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trips & brand

Branding of tourist destinations

Dragana Jovančević / 31.08.2016.

Branding is the process by which tourism organizations are trying to create the desired perception of a tourist destination, as a specific product, and to encourage associations of the country as a tourist destination in the minds of consumers. Branding is the process by which the country stands and individualize its offer in relation to the offer of competitive countries. Branding has become a powerful force. The brand consists of a name, term, symbol, sign, design, and the combination of all these elements which helps to recognize the product and to differentiate it from the competition.

For tourism destination brand is of great importance. Top 10 tourist destinations (destinations that are in the minds of consumers positioned as brands) together 2002 had something a little less market share of 50 % of the tourism market. These top 10 destinations by arrivals and the largest market share, were:

  • France
  • Spain
  • USA
  • Italy
  • China
  • United Kingdom
  • Canada
  • Mexico
  • Austria
  • Germany.

Branding the country as a tourist destination means communicating values, vision and mission of the National Tourism Organization to employees, residents of the country and tourists. The destination can become a brand only if its offer is imbued with high values. A brand is more than a product or service. It implies trust. Marketing must not contain promises that can not be fulfilled. People who promote the development of a tourism destination must be responsible for inciting and ensuring a favorable brand image. They can accomplish it first by raising the awareness of the destination, then by education, because someone who is aware of the existence of the country as a tourism destination, doesn't have to know anything about it. By familiarizing consumers with destination's product they are striving to create positive feelings, and preferences, because tourist may like a country but they do not have to prefer the country in comparison to other competitive countries. To construct preferences, they must point out benefits to the consumers, which will lead to the conviction that they should visit the destination, and finally to the visitation. The strongest brands are positioned in the minds of consumers. Consumers must believe that certain brand is the best that they can choose.

Branding reduces the gap between the forces of destinations and perceptions of potential visitors because it has to be original and different, yet sustainable, and reliable so that in its result one must believe. To destination could become a brand, it is necessary that all tourist organizations participate in the process of branding, both national as well as regional and local tourism organizations, as well as to establish cooperation with all stakeholders. Attention must be paid to the following activities: development of infrastructure, tourism product development, protection of the natural environment, changes in organizational culture and promotion. It is necessary to research the market continuously to identify the needs and desires of consumers. Market research is the first stage of the process of branding destinations.

Branding involves the development of a system of standards and quality assurance programs. It is necessary to invest in accommodation capacities, in public service and safety. Citizens must be educated when it comes to tourism, especially employees in the store, restaurants, financial institutions, public and private transport, accommodation facilities, police and public companies. It must at the same time create a product and build a brand image. Between the brand and the tourist product, there is a difference. This difference is in added value, which often represents the emotional value that 's hard to define. That is the value that in the minds of consumers evokes a feeling of prestige, due to the distinctive positioning of the brand created as a result of marketing strategy. The added value of the brand can be the result of experience, the influence of the reference groups, believing that the brand is more effective of other destinations and the appearance of the brand.

The brand is the feeling that more than one person has about the tourism product or tourist destination, and manage the brand means to manage the differences that exist in people's minds. "To be successful today, you must touch base with reality, and the only reality that counts is what's already in the prospect's mind," say, Al Ries and Jack Trout, claiming that positioning represents making connections with what already exists because consciousness accepts only that which is consistent with previous experience.

Once branded the country as a tourist destination, it is necessary to develop the promise of a brand that would fulfill the expectations and aspirations of all stakeholders. In that process, managers should shape the brand based on its vision; employees take part in the creation of the brand through a unique organizational culture so that stakeholders can perceive the image of the brand adequately. In this process, there is a deviation. The gap between the vision and culture happens when employees are not committed, or fail to realize the vision of managers that relates to the brand. By the gap between image and culture occurs when consumers are not sure what the brand represents. The gap between the image and vision stems from a disagreement between the vision of managers and ideas that stakeholders have on the image of the brand. This gap is the result of lack of understanding of the needs of stakeholders regarding the brand.

The value of which is based Tourism Organization and the value of the brand as a tourist destination should be harmonized; they must not be in conflict with one another. It should creatively apply the appropriate mix of strategic skills and analytical reasoning for moving a tourist destination from the level of "interesting place" to the level of "destinations that tourists desire to visit". It is not enough to have just a mission statement to become a tourism destination brand, nor product differentiation, or low price; it is necessary to establish links with visitors, employees and residents of tourist destinations, taking into account the fact that the brand is formed by the mutual influence of people and organizational culture. Destination as a brand has to be created from within, employees and residents must be brand ambassadors, they must believe that the image of the brand is authentic.

For a single destination is said to represent the brand, when it offers visitors a unique experience that they can not experience elsewhere. The task of the Manager of The Tourism Organization is to translate the development strategy of tourist destinations, into the expression of the brand because only with the help of the brand it can be achieved recognition of its tourism product and make it different from all the other similar tourist destinations. Given that tourism as an economic sector today represents the greatest opportunity for increasing exports, as well as significant economic growth, branding the country as a tourist destination becomes inevitable.