Most gnomes tend to spend their days hanging out in a garden or backyard. Not the Roaming Gnome! As the brand mascot for online travel agency Travelocity, the Roaming Gnome loves nothing better than travelling the world. He’s been spotted sightseeing domestically throughout the United States and internationally, hitting up hot locales like Jamaica and Santorini. He encourages fans to follow his journeys on Twitter and Instagram and to use the hashtag #WanderWisely when heading on their own adventures.
What’s it like to be a globetrotter when you only stand at a few feet tall and run the risk of chipping while on the road? We decided interview the Roaming Gnome for the answers — well, sort of. When his hands aren’t tucked into his pockets, this iconic character is said to have incredibly scribbly handwriting. Luckily, Keith Nowak, the Director of Communications at Travelocity, helped transcribe his responses and give us a look at his summer 2018 travel plans, how the Roaming Gnome was created, and why he won’t — and can’t — go anywhere without a makeup kit.
AW: What inspired Travelocity to pick a gnome to be their mascot?
KN: Travelocity has always understood that nothing is quite like the experience of travel. It opens us up to new experiences and new cultures, and simply makes us better. But, sometimes it is all about taking that first step – getting out of the daily rut and exploring the world around us.
What better icon than a garden gnome to figuratively and literally exemplify the idea of being stuck in one place (no matter how nice that garden may be)? And if Travelocity can make it easy enough to travel that a sedentary garden gnome can become the Roaming Gnome – it is easy enough for anyone to take that same first step.
AW: Does the Roaming Gnome have a name or is he just referred to as the Roaming Gnome?
KN: Actually, “Roaming Gnome” is his name – as well as an apt descriptor of who he is. His “pre-Roaming Gnome” age is unknown, but in our minds he underwent a transformation 14 years ago when, during the “Great Gnome Nabbing” (the campaign which first introduced the Travelocity Roaming Gnome to the world) he took that first step out of the garden to become the Roaming Gnome in early 2004.
AW: How would you describe him in one word?
KN: “Wise.” Travelling the globe for the past decade and a half has made him what we see as “the wisest traveler of all.” Other words that sum up the Roaming Gnome are “fun,” “witty,” and “adventurous,” as his thirst for traveling and learning about new places and experiencing new cultures has never waned.
AW: Travelocity worked with ad agency McKinney to initially create the Roaming Gnome campaign. Did you ever consider having the gnome animated through CGI instead of being a physical gnome?
KN: Ultimately, we have come to understand that the Roaming Gnome is most expressive in his “real” non-animated form. Animating or illustrating him would simply not capture the fullness of his wisdom when he’s reduced to a cartoon character. That said, there was one short-lived campaign in which he was illustrated as a superhero protecting people’s travel experience. We quickly determined that this was not the right direction for the Roaming Gnome, and we have not done anything similar since.
AW: Let’s talk about the sculpture. How many Roaming Gnomes have been made for his ad campaigns?
KN: There is one “true” Roaming Gnome that appears in Travelocity ads who was created by our ad agency at the time at the outset of the Roaming Gnome campaign. But, like any star, he has a number of body doubles and “stunt gnomes” that step in during situations that might be a bit too dangerous for the real Roaming Gnome. Not that he’s not game to try – we just don’t let him!
AW: How does one travel with the Roaming Gnome, since he’s prone to chipping, cracking, and paint wear and tear?
KN: Very carefully! The Roaming Gnome travels with an entourage who take special care to protect him during travel. But accidents happen, so like any star, he also travels with a makeup kit that can cover up any blemishes that may happen while he is working.
AW: Who provides the voice of the Roaming Gnome?
KN: Harry Enfield, the English comedian, actor, writer, and director, has been the voice of the Roaming Gnome since the inception of the campaign.
AW: What’s your favorite Travelocity commercial starring the Roaming Gnome?
KN: The current lineup of commercials is focused on highlighting the Roaming Gnome’s status as “the wisest traveler of all” demonstrating our unique customer-centric approach to travel. From our most recent round of commercials, “Extra Bed” has proven to be a popular ad with its relatable premise (and of course, beautiful tropical scenery!), while “Secret Agents” demonstrates how using Travelocity (and the Travelocity app) helps people to get more than they expect when booking travel.
AW: Where are some of the Roaming Gnome’s favorite places to travel?
KN: The Roaming Gnome’s favorite place to go is anywhere that he has never been before (a list which keeps getting shorter!). His second favorite place is anywhere that he can revisit. In other words, he is always up for a journey. But no matter where he is, if he needs to unwind, he always enjoys a good spa treatment!
AW: Is it possible to buy your own Roaming Gnome statue?
KN: You can definitely buy your own (replica) Roaming Gnome at the Roaming Gnome Store.
AW: How does the Travelocity Gnome stay current with today’s audiences?
KN: The Roaming Gnome’s core message around the value and wonder of travel is truly evergreen and has allowed him to stay relevant to audiences over this past 14 years. But we have worked to make sure that the campaigns of which he is a part have changed with the times. For example, his initial campaign appearances used the message of “You’ll Never Roam Alone”, signifying that Travelocity was there to support travelers on their journey – an important message for consumers to understand in the early days of online travel. Today, our campaign message is “Wander Wisely,” which recognizes that online travel is now mainstream, and that Travelocity is the wisest choice for travelers to make (among a myriad of choices).
AW: Are there any destinations still on his bucket list?
KN: Not many, but as soon as Antarctica and Mars become bookable on Travelocity you know where he will be heading!
AW: What’s the Roaming Gnome up to this summer and the rest of 2018?
KN: While the Roaming Gnome plans his travels way in advance, he is also known to be a very spontaneous traveler, going wherever and whenever the mood strikes. He recently returned from a trip to Las Vegas (you can see some of that adventure on his Instagram feed here) – but right now is busy searching the Travelocity site to figure out his next exciting destination.