Destination Branding

  • Post last modified:20 June 2021
  • Reading time:11 mins read
  • Post category:Tourism

What is Destination Branding?

Destination branding is about identifying the destination’s strongest and most competitively appealing assets in the eyes of its prospective visitors, building a story from these that makes the destination stand out above its competitors, and running this narrative consistently through all marketing communications.

For a destination, a brand bridges the gap between its given assets and the perceptions of potential visitors. destination brands serve two main functions: identification and differentiation.

As with singular product brands, a destination brand is also made up of the components of awareness and image. Like before, brand awareness is considered a prerequisite to any other brand dimensions. Without some level of awareness, the consumer cannot have perceptions on the destination’s image, quality, etc.

A destination brand image could be defined as “perceptions about the place as reflected by the associations held in tourist memory”

The first, organic image, is what you learn about a place in school, in books, hear about on the news, through word of mouth etc. Places are much more than just tourism products, so people generally have knowledge and perceptions of a destination independent of exposure to its marketing.

This information is not necessarily conveyed with the intent of persuading anyone to a certain image, but these organic sources could still influence whether a person views a place as a suitable travel destination or not.

  • The concepts of destination image and destination brand are so closely tied together that there has been disagreement and confusion among researchers as to the difference between the two.

  • The concepts of destination brand and image used to be considered one and the same, however more and more researchers are acknowledging that image is just a piece of the overall puzzle and that there are other notable dimensions as well for destination brands.

Basically, brand loyalty is the main source of customer based brand equity; it is the most measure able source of a brand’s value. Gaining loyalty in the tourism industry is key since so much of a destination or attraction’s business comes from repeat visitors, not first timers Previous experience with a brand will be the most key factor in determining a destination image and thus intent to return.

For marketers, branding is perhaps the most powerful marketing weapon available to contemporary destination marketers confronted by tourists who are increasingly seeking lifestyle fulfillment and experience rather than recognizing differentiation in the more tangible elements of the destination product, such as accommodation and attractions.

A successful destination brand needs to convey the expectations, or promise, of a memorable travel experience that is distinctively associated with that destination .

Why Destination Branding?

The concept of branding does not only apply to consumer products: it can also be applied to services and more recently, destinations. As discussed previously, a tourism destination is a multi faceted composite of many individual products and services that can be difficult to unify.

Why would a product as complex as this attempt to brand itself as if it were a consumer good?

Because a strong brand insulates itself from the threat of competition by reducing Sustainability, and in a marketplace saturated with many similar destinations differentiation becomes the only way to survive.

The battle for customers in tomorrow’s destination marketplace will be fought not over price but over hearts and mind.” What persuades tourists to visit one similar place over another is the emotional connection they feel towards the destination.

As discussed, a brand elicits emotions and feelings about a product, therefore a branding strategy would make sense for a destination to use to create the desired emotional associations.

The most cited reasons DMO’s listed for creating a destination brand include image, recognition, differentiation, consistency, brand messages, emotional response, and expectations.

Destination brands give visitors an assurance of quality experiences, reduce visitor search costs and offer a way for destinations to establish a unique selling proposition

Benefits of Branding in Tourism

According to Kotler, brands benefits, are two-fold; they serve as a ‘major tool to create product/services diffrentiation’ and they represent a promise of value from a consumer’s viewpoint has identified six benefits of branding related to tourism destination products :

  1. As tourism is typically high involvement, branding helps to reduce the choice
  2. Branding helps in reducing the impact of intangibility
  3. Branding conveys consistency across multiple outlets and through time
  4. Branding can reduce the risk factor attached to decision-making about holidays.
  5. Branding facilitates precise segmentation
  6. Branding helps to provide a focus for the integration of producer effort, helping people to work towards the same outcome.

Brand Equity

Brand equity is the value of a brand based on the extent to which it has high brand loyalty, name awareness, perceived quality, strong brand associations, and other assets such as patents, trademarks, and channel relationships. It stems from the greater confidence that consumers place in a brand than they do in its competitors.

This confidence translates into consumer’s loyalty and their willingness to pay a premium price for the brand.Brand equity includes many dimensions such as performance, social image, value, trustworthiness, and identifications.

Brand Identity

Brand identity is a part of the brand’s overall equity, the total perception of a brand in the marketplace, driven mostly by its positioning and personality. Brand identity clearly specifies what the brand aspires to stand for and has multiple roles:

  1. It is a set of associations that the brand strategist seeks to create and maintain.

  2. It represents a vision of how a particular brand should be perceived by its target public

Brand Positioning

The brand positioning task consists of three steps:

  1. Identifying a set of possible competitive advantages upon which to build a position

  2. Selecting the right competitive advantage

  3. Effectively communicating and delivering the chosen position to a carefully selected target market

Marketers focus on differentiation branding through relationships and emotional appeals rather than through discernible, tangible benefits, as it is clear that the most difficult task facing any destination is the quest for true differentiation.

Branding Challenges for Tourism Destinations

In pursuit of winning brand identities, tourism destinations are faced with a range of challenges, including:

  1. Budget limitations
  2. Political interference
  3. Delivery challenges
  4. Corruption
  5. Differentiation challenges

Budget limitations

Most tourism destinations do not have the financial resources to go head-on with commercial products for a share of discretionary consumer spend. The challenge is therefore one of “outsmarting” rather than “outspending”.

Political interference

Destination brands signal the personality of nations and as a result politicians often find it difficult to accept a rational and scientific approach to brand development without interfering with the brand strategy. An often volatile external environment.

While destination brands can be defined and developed in a particular timeframe and context, external events (conflicts, disasters, etc.) can impact heavily on the brand’s credibility and progress.

Delivery challenges

Delivering on the brand promise can be hampered by a lack of human capacity, infrastructure and a range of other delivery factors.


The brand strategy and values could be undermined by corrupt tourist practices and services such as bribery at immigration points, security checkpoints, etc.

Differentiation challenges

Brand delivery has to be consistent over time and the actual experience has to support the image created, making the brand believable and relevant – this depends on the cooperation and buy-in of a range of stakeholders.

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