As the pandemic continues to make ‘waves’ around the world with no likely end in the near future, places need to get used to working around the current inconveniences and look for opportunities in this tricky situation – while keeping an eye on the bigger picture.
We asked our panel of place experts what are key trends that will define place branding in 2022, and we got some interesting responses. How to navigate the post-pandemic world is naturally on top of the priority list in 2022. Followed by the health of the people and the planet, being the cornerstone of most decisions this year.
First off, the pandemic has been a challenging phase for humanity. With the third year passing characterized by varying levels of lockdowns and restrictions, governments are still trying to monitor and contain the spread of COVID-19 and its variants. At this juncture, digital media has been a great platform to disseminate health advisories as well as a battlefield to tackle misinformation.
In this regard, Sebastian Zenker feels improving the trust in government is crucial to sail through critical times like these. It is important for citizens to have faith in the government and the latter should make efforts to improve its image among its people.
Sebastian further states that crisis management is another aspect to look into, followed by better preparedness to fight fake news. Governments have more than just a pandemic to handle this season. Political leaders have a range of public relations exercises to do to regain the trust of citizens.
Cecilia Cassinger feels that there is renewed attention to local surroundings and alternative modes of transportation to air travel.
In the past two years, we have been brutally reminded of the vulnerability of human life and nature, which has led to a rediscovery and revaluing of the natural environment, also by those who have not previously been concerned about these issues.
Since tourism and transportation are carbon-intensive by nature, we can expect a more flexible approach to mobility and tourism, something place developers and managers need to be aware of and adjust to.
Efe Sevin mirrors the above-stated opinion, that the environment is in dire need of care, and place makers and shapers clearly can play a role, especially also in solving climate emergency issues.
Living in confined spaces for long periods of time and physical distancing measures have brought the topic of public spaces into prominence.
As Hila Oren says, “Every city around the world is redefining what its public spaces provide to the community.”
Public spaces are the current buzzword. She continues that Covid-19 is changing the world in ways we can’t even fathom yet, but one of the few things we know for certain is that the public space, outdoor or indoor, must drastically change. Public spaces are now becoming an extension of our schools, living rooms, and offices.
Cities shift their attention to the quality of our shared spaces, so does the branding. A city with well-developed, inviting public spaces is going to be the future.
Travellers who are finally visiting a place after months of isolation, and skilled talent looking for a new home in a different corner of the planet, will be cautious of their surroundings. Important locations within the city where residents regularly gather and unwind would need some amount of retouching, to avoid congestion.
This new mood has also given rise to a renewed sense of bonding among people, and this has to be recognized. Sebastian Zenker acknowledges this and adds that increasing a sense of community is going to be another place branding priority this year.
Following the pandemic, there is greater awareness among people of their ecological footprint for each of their actions. This has led to an increase in demand for more eco-friendly travel, for instance.
Cecilia Cassinger predicts that place branding in a post-pandemic world will have to demonstrate leadership and relevance for tackling challenges of sustainable tourism and local community life in relation to global health, safety, and climate change.
Though the travel industry has a long way to go to meet this new demand, there are many organisations doing a tremendous job in this regard. Efe Sevin feels that green tourism will gain prominence over the years.
This is a good sign as the sustainable development of tourism is a win-win for everybody involved. Owners of small travel establishments like hotels, restaurants, and travel services who suffered losses can benefit after the long pandemic-induced pause in travel. And this will be a defining element for places that are looking for tourism revenue in the post-pandemic travel future.
Natasha Grand points out how the conversation increasingly revolves around sustainability. She further adds that it’s merely a new (though important) agenda on the ‘we are good and acceptable’ place credentials list.
Places need to bank on this sentiment to gain positive attention from prospective travellers. The time is ripe to invest and gradually transform into a sustainable tourism industry.
Globalism vs nationalism
Do we look inwards or outwards, like in the good ol’ days of globalization? Physical border restrictions due to the pandemic did have a cascading effect on other areas of global interaction. Local sentiments were strong and popularizing local culture and attitude was a common occurrence. But will it extend into the future?
Ed Burghard raises some serious points to ponder upon. He says, “To be controversial, the biggest priority will be to decide if the place branding approach will be to operate as a branded house or a house of brands model.”
The strategies are different depending on which is selected. This is a recognition of the existing uncertainty between nationalism and globalism.
He further asks, will brands for nations in the E.U. be independent in local efforts to differentiate place promise, or will their place promise need to be supportive of an E.U. brand promise? On the surface, this may sound academic. But, the answer has dramatic implications for the degrees of freedom a nation has, to maintain and to develop its brand.
The same question applies to tourism. Many travellers forced by closed international borders chose domestic travel. It worked wonders as short trips away from home and nature travel was a big hit among people. But this trend has implications beyond travel, Natasha Grand observes. The long-term impact is currently being generated by the rise of domestic tourism within most countries. The discovery of ‘who we are’ and ‘what makes us us’ and appreciation of national treasures (architecture, food, nature) will make national identities more salient.
Regrettably, this may play into the hands of autocratic politicians. The age of openness and globalism and internationalism is both in the past and in the future, but not present. The onus on place branding professionals is to seek and amplify the most civic, humane and positive elements of national identity.
Another trend that saw a rise was countries offering both long-term and short-term visas to digital nomads to boost spending in local businesses to spur the economy. Efe Sevin feels that small places trying to attract office employees working from home would be an interesting trend to watch out for. Motivating remote employees to step out of the confines of their homes and work from a scenic location would not only boost the visitor economy but also the enthusiasm to work.
What do you think will define the place branding strategies of cities and countries in this important year, marked by our all desire to see borders and businesses open up again? Let us know!
Previous questions answered by the panel here.
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