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The Key to Competitive Positioning for Destinations and Tourism Brands

The Key to Competitive Positioning for Destinations and Tourism Brands

May 21, 2012

I recently received an RFP for a Caribbean tourist board seeking an agency to design and manage high visibility tourism programs. Obviously the objective is to competitively position their destination against competitors so that it’s top of mind to travelers. After reviewing the scope of work, it led me to think about how travelers choose one destination over another and how well (or not) tourist boards are doing to position their destinations to align with traveler’s motivating factors.

Of course, the destination’s appeal, features, and attractions are big deciding factors for travelers, but how does that really come into play for regional destinations?

Within the Caribbean itself, for example, what would make a traveler decide to leisurely travel to Antigua vs Bermuda, Barbados, Anguilla, or any of the Caribbean destinations?

Sure, Bahamas, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, and a handful of others are top of mind and the cultural features within those destinations are widely known and admired making it easier to attract tourists, but what about the other destinations?

Even within the top destinations, what would make a traveler choose Jamaica over Trinidad or Dominican Republic over Puerto Rico?

Our always connected society has definitely shifted how tourism destinations can more competitively position their brands and gain market share…but this also means that traditional destination marketing and PR tactics should not be relied upon singularly.

So how do destinations and tourist boards get a true edge over their competition?

For destinations, understanding the balance between push and pull factors that contribute to traveler’s motivating factors to choose a destination over another is key. In the case of Caribbean destinations, for example, where positioning may not always be so distinct from one island to the next, it’s the pull factors (i.e. attributes and tangibles of a destination) that should be exploited in crafting the marketing image. That’s because push factors (intangibles such as motives and needs) are sometimes the same across similar destinations as in the case in the Caribbean.

Instead of creating a general marketing image, it’s more effective to position around the lifestyle of the right people so that a distinct space is carved out. That’s the low hanging fruit. So is matching the destination’s culture to tourism motivations. If your destination is known for its cultural festivals, then obviously create the brand to appeal to that motivating factor. If a destination’s key assets is its golf resorts, then marketing to the lifestyle of golfers is where distinct brands are created.

It’s common to find destinations that are somewhere in the middle where they’re more similar than they are different from competing brands. So far your tourism brand, where are you different? How are you matching pull factors to traveler’s motivating factors that would compel them to choose your destination over another? How are you exploiting your cultural, appeal, and attraction assets in your marketing image?

For starters, an audit of the destination’s assets matched against current travel trends and traveler’s motivating factors will help brand the destination to new audiences and perhaps re-brand the destination to passive travelers.

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