Destinations must concentrate on
their strengths to create a distinctive impact.
According to analyst Tom Buncle, a
process of qualitative research and consultation is essential in order to
determine the core values and essence of a destination, customer perceptions,
what residents think and an analysis of competition.
Objectivity and focus would produce
a distinctive outcome with a memorable impact, he added. Mr. Buncle, managing
director of the Yellow Railroad International Destination Consultancy, was
addressing delegates at the recent Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s Leadership
Risks inherent in the process are
that such elements as stakeholder interests, political compromises and even
dishonesty and unclear thinking come into play. This leads to bland and
indistinct branding that is ultimately forgettable, he explained. The harsh
reality is that perception is more powerful than reality. Therefore, clarity,
focus and honesty are key, he reiterated.
It is not a matter of budget per
se, because it is about identifying what defines a destination and which
elements connect with people on an emotional level, he said, as well as
consistently projecting these characteristics in every communication with
He gave several examples of iconic
brand campaigns and talked about logos and good and bad slogans. Credibility is
key, as is delivering on the promises of the advertising. There is also a
fashion curve for a destination brand, he noted, that goes from fashionable,
peaking between famous and familiar, and heading downward to fatigued. That may
be the time for refreshment, he said.
Mr. Buncle analysed Namibia’s campaign
in great detail as a case study and said that there was a danger of losing
competitive differentiation. In the case of Africa there is a continent brand
effect since there is so little public awareness and knowledge of the
individual countries. Quoting Simon Anholt, he said that each country was in
danger of sharing the same reputation, but it should be the other way around
and Africa ought to be the summation of the individual national reputations.
The perception of the Caribbean is
that of beaches, but it is not a homogenous entity, he said.
It is important, therefore, to
clarify how people could choose between different Caribbean nations, aside from
product, price and access. Great inspirational stories would help distinguish a
destination and differentiate it from every other Caribbean nation while also
leveraging value from the Caribbean brand, he said.
Elements that could come into play
are authenticity of people, architecture and nature; sharing vs showing
culture; nature and space; relaxation and de-stressing; recreation and
activities; safety and high standards in accommodation and cuisine.
The analyst concluded with a look
to the future. Despite the recession, he said tourism is resilient and holidays
are seen as essential, even if people are taking shorter main holidays and
fewer short breaks and staying closer to home, particularly in Europe and the
Tomorrow’s travellers will need an
incentive to take vacations, particularly the younger generation. Reinventing
the experience is essential, said Mr. Buncle, who added that the winners will
be businesses who concentrate on quality, customer service, ease of booking and
displayed honesty, transparency, flexibilty, innovation and rapid response.
Destination branding, he concluded,
is about creating a sense of place and telling a story. Place, produce and
people are three elements of the DNA of a destination. For the Caribbean, he
reiterated that understanding how customers feel and treating it as an
emotional experience rather than a commodity are fundamental.