The Evolution of Destination Branding: Implications for Tourism Managers

Destination branding is gaining momentum, both as research topic and strategic approach to complement – if not replace – current destination marketing practices. In this short interview, Marta Almeyda-Ibáñez of Puerto Rico shares with us the key findings of her review of academic literature on destination branding, and outlines the main implications for tourism managers.

Learn about:

  • How research on destination branding has evolved during the last years;
  • The main trends and changes in destination branding practice right now;
  • Why measuring place brand equity is a must for destination managers.

Marta, why the interest in destination branding and tourism? What brought you to the topic?

I have been interested in the subject of Tourism since I began my studies in Marketing. Also, when I was searching for a subject for my dissertation, there was a growing interest in developing Puerto Rico as a destination brand, and there was a lot of discussion about the topic in Puerto Rico. A new law that created a special committee in charge of developing a branding strategy for Puerto Rico was approved at that time.

I understood that an excellent contribution to this discussion would be to measure the brand equity of Puerto Rico as a destination brand, which was my dissertation topic. With the theme of destination branding, I could tie two of my favorites subjects – branding and tourism – and contribute to my country by helping it develop its tourism potential through my research.

You just had your article on ‘The Evolution of Destination Branding’ published in the Journal of Tourism, Heritage & Services Marketing. Which are your key findings?

That article is based on the literature review done for my dissertation. It was a very comprehensive review of the branding discipline. One key finding is that destination branding is a ‘growing’ concept in the discipline of tourism marketing.

Another key finding is that marketers and researchers have realized that destination branding has some unique traits that traditional product branding does not have. Some of these unique traits are: destinations are multidimensional, destinations are a combination of buildings, facilities, and venues, which include private and public organizations; destinations are not sold in the marketplace.

All these unique traits lead us to understand that destination marketers have less control over the brand experience.  Hence, the risk involved in designing and managing a destination brand is greater.

Another significant finding is that many destinations have realized that destination branding goes beyond the creation of a brand name, logo or graphic to identify it.

Destination branding should focus on the development of the experiential element, guided by the tourists’ decision-making process.

Recent findings show that destinations should focus their differentiation in elements such as the natural environment, culture, art, friendliness of local people, among other so-called ‘soft factors’.

The implication of these findings is that the community must be involved in the development of the destination branding.

Partnerships with private and community organizations are imperative in the process of developing a destination brand.

In your view, which are the main trends/changes in destination branding right now?

Destination branding is a ‘growing concept’. It has evolved from the idea of destination image during the last decade and a half, and is now becoming a discipline on its own. It has been developed in a holistic manner and now includes concepts such as social identity, community, and sustainability.

Researchers and marketers have realized that ‘places’ are composed of ‘living elements’ that go through a life cycle, and that the destination brand has to evolve accordingly.

The term sustainability is going to be heard more frequently. Gartner (2014) for example proposed that destination brand equity should be measured through some metrics of sustainable development, such as increased visitation or tourist spending.

Also, more importance is being given to the destination branding drivers of reputation, identity, authenticity and personality.

Has your view on destination branding research or practice changed since you conducted your research?

Oh yes, after conducting my research, I realized how complex and interesting the destination branding concept is. This is a subject that is continually evolving, and that has integrated and adapted critical theories from other areas of marketing.

Which would you consider the most important insight of your research for destination managers and developers?

In my view, the most important insight for destination managers is the importance of measuring the brand equity of destinations.

The amount of information obtained regarding tourists’ perception is very valuable and should be the basis for the development of effective differentiation strategies. This type of study should be done in a continuous manner, so destination managers can monitor how brand perceptions are evolving.

Thank you Marta.

Read the full article by Marta Almeyda-Ibáñez and Babu P. George here [open access].

Marta AlmeydaAbout the author

Marta Almeyda, M.B.A., DBA, is a consultant in Strategic Marketing and Professor of Marketing at Universidad del Sagrado Corazón in Puerto Rico. She holds a master’s degree in Business Administration from the Universidad de Puerto Rico and a DBA in Business Administration from SMC (Swiss Management Center) University.

Marta has worked for Kimberly Clark, Plaza Provision and Alberto Culver, among others. In addition to her academic endeavors, she has been doing consulting in the area of strategic marketing and marketing research for the past 15 years. Her areas of expertise are: Consumer Behavior, Strategic Marketing and Branding.

Connect with Marta Almeyda on LinkedIn.

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