Tom Buncle Speaker Profile

Tom tells it like it is and pulls no punches with his audience. That’s because people want to hear what works and what doesn’t, so their destination can shine on the world stage. Tom shares his personal experience from around the world to help destination managers create distinctive brands, develop tourism responsibly, identify the latest travel trends, and recover from unexpected crises.

Tom has 40 years’ experience in place branding, tourism marketing, destination management planning, and crisis recovery on four continents (UK/Europe, North America & Caribbean, Asia, Africa & Middle East). A former Chief Executive of Visit Scotland, Tom now runs international destination consultancy Yellow Railroad, which focuses on helping destinations around the world improve their competitiveness through place branding and destination management planning.

Tom’s international tourism career began at the ‘customer coalface’, with ‘hands-on’ experience as a tour guide in Europe, followed by managerial positions with Visit Britain in Southeast Asia, Norway, Canada, London, and California. He has served on several boards as a non-executive director in the fields of tourism, branding, marketing, culture, and the natural environment, including the Edinburgh International Festival Council, the Cairngorm Partnership (Scotland’s second national park), and Scotland the Brand.

He was an adviser to the UK Department of Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) on the European Capital of Culture 2008 award and is a former member of Contact Singapore’s European Panel (formerly the guardian and promoter of Singapore’s international image). He is a Fellow of both the UK Tourism Society and the UK Tourism Management Institute, National Committee member of the UK Tourism Consultants’ Network, a member of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Panel of Experts, a member of The Place Brand Observer’s International Virtual Research Panel, a member of the Experts’ Committee of the World Tourism Cities Forum (China), and a member of the Sustainable Tourism Certification Alliance (Africa).

Tom is an Honorary Professor at Edinburgh’s Heriot Watt University. He authored the definitive Handbook on Tourism Destination Branding, a practical ‘instruction manual’ on destination branding, published by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and European Travel Commission (ETC), which is used by national tourism offices (NTOs) and destination management organisations (DMOs) worldwide.

Tom has had the honour of being invited to share his passion for place branding, responsible tourism development, travel trend prediction, and crisis recovery with audiences in 25 countries: Barbados, Belarus, Chile, China, Estonia, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Iceland, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Malta, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Serbia, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden, Tunisia, Ukraine, UK, USA and Zambia.

Based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Speaking topics:

  • Place branding
  • Crisis recovery for destinations
  • Responsible tourism, including ‘overtourism’
  • Destination management planning
  • Travel trends


1. “Place-Branding: More than Just a Logo – Less than Rocket Science”

Debunking the myth……..The biggest mistake people make in place branding is thinking it’s no more than a logo. The second biggest mistake is thinking it’s too difficult. Tom explains simply and clearly the benefits of place branding and how to do it without tears. Loaded with real-life examples of good and bad branding, Tom takes the audience on a whirlwind tour of the globe. By the end of this talk, the audience should leave as converts to the practice of place branding and confident to do it themselves.

2. “Tourism:  A Force for Good or Ill?”

As one of the world’s most resilient economic sectors and saviour of many developing economies, tourism is nevertheless not always a force for good. In this session, Tom takes a provocative look at the case for and against tourism, and proposes solutions for getting it right. He shines a light on good and bad practices around the world to bring issues to life for the audience. Everyone should leave this session with a clear idea of both the beneficial and destructive aspects of tourism. They should also leave understanding how to develop tourism responsibly, so that it delivers truly sustainable benefits to host communities.

3. “Preventing a Crisis from Turning into a Catastrophe: Managing Business Back to Growth”

No tourism destination is immune from the threat of crisis – whether natural disaster, terrorism, conflict, political, economic or health-related. How quickly a destination recovers from a crisis is determined by its preparedness and the way it responds in the first few hours after a crisis hits. Tom explores the potential impact of different types of crisis on tourism destinations; he then outlines steps destinations can take to minimise the damage and recover as quickly as possible. Tom illustrates his talk with examples of good and bad practice from around the world, including crises from which he has helped destinations recover. Everyone should leave this session with a clear understanding of the risks they might face and how to prepare for the unexpected, which is invariably inevitable.

4. “Overtourism: Fact, Fiction or Food for Thought?”

With ‘overtourism’ increasingly blighting popular destinations around the world, Tom separates fact from fiction and myth from misunderstanding. He explores the impact on the place itself, on the visitor experience, and on residents’ tolerance; he also considers implications for the future survival of tourism destinations. Underpinning this talk is the need for tourism destinations to get it right by developing long-term plans. He focuses on how to minimise tourism’s negative impacts and ensure destinations get the kind of tourism they want. His talk is peppered with examples of how destinations around the globe have attempted to manage the challenge of overtourism. No-one should leave this session in any doubt about the issues their destination faces in securing its long-term economic survival.

5. “Destination Branding: Key to Competitiveness or Yesterday’s Tactic?”

Is destination branding still relevant in the digital era? When people can explore destinations virtually, chat with previous visitors, and hear thousands of unvarnished opinions online, is there any role for destination branding today? Tom takes the audience through the pros and cons of destination branding in a digital world, with real life case studies to illustrate the prizes and pitfalls. No-one should leave this session in any doubt about the answer to this question.

Speaker characteristics:

#provocative #insightful #myth-busting #down-to-earth #global

Offerings and rates:

Please contact Tom (link below) to discuss your needs, whether that be a short ‘thought-starter’ to kick off a conference, a provocative and insightful keynote speech, or a masterclass on place branding, responsible tourism development, or crisis recovery. Rates will always be competitive, and content will be tailored to your audience.


“Tom Buncle is a highly sought after speaker, who has worked with the Caribbean on many occasions.  We have found his in-depth knowledge on destinations, in particular his global insights, extremely informative and valuable in destination branding – with a wealth of knowledge that leaves audiences wanting more! A great speaker with the knack for engaging at all levels and most importantly, keeping the subject matter interesting and current!”

Carol Hay, Director of Marketing UK & Europe, Caribbean Tourism Organization

“Tom has great knowledge and global links which means he is able to cover a huge range of subjects, simplify them, and present them in an entertaining and engaging way. A day with Tom is far more cost effective than attending lots of conferences. I would recommend him highly.”

Barrie Kelly, Chief Executive, Visit Greenwich

“Tom Buncle’s excellent presentation on the merits of the European Brand in the High Level European Tourism Conference held in Malta in May 2017 helped stimulate an interesting debate. Tom Buncle confirmed his standing as a world class authority on destination branding, with an extensive plethora of real life examples from all over the world arising from his widespread travels and consultancy. Tom Buncle’s input was, beyond doubt, one of the major highlights of our conference, held under the auspices of Malta’s Presidency of the European Council.”

Leslie Vella, Deputy CEO, Malta Tourism Authority

“Tom Buncle helped to develop a destination brand for Laikipia District in Kenya. He presented the concept to a mixed group of conservative-minded conservationists and Maasai community leaders, who were naturally deeply suspicious of such new-fangled thinking. As a result of Tom’s engaging, logical and clear presentation on the need for destination branding, they were instantly converted and became its new apostles.”

Dr Chris Thouless QGM, Director of the Elephant Crisis Fund – Strategic Advisor, Save the Elephants, Kenya

Interested in booking Tom as speaker? Please get in touch here. Read our interview with him here. Tom Buncle is also available as consultant. More about his consulting approach and the services he offers here.