the campaign: with humour,” says Antonio Bechtle, creative director and partner at Bechtle & Milzarajs, the ad agency behind both campaigns.

“Some people think that this situation will last for a long time. So, why not joke with it and say that Christmas in Vilnius is amazing, no matter when you’ll be able to come? It can be next year, in two years, in ten years… or when flying cars and spaceships will be an everyday thing.

“We also chose to use the same illustration style of our primary campaign, transporting Vilnius to a distant future, but keeping it as amazing as it is now.”

A surrealist picture

What is not missing from the Lithuanian capital this year is its traditional tree, last year voted the best in Europe. This year’s tree, however, is rather different: it has been designed to be admired from afar.

Visually, the tree looks like a surrealist picture – at 24-metres in height it is decorated with almost four kilometres of lights which, to make it eco-friendly, are powered with electricity generated by processing old coffee grounds.

And yet while the exterior is modern, inside the installation is a traditional tree assuring everyone that, notwithstanding the changes brought about by the pandemic, the Christmas spirit, as always, stays the same.

“Although we have already faced many challenges throughout this eventful year, our community has become stronger, closer, and ready for an exceptional Christmas. The Vilnius Christmas tree is exactly that – surreal, unexpected yet amazing nevertheless,” says Remigijus Šimašius, mayor of Vilnius.

Top photo by Saulius Ziura, courtesy Go Vilnius.

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