Jaume Marín on the Destination Branding of Costa Brava and Pyrenees, Catalonia

 Today we’d like you to meet Jaume Marín, Marketing Director of the Costa Brava Girona Tourism Board, and as such responsible for promoting and developing the Costa Brava and Girona Pyrenees brand: representing an area that stretches from the wild Mediterranean coast with its picturesque towns and villages to the Pyrenees mountain range in the north.

Based in the regional capital of Girona, Jaume Marín shares his thoughts on the latest destination marketing trends, developments and challenges. He also explains us why his Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) has decided to heavily invest in storytelling through travel bloggers and social influencers, rather than spending its money on traditional advertising campaigns. This isn’t the first time we hear about such a shift – destination marketers take note!

Learn about:

  • Why place brands should involve as many people as possible and make them part of it;
  • The importance of a motivated team with high level implication;
  • Jaume Marín’s experience working with bloggers for destination promotion;
  • How the use of ‘Instagram your city’ has exceeded all expectations.

Jaume, when did you first come across the concept of place branding? Do you remember your initial thoughts?

I don’t remember the exact moment, but some of my initial thoughts were that place brands are not something institutions can develop by themselves. We have to involve as many people as possible, make them part of it, and if possible make the people the heroes within your (our) brand.

How has your view on the practice of destination branding changed over the last years?

I feel that things are changing quicker, much quicker, and that some public administrations aren’t able to respond fast enough. Now, it is much better to be quick than big. DMOs have had to change almost everything they were doing and get out of their comfort zone.

Tourist destination brands are created by four different agents: 1. DMOs, 2. general and specialist tourism operators, 3. media, literature, cinema,… and 4. visitors, residents, local businesses… Today, agents number 3 and 4 are where perhaps we need to put most focus on – something we didn’t even think about 5 years ago.

Your key professional insights from your seven years (and counting) as Marketing Director of Tourism Costa Brava Girona?

The key point is to have a motivated team with high level implication, and then be very very close to our sector. Make them part of our DMO. Create marketing clubs where tourism industry stakeholders help establish and co-finance the yearly action plan. Work hard and nurture personal relations. Make sure that the destination brand is admired among all the stakeholders.

A key strategic action to strengthen Costa Brava Pyrenees destination branding has been working with bloggers. Which are your main insights on this topic?

We realized that communications such as brochures are not credible in the eyes of the majority of visitors, because it is official, promotional material – and that a better way would be to have our best stories told through influencers.

We started working with travel bloggers 5 years ago. Today we have created engagement with probably the best bloggers in the world, who can act as our ambassadors wherever they are.

We do not believe in short term ROI [return on investment], we firmly believe in ROE [return on engagement], as it has proven to deliver great results.

You recently implemented the strategy ‘Instagram your city’ to involve the citizens in the development of the place branding of Costa Brava Pyrenees. How has been the overall result of this initiative?

The overall result has exceeded all our expectations. In two years we have developed more than 70 meetings across our destination, generating more than 200,000 images with the #incostabrava hashtag.

Those events have created communities of passionate persons, who now create content for the brand, and – more important – feel part of it. Those internal brand ambassadors are taking the role of content creators, who are regarded much more trustworthy and credible from the visitor point of view.

destination branding Costa Brava - Instagram
Example of #inCostaBrava initiative (Instagram)

Which strategic approach do you use to involve stakeholders in the development and implementation of Costa Brava Pyrenees destination branding?

Getting very very close to them through constant visits, talks and a lot of education. We have more than 800 private companies which are part of our DMO at the moment, and more than 2,000 tourism professionals have attended our training and education workshops.

The key is to explain the reason behind every action we do, to always aim for innovation, and to make sure stakeholders are an integral part of our actions.

Where do you see the main challenges – and opportunities – for destination banding at the moment?

Probably the challenges come from new markets, how to learn to get into these markets and how to adapt our product to them.

The use of new technologies, such as beacons or wearables, open up new, exciting opportunities for tourist destinations. Big data will probably play a key part in our future planning decisions.

How do you measure the success (ROI) of your destination branding initiatives?

We measure the ROI of any online action, but I don’t really believe in measuring numbers alone. Why do this for online initiatives if we haven’t done it for offline initiatives for the last 10 years?

I believe in ROE. Driving engagement through influencers and ambassadors has proven much more profitable for the destination, and we have received various awards, for whom ROI isn’t relevant.

Thanks to our focus on engagement of key influencers and brand ambassadors, our small destination brand has become very powerful in some key markets and in specific segments, such as gastronomy and culture.

Thank you, Jaume.

Learn more about destination Costa Brava here or connect with Jaume Marín on LinkedIn.

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