Place Branding: A Competitive Advantage in a Time of Crisis

By Philia Tounta General Manager, Apokoros Club Hotel & Villas | June 14, 2020

Tourism has grown into one of the world's largest industries. In total, Travel & Tourism generated US$7.6 trillion (10.2% of global GDP) and 292 million jobs in 2016, equivalent to 1 in 10 jobs in the global economy. The sector accounted for 6.6% of total global exports and almost 30% of total global service exports (destinationsinternational.org).       

Established destinations worldwide that may have initially experienced a heavy growth in tourism may now be facing the prospect of decline. Reasons for decline are plenty from economic crisis to natural catastrophes and pandemics. Empirical evidence showed that at the time of the crisis, a nation's emphasis on a large service sector became a disadvantage (Shostya 2014).

Countries that derived a considerable portion of their GDP from tourism (like Bulgaria, Czech Republic, and the Baltic Countries) were affected by a decrease in both domestic and foreign demand (Steiner et al. 2012). In addition, some studies indicated those countries that had more developed financial sectors were affected by the financial crisis via traditional transmission mechanisms.

There has been an increase in the application of branding theories to the branding of tourism places. An increasing number of cities, countries, and regions have adopted marketing and branding practices during the past few decades (Gertner, 2011). Place branding is so important obviously. It is not a short and easy journey to get a place branded. After a long journey with quality practice a place, region, city or country becomes sensation in its line of products in the world market or specific area. Place branding is vital in the tourism sector for a place; in terms of generating attraction in the tourists' as the place is fit for them (target groups) for their entertainment or recreation as well.

More than ever, nowadays the progress of people, capital and ideas are more fluid. Ultimately, a well-built and innovative place brand is more important than any other time. Tourism is highly vulnerable to internal and external shocks as diverse as economic downturns, natural disasters, epidemic diseases, terror attacks and political conflicts. Such negative developments often interrupt tourism industry operations resulting in a drop in tourist arrivals.

A tourism crisis occurs when circumstances in a destination pose a change which is potentially destructive to the destination and to the tourism industry's viability. Destination branding is a recent trend in place marketing and a very powerful tool. Unfortunately, the use of branding in tourism is still in its infancy. A destination brand is used in destination marketing primarily to project a positive image of tourism at a destination. Also, destination branding plays a significant role in positioning a destination.

Considerable growth in investment in place branding is also observed in competition for resources, investors and visitors in locations of varying scale and complexity. In reality, place branding should be anchored in corporate brand strategies.                   

But What is Destination Branding?

Destination brand is the first mental picture that comes to mind when you hear the name of a tourist destination. Countries aspire to have one or numerous (for instance, regional) destination brands, because they are attractive, become popular over time and bring a confidence that unbranded destinations do not. The characteristics of a destination brand are the attributes and the feelings that you have towards a destination.

Through branding, a destination can earn a brand, which will function as a shortcut for several exciting sensations and comfortable ideas to the "tourist's mind". If the branding is very powerful, these sensations are the same for a great number of people in all continents. Countries, regions and cities can be branding entities if their attributes can distinguish themselves from others.

Even when a place does not consciously manage its brand, people will always keep an image that comes from various characteristics.  According to reports on world destinations, visitors who want to know more about the destination (apart from the information provided by the media) can educate themselves and discover some aspects of the destinations that are generally hidden by the media.

In order for a country, region or city to establish competitiveness in the global market and ensure strong presence; public managers should reinforce the competitive attributes of place identity. They should be able to position the place within a long term planning, leveraging its reputation as places of various opportunities.

Moreover, destination branding should be used as an image-modification. If a destination has a powerful brand, it translates into a better image of the country. The improved image could in turn show the way to a rise of foreign investors, enhanced tourism, etc. Clearly in a period of crisis a specific framework must be formed to enhance destination branding; a destination branding model.

Destination Branding Model

  1. Brand awareness and public diplomacy (strategies made for educational campaigns that aim to create awareness and to change negative perceptions about the destination)
  2. Brand identity and image (promote identification and involvement with audience. At the same time distinguish it from competitive locations. Enhance image because it reflects the way it is perceived by public)
  3. Strategic brand analysis (implementation  of micro & macro analysis of environments of destination)
  4. Brand Management (create an environment that is suitable for the achievement of goals in a strategic manner)

A successful brand building strategy is that of New Zealand. The brand of 100% Pure New Zealand is calculated to be worth 13.6 billion (US dollars); it acquired the 21st brand position in the world (Morgan et al., 2011). Vital in the reconstruction of the New Zealand brand was the completion of their first global marketing campaign in July 1999. The message of 100% Pure New Zealand was distinctive, straightforward and convincing. Their aim was to build up and communicate a brief brand attractive to all markets. The "message needed to be consistent, clear and particular as to what is unique to New Zealand." Also, it "conveyed the emotional benefits associated with the destination" (Morgan, Pritchard & Piggott, 2002).

Destination branding and positioning is attached on the target audience's existing knowledge about the destination and the image of the destination whether it is positive or negative. Also, the involvement of stakeholders in the branding process is very important for a successful branding. Destination stakeholders should focus their efforts on developing strategies to manage the destination international image and reputation. Such strategies must be capable to leave a clear and distinctive image in the visitors and tourists mind. 

Consequently, implementing an internal and external analysis provides a basis for identifying the values, personality and essence of the destination. Place branding has become a strategic marketing component with huge importance in promoting the (re)discovery of tourism destinations rigorously impacted by global crises. It is a vital tool in restoring international travel to countries that:

  1. Seek social security
  2. Desire economic recovery through tourism
  3. Wish to rely upon a uniquely identifiable brand attraction
  4. Want to focus to targeted visitor niche in the initial stages of market development and recovery.

A well-spoken place branding strategy should help a country, city or community better understand what industries and types of investment it's trying to attract, and what kinds of people and markets it should be looking for, whether for tourism or immigration. Above all, it helps destinations plan not only who they are but who they want to become. That's part of its power.

A place brand reveals what a place currently is and instigates what it can be in the future. The successful rebirth of a destination's tourism industry depends largely on its ability to reshape the beliefs of international visitors. Therefore, destination managers should focus on positive aspects of a crisis by taking outing the positive aspects, focusing on the difference the crisis has caused and any special conditions.

Hence, branding or re-branding a destination during a crisis will not yield any dividends since destinations cannot be re-named like commodities but Destination Marketing managers need to re-learn the crisis situation and rethink on how they can use it as an opportunity. Countries must be managed and operated as products in order to meet any upcoming challenges. In an increasingly globalized world with fierce competition, it is clear how much of a challenge it is for a nation / country to differentiate and stand out in order to attract domestic and foreign consumers, investors, tourists, etc.

For that reason, it is necessary to create a strong and differentiated nation brand. In reality, Mearns (2007) supports that branding has become a business discipline by itself due to the complex processes and theories associated to it. The complications of developing a destination brand are concerned with the development of the empirical element and understanding of the tourist decision process. Tourism branding requires special attention, given the hints associated to this activity. The comprehension of such characteristics allows destination marketers to build up a point of differentiation that would give their products sustainable competitive advantage.

Destination branding is and will remain an important marketing tool that can provide a core set of values for the destination(s) whilst highlighting the need for market orientation.

Ms. Tounta Philia Tounta has been working in the tourism sector for 23 years. She has worked in various hotels, travel agencies and unions in Greece and abroad. Currently Ms. Tounta is a General Manager of Apokoros Club Hotel & Villas in Athens. In addition, she is a Customer Service Manager at Thamiris Hotels in Crete, and Founder of the upcoming Activities web site "meetauthenticcrete" as well as a sales rep at "Crete Focus". Ms. Tounta is a hospitality & tourism consultant for small medium sized hotels, a Tourism Ambassador in Hellenic Tourist Society, an editorial board member for the Journal of Tourism & Hospitality Management New York USA, a provocateur in seminars and occasionally speaks at industry conferences. She is a freelance author to various online international and local blogs (hotelspeak, hotelexecutive, traveldailynews, ehotelier, etc). She often participates in discussions in Greek Radio Channels and has been interviewed by various journalists from abroad concerning tourism issues. Philia Tounta can be contacted at apokorosclub@yahoo.gr Extended Biography

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Hotel Newswire is a newswire service that distributes press releases on behalf of our users. If you decide to submit a press release for distribution through our system we will transmit your entire press release including any personal information therein contained to our media contacts and online distribution points including search engines. This is the only redistribution of your information that we engage in. Your submission of press releases through our system indicates consent with this policy. The information we collect during your registration process is used to notify users about updates to our service and inform users of any special events hosted by Hotel Newswire. This information is not shared with other organizations for commercial or non-commercial purposes.

Cookies: Our system requires the use of cookies to enable the user to log back into our website to access information from the newswire, without having to log in each time using the required username and password.

If you do not want to receive email from us in the future, please let us know by following instructions included in our communication with you. Users who supply us with telephone numbers online may receive telephone contact from us regarding their account, or informing them of new products and services available on the HotelExecutive website. If you do not wish to receive such telephone calls, please edit your account and remove your phone number from your account profile. This can be done from your user account menu.

Ad Servers: We do not partner with or have any relationship with any ad server companies. From time to time, we may use customer information for new uses not previously disclosed in our privacy notice. If our information practices change at any time, we will post the policy changes to our website to notify you of these changes and provide you with the ability to opt out of these new uses. If you are concerned about how your information is used, you should check back at our website periodically.

Upon request we provide site visitors with access to all information (including proprietary information) that we maintain about them. Users can access this information by logging in to their account.

Security: We always use industry-standard encryption technologies while transferring and receiving user data exchanged with our site. We have appropriate security measures in place in our physical facilities to protect against the loss, misuse, or alteration of information that we have collected from you on our site. We do not store credit card information in our systems.

If you feel that this site is not following its stated information policy, you may contact us.

Hotel Newswire Headlines Feed  

Zoe Connolly

2020 will be known as the most devastating year in history for the travel and hospitality industries, with mass layoffs and cancellations changing the game overnight. All eyes are on the travel industry as it adapts to the shifting COVID-19 landscape, and its success will be crucial to the healing of our economy and world. The good news – new data shows there's pent-up demand for travel among Americans. Pulling from his decades of experience in the travel industry, MMGY Global CEO Clayton Reid shares his predictions and recommendations for hospitality executives getting back on their feet in a post-COVID-19 world. READ MORE

Coming up in August 2020...

Food & Beverage: New Technological Innovations

In the past few years, hotel food and beverage departments have experienced significant growth. Managers are realizing just how much revenue potential this sector holds, both in terms of additional revenue and as a means to enhance the guest experience. As a result, substantial investments are being made in F&B operations as a way to satisfy hotel guests but also to keep pace with the competition. Though it has been a trend for many years, the Farm-to-Table movement shows no signs of abating. Hotel chains are abandoning corporate restaurants and are instead partnering with local chefs to create locally-influenced dining options. Local, farm-sourced ingredients paired with specialty beverages or local wine also satisfies the increasing demand from Millennial travelers who are eager to travel sustainably and contribute to a positive impact. A farm-to-table F&B program also helps to support the local economy, which builds community goodwill. Also popular are "Self-Serv" and "Grab & Go" options. These concepts stem from an awareness that a guest's time is limited and if a hotel can supply them with fast, fresh, food and beverage choices, then so much the better for them. Plus, by placing these specialty kiosks in areas that might be traditionally under-utilized (the lobby, for instance), they can become popular destination locations. Of course, there are new technological innovations as well. In-room, on-screen menus allow guests to order from any restaurant on the property, and some hotels are partnering with delivery companies that make it possible for guests to order food from any restaurant in the area. Also, many hotels are implementing in-room, voice-activated devices, so ordering food via an AI-powered assistant will soon become mainstream as well. The August issue of the Hotel Business Review will report on these developments and document what some leading hotels are doing to expand this area of their business.