As so many tourist destinations around the world are offering travelers almost similar services, how can a destination differentiate itself from others and personalize experiences for travelers? Destination branding could be a solution to bring the destination image closer to travelers.
What is Destination Brand?
According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the destination brand is the competitive identity of the place and covers factors such as the unique, enduring essence or core characteristics of the destination; travelers’ perception about the destination and being foundation for marketing communication and promotion activities.
Destination branding must harmoniously combine the features and uniqueness of the destination with marketing communication activities from the perspective of travelers and also need to be recognized by local people. The perspectives from these two audiences will reinforce each other for the effectiveness of a destination brand.
Therefore, destination branding is identifying the most competitive and attractive values of the destination from the perspective of potential travelers, thereby building stories around these values and communicate consistently through different marketing communications.
According to the definition of Carmen Blain, Stuart E. Levy, J. R. Brent Ritchie (2005), destination branding might be defined as the set of marketing activities that:
- Support the creation of a name, symbol, logo, word, mark or other graphic that readily identifies and differentiates a destination;
- Consistently convey the expectation of a memorable travel experience that is uniquely associated with the destination;
- Serve to consolidate and reinforce the emotional connection between the visitor and the destination;
- Reduce consumer search costs and perceived risk, all with the intent purpose of creating an image that influences consumers’ decisions to visit the destination in question, as opposed to an alternative one.
How to build a destination brand?
According to UNWTO’s Handbook on Tourism Destination Branding, the destination branding process consists of three main phases:
- Developing a brand
In order to build a destination brand, first of all, destination management organizations (DMOs) should understand the characteristics and core values of the destination, and understand how travelers are perceiving about the destination. This fundamental step requires DMOs to invest in research and analysis of markets, competitors and potential customer groups to identify the destination’s competitive advantage and target customer segment. Based on these results, DMOs can build destination brand and brand stories to highlight the destination’s values and utilize them as a foundation for future marketing communication activities.
- Brand Implementation
From the destination brand built in the first phase, the destination brand should be implemented to the market through appropriate communication promotion activities to increase awareness, bring the destination image to reach target travelers at the right time with the right content and build destination brand in their mind.
- Managing and Evaluating
After the destination brand implementation process, DMOs also need to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the destination brand through research, measuring the effectiveness of brand communications and implementation. Thereby, DMOs can determine the success and failure factors of the destination brand to make appropriate adjustments.
The fact that tourism is developing as well as more and more tourist destinations appear gives travelers more choices for their trip. Therefore, destination branding is an essential process in destination management to differentiate it from others. Marketing activities of the destination branding process will increase awareness and create a positive image of the destination to travelers. In addition, a recognized destination brand is a guarantee for the quality of travel experiences here. As a result, the destination can achieve the goal of attracting more travelers.