By Jaci Grachen
(Photo from Unsplash)
In a day and age where it is possible to fly across the country or even the world, in less than a day, people have the opportunity to travel whenever and wherever they want. With social media and other digital outlets on the rise, it is common to see what we call “influencers”, and regular social media users, posting pictures and compilations of videos about their trips. This typically leads to a feeling of wanderlust when one views the idealized images and videos. The reasons for tourism range, but in recent years we have seen the destinations suffer from over-tourism. So how could branding, which is commonly associated with brands and products, help a destination handle over-tourism?
Branding Encourages Visitation
Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) play a direct role in the tourism of destinations around the world. They tend to focus all their energy on creating a logo and slogan for a destination (Séraphin, 2019). Logos can include special elements that emphasize popular spots at the destination or important historical places. This can be conveyed through colors, illustrations, or even slogans. However, how can a logo help with controlling over-tourism? The answer is that it most likely cannot. Logos are meant to be a snapshot that entices people, so DMOs should not place all their time into creating a logo with hopes of controlling over-tourism.
What should DMOs do about over-tourism?
In order to brand a destination in a sustainable way, DMOs need to focus on beliefs related to the destination (Séraphin, 2019). With this approach, they will aim to attract mainly visitors that share those same beliefs in hopes to decrease the number of people. For example, regions in the Middle East could brand certain areas based on their connection to the Abrahamic religions. Jerusalem which is known as the Holy City in these religions could be branded as the destination where people believe Jesus’ tomb was found. Another destination in this area, the Sea of Galilee, is known to be the place where Jesus walked on water. Both are examples of tourist destinations that could be branded in a way so that only a certain type of tourist is strongly drawn to the area and visits.
Another avenue to take is branding a destination to attract tourists that share similar values as locals. These values could be things such as environmental awareness, outdoor activities, fashion, and much more. For example, Milan is a world capital of fashion and design, so a DMO could focus on this single aspect of the city to attract mainly fashion-minded people. Although Milan has other qualities like great restaurants, if the DMO could brand Milan only for the fashion aspects then this could cut out the number of “foodies” that visit the city, and in turn, decrease tourism numbers.
The Philosophy Behind the Branding
With all this talk about decreasing tourism, there are many questions that could arise. Are DMOs trying to manipulate people into not experiencing the world? How will a decrease in tourism affect a destination’s economy? Can DMOs choose a certain target group of people to market to over another group? All these questions relate back to the philosophy that is behind the DMO’s actions. In order to morally brand like described above, there must be a valid “why” behind it all. Why is it that Milan is marketing to fashion lovers over food lovers? It’s because Milan is a global fashion capital, not food capital, so the DMO can be confident that there are other destinations that are a better fit for foodies.
In addition, DMOs need to be thinking about how their branding choices could affect the locals and their livelihood (Séraphin, 2019). If a sudden change to tourism happens, then locals could suffer hugely from loss of money. However, if the new branding is implemented strategically and gradually then locals could be shielded from sudden losses with a drop in tourism. Also, the locals’ values need to be considered while planning branding. Are there values being represented accurately or are they being branded as what is most attractive? Since tourists are visitors at the end of the day, the DMOs need to respect what the locals want before planning. If the branding plan leads to an unsustainable, high or low, flow of tourists, then things need to change. Most importantly, the branding plan needs to be modeled for change. Local values can change as the world changes. Just imagine how the global pandemic of COVID-19 has shaped the value and beliefs of communities.
Séraphin, H., Zaman, M., Olver, S., Bourliataux-Lajoinie, S., & Dosquet, F. (2019). Destination Branding and overtourism. Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, 38, 1–4. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhtm.2018.11.003
Myznik, E. (2020). A stroll through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele Ii in Milan. UnSplash. Retrieved February 6, 2022, from https://unsplash.com/photos/ZbduA_dhzpI.