Stefan Wagener/Flickr
Culture + Religion /19 Sep 2019
09.19.19

How States Forget that Branding Affects the Development of the State in the Field of Tourism.

In the context of global competition, not just companies but entire countries have become brands and are busy building their image on the international stage. Today, tourism is one of the most profitable activities of the state. All because many people discovered that traveling can be affordable and easy to any corner of the earth they heard of and are excited about.

But what exactly affects the choice of millions of tourists choosing a destination for vacation, in spite of many issues such as climate disasters, public transport issues, not to mention terrorist attacks? Candidly, all people watch the news, read newspapers and stay updated about any problems in the world. Therefore, before going on vacation to a country where something non-trivial occurred, people look up for real-time updates to make sure they are going to be safe. And here is where the destination’s branding and reputation makes a great deal for marketing.

“In a way, a brand is a set of promises that implies trust, security, and certain expectations. And indeed, even the most powerful brands in the world own a corner in the minds of consumers,” says Mira Ignatiuk, the VP of marketing at Exclusive PR Solutions. I always agree with her point, that if we accept the fact that the brand is a “powerful idea” of other people, it becomes obvious how the system works. The brand does not live in the states’ office but in the heads of people outside. It’s someone’s vision integrated into your mind – how fascinating is that. That’s exactly what drives tourists to choose or reject a country, and the same notion will motivate investors to give or take away their funds for hotels to bring their networks to the market or not.

So, the concept of branding is crucial and applicable not only to goods and services but also to countries, as well as certain destinations. Country’s brand image is the creation and promotion of its unique, recognizable picture. Branding must be captivating, charismatic, adventurous and obviously sexy! At the same time branding emphasizes the significance and exceptionality of a society differentiating from other branded countries. This vital part of the puzzle requires a state to follow a very systematical approach, exceptional understanding of marketing and data analytics, creativity in design and proper time management.

Creating a comprehensive image of the country goes far beyond tourism statistics. The right branding strategy shall attract revenue from tourism, improve and create new infrastructure, widen markets, stimulate local businesses and attract new investments. The result of a high-quality brand image is stable and has unambiguous positive associations that encourage tourists to continue to choose this country over the rest.

The country’s branding process begins with the development of a brand strategy that naturally includes the current analysis of existing image and capabilities. It helps to reveal the direction the country wants and can move, what are the challenges, goals and if all these coincide and reflect the country’s historical and cultural uniqueness. While strategic planning and goal setting, the best scenario is to engage not only inside government agencies but with civil society and business. Trust us, this is a great source of creativity, ideas for positioning and inspiration.

A meaningful component of brand strategy is the identification of negative stereotypes associated with the country, together with the plan to overcome them. For instance, Thailand is now struggling with the world’s widespread perception of country as a sex tourism destination. On the other side, the very vivid example of rebranding the country is Spain. They managed to completely get rid of the negative image associated with the dictatorship of Franco. Who remembers the sinister Franco regime? No one!

A branding strategy organically is built on platforms. These are culture, art, traditions, history, science, education, famous people, national cuisine, mythology, natural or architectural sights, and much more.

Culture is the most universal one. Although some researchers speak of the confrontation and even clash of cultures, distinctive culture and high cultural achievements have great international appeal. Tourists are keen on discovering cultural experiences. That’s what captures the attention. It is the most important element of “soft power” in international relations. The Japanese tea ceremony, Korean taekwondo, Chinese wushu, Spanish flamenco, Irish tap dance, Brazilian football, Italian opera, Russian ballet, Indian yoga, Swiss watches, French wines, Belgian chocolate, and Uzbek pilaf – all these phenomena are elements of the country’s cultural branding platform.

Another trending branding platform is sports. Let’s take Japan and sumo. Sumo, as you know, is a national sport there, and the number of foreign sumo wrestlers in this country is limited by a certain quota. But when a Bulgarian sumo wrestler started winning competitions, Bulgarian restaurants popped up in Japan, together with Bulgarian goods on the market. Bulgaria became noticeable in Japan. Essentially, the Bulgaria brand in Japan was created by one single person through sporting achievements.

Some African countries have created an international image thanks to the achievements of their footballers and runners. The same scheme. Success in sports and the holding of major competitions are not only a powerful factor in strengthening the country’s image, but also have a significant impact on national identity and attitude.

Education, science and information technology can also serve as platforms for branding a country. Now many countries are positioning themselves as a good place to get an education. The tough struggle for foreign students and campuses is trending. It is prestigious, economically profitable and serves the long-term interests of states, allowing them to solve various strategic problems. A good education system attracts talented young people to the country, the best minds and, undoubtedly, contributes to the formation of an attractive image of the state. And again it is all about branding.

Have a look at Singapore. An attractive image of this small, but economically powerful state, not least has developed due to its educational successes and potential. Singapore schoolchildren regularly occupy leading positions at international Olympiads in mathematics and other exact sciences. Mathematics textbooks created in this country are used in schools in many countries of the world, including the United States. A number of world-famous American and European business schools have opened branches in Singapore. Singapore has the largest number of foreign students in the world.

In addition to branding strategies and platforms, certain country branding tools are also needed. This term refers to tactical methods and means implemented within the framework of certain brand platforms to achieve the strategic goal of branding a country.

Of course, we can’t squander media’s significance and value as it is still one of the most powerful tools. The country must have its sophisticated digital footprint and stay tuned to last trends, engage with the audience and keep them informed on the smallest positive achievements. Let’s take movies. According to The Economist, the famous film Crocodile Dundee played a major role in shaping a positive image of Australia in the United States and New Zealand, due to the fact that the film The Lord of the Rings was shot there, increased its brand attractiveness and tourism potential at times.

Of course, choosing a good platform and effective branding tools is of great importance. But we must not forget that in the end, the actual situation in the country determines its image. Therefore, in branding, countries should organically combine and complement each other’s business and image-building technologies.

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