For visitors, souvenirs are reminiscent of unforgettable experiences and memories that they have had during a trip. On the other hand, for the destination, what roles do these souvenirs play?
According to the definition in the Cambridge dictionary, a souvenir is something people purchase or keep as a reminder to remember special moments about a person, a place, an experience during a trip or an event. Souvenirs here serve as a material object that connects people with places and memories.
The purchase of souvenirs is found in many activities, including travel and leisure activities. In tourism, souvenirs are items that often appear from the experiencing phase of the traveler journey but only perform their function at the post-trip phase, when travelers have returned home, contemplating the items they have purchased and reliving the memories and experiences they have had at the destination.
What are the types of souvenirs?
Photographs, postcards and paintings of the region are the most popular souvenirs with nearly 60% of the surveyed women and over 43% of the surveyed men often, or always, purchasing these items in their trip, according to the Souvenir: What and Why We Buy study (Hugh Wilkins PhD., Griffith University). For women, the second most popular category was regional specialty arts and crafts, followed by other local specialty products. For males, other local specialty products were the second most frequent purchase, followed by perfume, electrical goods, cameras or other similar goods.
However, souvenirs deep down are not associated with kitschy fridge magnets, T-shirts, stuffed animals dressed in so-called local attire or popular duty-free items. The souvenirs here may have practical value and some only have spiritual value, but in general, they all carry one or some distinctive values of the destination.
Souvenirs to tourist destinations
In addition to stimulating visitors to spend more at the destination for increased tourism revenue, souvenirs can also serve as a thorough product for destination marketing, thereby creating a systemic travel image of the destination.
Having souvenir products that satisfy the tourists will help the destination build their loyalty to the destination itself, especially when the souvenir products are highly practically valuable. For example, when a visitor buys a cup with a unique pattern of the image of the destination as a souvenir, they can use it to make tea/coffee in their daily life and every time they use it, they will remember the time they have had at the destination and are somewhat urged to come back there.
In addition, when souvenirs serve as gifts that tourists buy for friends or loved ones, they also become the “ambassadors” to promote the destination. Souvenirs then become the first impression of the destination that potential tourists perceive. Therefore, the more destinations invest in their souvenir products, especially those with traditional and cultural values, the easier the destination image to be known and the more likely the potential tourists feel curious and urged to explore these destinations.
Furthermore, the development of traditional souvenir products and indigenous culture will contribute to creating more jobs for the local community while at the same time maintaining cultural values that are easily eroded after time, moving towards sustainable development.
Some destinations that have built their signature souvenir products can be addressed as Japan with daruma dolls, wagashi cakes, sensu paper fans and matcha; Switzerland with chocolates and utility knives; Russian with matryoshka doll; or Korean with ginseng, dojang seals and hanbok. Although Vietnam has a rich history and culture, it has not really invested in and created any distinctive souvenir products.
According to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, Vietnam has been looking for a suitable and unique souvenir product to contribute to saving its impressions the visitors have during their expenditure in Vietnam. Let us hope that in the future, with diverse and interesting ideas, the DMOs in Vietnam may come to an agreement to officially launch the very first souvenir products of Vietnam to enhance the position of Vietnam tourism in the coming time.