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How Strong is Your Tourism Brand?

In today’s extremely competitive market, tourists are looking for unique, tailored and high-quality experiences. Information technology is changing the business environment in which operators must work, as travelers can easily research and share information on the web. The global economic downturn has put great pressure on the tourism industry, affecting business and leisure trips alike.

With such constantly evolving traveler habits and market conditions, it is more important than ever to have a distinctive and memorable brand with high awareness in the tourism market. Your brand is your community’s identity – its value in the mind of the tourist.

The strength of your brand rests on two primary factors: process and creativity.

Process is critical because tourism branding has to be a team effort. It requires the readiness and commitment of local residents and businesses, council, staff and other stakeholders in order to be approved, accepted and implemented effectively.

By following a careful methodology that includes resident surveys, stakeholder interviews, committee involvement and extensive research into the history and economic strengths of a community, the challenge of achieving consensus can be met and the community’s tourism industry can move forward with vigor.

Getting the creativity right is a more subjective and elusive goal. Every situation is unique, of course, but there are three rules that will generally determine the creative strength of your community’s tourism brand:

1. Focus on how visitors feel

Many tourism brands deliver messages that are much the same. To stand out, you need an emotional brand that resonates with your target tourism segments. Market research must deliver the basics for this: Who are the visitors to your community? Where are they from? What do they do when visiting your area? Most importantly, how did visiting your community and its tourism offerings make them feel?

It is the tourist’s experience that creates a sense of satisfaction, not merely the activities or sights. The impact of your brand will be strongest if it is centered on what visitors feel.

2. Keep the Branding Unified

Many tourism attraction officers find themselves trying to sort through a chaos of juggling multiple brands. A tourism area might encompass several municipalities, each of which has its own brand. There may be another brand for an event, a region within an area or a region that includes other partners. Even within the municipality, there are often multiple brands, one for the municipality, another for the economic development department, another for a downtown revitalization organization and yet another for tourism.

This brand maze can be confusing to navigate for the tourism promoter, for tourism operators and mostly for tourists themselves. In addition, it results in a dilution and weakening of all brands.

How many brands are really required? We recommend a unification of brands to enable a municipality to focus and strengthen the most effective brand(s) based on a desired image. Where possible, one brand, one logo, one over-arching theme statement can be adapted or modified to serve the needs of specific departments, including tourism. Having one unified brand, or one “family” of unified brands, is increasingly essential in the highly competitive world of vying for elusive tourism dollars.

3. Make the branding effective for modern communications

The web is now the main channel used for tourism attraction. No longer is it sufficient to design images and messages that work well on paper. Today’s tourists gain their first and sometimes only impressions of places online – often on a tiny handheld screen.

On your tourism website your brand must make a powerful statement – instantly. It also has to expand easily throughout the growing variety of today’s social media landscape. How will tourists perceive your tourism products on YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter? Your brand will grow stronger as you use it more frequently and let it permeate throughout the online world.

Go online to where your target tourists are congregating, ask questions, generate conversation – and take your brand with you!

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