Massimo Giovanardi in this interview shares his thoughts on destination marketing and the issue of tourism overcrowding, using examples from his 'country-of-origin', Italy.
- What motivated Massimo Giovanardi to focus his research career on tourism marketing and place branding;
- The country-of-origin effect: origins and meaning;
- The benefits of participatory - rather than top-down - destination marketing;
- How strategic marketing could help solve the growing issue of overcrowding in popular tourist destinations, such as Venice;
- How to measure the return on investment of place branding initiatives;
- Advice for students interested in place branding.
Massimo, how did you first become interested in tourism marketing and place branding?
I grew up in a tourist place. My birth-town, Cesenatico, belongs to one of the most touristy areas of Italy, the epicenter of which is the seaside resort of Rimini. Every summer season, my region becomes a temporary home for hundreds of thousands of tourists, longing for our average-looking beaches or, more likely, for our renown ability to welcome foreigners and be hospitable. I sometimes think that there would not have been a better place to be born in, for a tourism marketing and place branding person.
Then, in 2008 at the University of Urbino, my PhD supervisor Bernardo Valli asked me if I was interested in working on territorial branding (branding territoriale, as we call it in Italy). I immediately liked the topic and found it a perfect fit. With the help of my co-supervisor, Yuri Kazepov, I started examining different sociological perspectives through which places are produced, consumed and communicated.
My first academic appointment in Stockholm and the following adventure initiated with Mihalis Kavaratzis in Leicester are the result of my involvement in the fantastic community of place branding scholars, many of whom I met at conferences.
At the beginning of my PhD, in 2008, I was still working for a public relations agency in Rimini. There, I learned a lot about the intricate and multi-layered processes of place promotion in the public sector. While I sometimes miss the vibrant atmosphere of press offices, I certainly don't miss the political tensions between different administrative levels: “mayor vs president of the region” or “councilmen vs community managers”. I admit it sometimes feels more comfortable to study these dynamics as a scientific observer, rather than being involved in them as a public relations account executive.
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