Place Branding 2023: Key Priorities and Trends to Watch

The post-COVID-19 era is raising hopes across the world but there is a sense of cautious optimism as we navigate our way, following the crisis. There is going to be a focus on impact measurement of place branding activities, as well as accountability.

What other trends will rule the place branding sphere this year? We asked our panel of place brand specialists.

Our key takeaways:

  • More scrutiny and transparency in place brand(ing) project functioning and financing
  • Digital nomads can be a new source of revenue for destinations, but at what cost?
  • Overtourism will continue to be a problem, and there will be stronger focus on attracting specific visitors segments
  • Places and governments are keen on sustainable practices, but need to be cautious when claiming “green” credentials
  • Community engagement will remain a priority
  • There can no longer be a tourism brand, an economic development brand and a community brand – agencies will need to work together

Gunter Soydanbay

Günter Soydanbay

Speaker profile

I expect three trends to emerge in 2023. 

The first one is the return to overtourism. The pandemic and the following global economic crisis erode decade-long progress toward sustainable tourism. Moreover, in a high-inflation world, cost re-emerges as a critical factor. Consequently, the rise of commercial tourism -which causes overtourism- will be a key topic of discussion in 2023.

2023 can be the year of artificial intelligence. From chatbots to image creators, the capabilities of AI are improving at a logarithmic pace. Regarding place branding, visitor targeting could see new heights thanks to AI.

Finally, airport experience is a key discussion point. Post-pandemic airport mayhem became a key barrier to travelling. People don’t want to waste their valuable time, especially at an overburdened airport. Having an efficient airport could tip the scale in a place’s favour.

Jeannette Hanna panel

Jeannette Hanna

Trajectory Brand Consultants / Speaker profile

Security – political, environmental, social – plus cultural vitality and inclusion.

Security used to be taken for granted but the ravages of environmental disasters and political upheavals have made many previously appealing places untenable.

Natasha Grand

Natasha Grand

Speaker profile

Pragmatism rules the day and 2023.

Economic duress felt worldwide puts more pressure on every penny of public expenditure. More is expected to be delivered for less money. Accountability is higher. Risks are avoided.

Place branding managers will find it harder to justify new projects and will need to claim quantifiable results to get any public money released. For the sector that stands on symbolism and ideas, this is not likely to be an easy year.

The antidote in such hard times is to be competent, alert, and flexible –  to spot and find ways to serve the emergent needs of communities and the public sector.

Stuart Speirs

Silver Lining Strategy

A continued change in the way success is measured. Short-term visitor spending will be just one of a range of metrics looked at as opposed to the primary measure for many place branding initiatives. Metrics that gauge impacts on civic pride, social capital, net migration and retention of spend in place will become increasingly important and seen alongside visitor spending as key measures of place branding success.

Tom Buncle

Tom Buncle

Speaker profile

Place appeal, product quality, great service, and value for money will remain as important as they always have been. However, demonstrating a commitment to community benefit, showing the community buys into the way the place is presented and has a voice in how it develops, will become increasingly important.

This may be where places, which are otherwise equally attractive, might find slivers of competitive advantage, as investors try to second-guess shareholders, and visitors care more about both their impact on the destination and what their choice of holiday destination says about them.

In short, a symbiotic relationship will grow between place and customer: a place’s reputation will increasingly influence its investors’ and visitors’ reputation – for good or bad. This, in turn, will determine their willingness to invest in or visit it.

Adam Mikolajczyk

I anticipate a stronger focus on sustainable/responsible place marketing and branding.

Andrea Lucarelli

I cannot read the future but If I have to guess the big discourse for places this year, it is to be sustainable and resilient while trying to spend less in terms of different activities for community identity. And location reputation would be to re-use the local past – retro branding.

Bill Geist

The imperative we see is that there can no longer be a tourism brand, an economic development brand and a community brand. We’ve been saying that for decades and yet we continue to see one agency or another simply decide to “do it alone.” The negative consequences are too great and the stakes too high for this to continue.

Efe Sevin

Financial sustainability, social stability, government responsibility.

I sincerely believe 2023 is going to be the “real” recovery year post-Covid-19. We have dealt with the immediate medical, social, and economic outcomes of the pandemic. Now, it is time for places to show they are not vulnerable to similar external shocks.

Jaume Marín

I expect a stronger focus on trying to attract specific visitor segments.

Joao Freire

In 2023, we are seeing places take advantage of a trend emerging from Covid-19: the ability to work remotely. Due to Covid-19, a segment of workers, digital nomads, has grown exponentially. There is an assumption that these workers might be an engine for wealth creation; therefore, governments are now competing for this market segment by giving perks and advantages, not only in terms of residence visas but also in the form of tax breaks. The expectation is this segment may contribute to the prosperity of places.

However, one can ask how big and how relevant that segment really is, and what the impact of those workers is on a place. Attracting this segment of workers based on lowered taxes also raises ethical issues.

  • Should the local people pay higher taxes even though the newcomers will be using public goods and public spaces?
  • Will this segment create wealth to cover its costs or will it create a negative impact in terms of affordability, for example, in the housing market?
  • What is the true impact of digital nomads on the local communities?

It seems that the policies concerning attracting this new segment are bottom down from governments to society with little oversight and agreements from the local communities and any study of the impact of these policies. It is not obvious that the local communities gain from these policies.

Magdalena Florek

First and foremost, an emphasis on place authenticity. In general, the consumer today prefers “real” over what is “perfect and nicely packaged.” This has implications for place brand identity itself, but also for the way it is communicated.

Secondly, tying brand identity to a broader context of values important to the global community. We have common issues to solve (such as climate change) and place brands should be more engaged.

Sustainability, of course, but in action, not storytelling and a proliferation of documents.

Lastly, shift to a more human-centric measurement of place brand impact.

More about the panel – including previously published insights – here

Enjoyed this snapshot of expert views on what trends will take center stage in place branding in 2023? Thanks for sharing!


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