Destination Branding: Does It Benefit Destination Management?

What role does destination branding play in attracting visitors and developing tourism infrastructure? And how does it relate to destination management?

Answers to this question often depend on whom you ask – marketers or place brand developers and managers. We asked our combined panel of destination brand specialists and tourism changemakers (answers in alphabetical order –  highlighted respondents are available for consulting, research, or as speakers).

Key takeaways:

  • Branding and management are two sides of the same coin. Ideally, the two should be so intertwined that it would be difficult if not impossible to set them apart;
  • A place’s brand is at the core of its destination management;
  • Place branding works best when the focus is on a city, region or country as a whole, rather than on a “destination”, i.e. just one industry sector of the place;
  • Destination branding sets the course of action for the destination by highlighting its positives and making the place attractive. Branding helps in building an image that the management executes;
  • Destination branding is not about marketing or advertising! Panel answers show that this is a widely-held belief, especially within the tourism industry.

Brian Mullis, sustainable tourism expert panel member

Brian Mullis

Speaker profile

USA | Absolutely. National place brands are directly linked to destination management. They communicate the major achievements of the country or destination over longer periods of time with a focus on key attributes from various sectors of the country’s economy. Holistically communicating the wealth of gains accumulated over a period of time makes country branding necessary, and with it, the need to strategically position the country’s premier experiences such as tourism and conservation, as well as investment opportunities in various growth sectors. One of the major benefits is an increase in the level of domestic and foreign investments in priority sectors with high potential for growth and employment.

Fiona Jeffery, sustainable tourism expert panel memberFiona Jeffery

Speaker profile

UK | To be authentic you have to live your values and if one is about being a “green” destination then it will influence destination management because you have to turn words into meaningful action.

Gunter SoydanbayGünter Soydanbay

Consulting / Speaker

Canada | As it pertains to destinations, we prefer to use “brand” as a metaphor.

In the discipline of brand management, one tries to improve a) the fame b) the feeling c) the fluency (the ease with which one brand comes to mind). So, in that sense, yes, branding can help destination management.

Jonathon Day, sustainable tourism expert panel memberJonathon Day

Speaker profile

USA | Destination branding is also an important signal to the operators of the destination. Highlighting sustainability in destination marketing provides a stimulus for operators to behave in ways consistent with the messaging. Some destinations leverage this by providing preferential marketing opportunities for products aligning with these core brand values. For example, if they become certified they are eligible for inclusion in cooperative marketing activities.

Kirsi HyvaerinenKirsi Hyvaerinen

Speaker profile

Montenegro Yes – depending on the brand; management processes often need updates (e.g. better and continuous involvement of local communities, other administration units to work better together – out of “silos”, and better seasonal and regional dispersion of tourism).

Martin Boisen panelMartin Boisen

Researcher profile

The NetherlandsIdeally, the two should be so intertwined that it would be difficult if not impossible to set them apart.

More realistically, if done right, on-brand destination management will help increase both the profile and the experience of a place. Destination branding that does not aim to fundamentally influence the destination management of a place will reduce itself to marketing communication and automatically render itself obsolete.

Natasha GrandNatasha Grand

Speaker profile

UK | Good branding always shows the goal, and target image that management should seek to achieve. It points to a clear and consistent experience that the management should strive to create for all users.

Robert Govers panelRobert Govers

Advisor / Speaker / Researcher

BelgiumDestination branding is, at best – a waste or worse – counterproductive, as it seems to suggest that tourism can be responsible for the reputation of a place and that tourism is one-dimensional.

A product approach to place branding does not work because of the way audiences build mental images. These are indivisible networks of associations that people deploy whenever they engage with “the other”. Usually, there is no single economic offering (a single tourist attraction, a specific export product or a unique investment offering) dominating the image, and where there is, it has proven to be unhealthy (resulting in overtourism or economic vulnerabilities).

Likewise, representation should also not be limited to specific economic sectors as it runs the risk of being too demand-driven as opposed to being about “who we are, where we came from and what we represent”.

Destination management should therefore be the focus, informed by an overarching brand for the place as a whole (not a “destination” brand for tourism) in order to manage tourism in a way that reinforces the long-term goals of a place and its positioning as a community.

Todd Babiak, place branding panelTodd Babiak

Speaker profile

AustraliaConsistency and discipline build brands and inform the strategy.

Tom BuncleTom Buncle

Speaker profile

UK | Yes. A place’s brand is at the core of its destination management. The brand will determine what type of visitors the destination can attract and what type of visitors it wants. A destination management plan needs to be based on what type of visitors a place wants – visitors who will like, respect, and contribute to the place’s sustainability as a visitor destination.

The corollary of this is that a destination should not try to attract, or put infrastructure in place for, visitors who will not appreciate its character and values, who may not respect them, and whose behaviour may impact negatively on the destination and host community.

Vicky SmithVicky Smith

Speaker profile

UK | Arguably, branding is part of marketing, and marketing is part of management. For destination branding to influence destination management, it’s a question of how to manage upwards. The benefits versus top-down management are better connection with the grassroots, working at better relationships, understanding; presenting solutions to their problems which also solve yours – which focuses on win-win.

Adam Mikołajczyk

PolandI would probably turn the question around. There is no good place management without the support of branding activities.

Andrea Lucarelli

SwedenYes, again please look at the cultural branding approach which explains very well how branding can influence the management of companies, cities and products.

Cecilia Pasquinelli

ItalyDestination branding and destination management should be conceived as deeply interconnected. The brand gives direction to destination management which, in turn, implements the brand. This is not always the case in practice but, without interconnection and alignment, the potential of destination management and the potential of destination branding are seriously downplayed.

Gianna Moscardo

AustraliaThese two areas are closely linked and I think sometimes that destination managers only see themselves as doing destination branding. But the destination practice has to live up to the promises made in the destination branding and the destination branding has to reflect the things that matter to the destination. It is or should be a symbiotic relationship.

Malcolm Allan

UK | Yes. It has to otherwise the effort put into creating a brand strategy will not pay dividends. I see Destination branding as having four key related elements, which, if undertaken in a coordinated and linked way will enable destination management to relate to and be influenced by brand strategy:

  1. Destination Brand Strategy – which sets out how the destination plans to develop its offer to target market audiences, both now and in the future;
  2. Destination Brand Implementation – which sets out the specific policies, projects, services, events, and other actions, etc. that its key stakeholders will finance, create and offer over a defined period of time, actions that will exemplify the brand in action, actions which will deliver on the brand promise;
  3. Destination Management – the range of actions, projects, events and promotions that the key stakeholders need to come together to manage the delivery of in a coherent and cost-effective way;
  4. Destination Marketing and Promotion – of the offer that exists, the offer that is being introduced in the near future and agreed plans for the medium term, through a variety of relevant communication channels to the market of target audiences.

Seen in this way Destination Management has to encompass managing the development of the strategy for the offer of the place, managing the delivery and implementation of the mix of projects, offers, events and programmes that bring the brand alive, and the mix of communications that inform market audiences on the brand offer, where and how to access it.

Rachel Dodds

Canada | Definitely! Think of how the Iceland Academy has repositioned Iceland. They of course have some issues as do all destinations but they use their branding and marketing efforts to educate in a humorous way. This not only helps the consumer understand expectations but also can alleviate the negative effects that tourism can have on your destination.

Richard Butler

UK | It should but surely it should be the other way around, destination management should direct destination branding, so the promotion and visitors are in line with management plans and goals.

Steve Noakes

AustraliaCertainly. Destination managers should embrace their chosen brand and work to expand the brand value into as many components of the destination systems and management as possible.

Enjoyed this snapshot of expert views on how destination branding benefits destination management? Thanks for sharing!


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