EDITORIAL: Destinations that spend big should know truth will out

This week, 189 countries will be setting out their wares at London's ExCel for World Travel Market 2003. It is the biggest-ever incarnation of a show which now calls itself 'the global event for the travel industry'.

In a sector still reeling from the triple-whammy of economic downturn, SARS and terrorism, destinations will be trying harder than ever to convince holiday operators, travel agents and conference organisers of their individual appeal.

To do so they are adopting the language and behaviour of FMCG marketers.

Qatar, keen to emulate the tourism success of Dubai, is using the show to completely rebrand itself. Meanwhile, Mallorca has signed up actor Michael Douglas in a brand endorsement deal worth £3.3m. And a large swathe of destinations are using the show as a chance for their marketing directors to brief operators and journalists on how they are brightening up their national image.

Destination branding has always been a contentious business. In the 80s a rather cynical British public was told that post-industrial Glasgow really was 'Miles Better'. In the 90s we endure the New Labour and Britpop smugness of 'Cool Britannia'.

Unfortunately, major country marketing campaigns tend to emerge to address an underlying problem. While Qatar may be safe, visitor numbers will inevitably be hit if tourists lump it in with nearby Saudi Arabia, where animosity towards Westerners continues to grow.

Similarly, tourism to Mallorca, the golden isle for UK holiday-makers in the 80s and 90s, has been decimated by the now-defunct 'eco-tax' and soaring prices following Spain's adoption of the euro.

Such campaigns can work. Barcelona's rebirth in the early-90s has pushed it up the city break league table to a point where it rubs shoulders with Paris and Amsterdam. And New York's charm offensive since September 11 2001 has led to an amazing recovery in tourism.

But like any successful marketing strategy, such campaigns must be based on 'brand truth'. For example, it is no good spending millions of pounds on positioning Bali as 'safe' if there is any further risk of terrorism.

All the good work could be undone in one fell swoop.

The London Olympic bid marketers, who will no doubt be attending WTM, have a similar challenge. Next week marketing director David Magliano will unveil the logo and positioning statement which he hopes will convince the world that London is the right destination for the 2012 Games.

If London 2012 were to position the capital as the world's prettiest or friendliest city, they would surely be undone by stark consumer experience.

If it is promoted in terms of its ethnic diversity, vibrancy and tolerance, it stands a chance.


Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now


Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers
Ex-M&S marketing chief Steven Sharp consulting at WPP
Wolff Olins reveals new CEO after Apple poaches Karl Heiselman
Glasgow offers £30,000 prize to best digital idea for 2014 Commonwealth Games
Google's revenues surge but shares drop as it grapples with transition to mobile
Facebook beats Twitter to most 'marketing friendly' social media site crown, says DMA
Fableists believe children like Finn should be outdoors enjoying life
Homebase, Baileys and Camelot join the line-up at Media360
MasterCard renews Rugby World Cup sponsorship to push cashless message
Lynx unleashes £9m 'Peace invasion' campaign
Social Brands 100 Youth: Pizza Hut most social youth brand in UK
Cheryl Cole is wild and arresting in new L'Oreal work
Morrisons told not to show alcohol ads during YouTube nursery rhymes
O2 head of brand Shadi Halliwell departs after 23 years at company in restructure
Tesco hit by further sales decline as it turns to digital Clubcard and social network
Branding guru Wally Olins dies aged 83
Duracell short film captures epic Transatlantic voyage
Ash runs Tinder experiment to show smokers are less desirable to opposite sex
British Airways teams up with Gerry Cottle Jnr for summer of rooftop film screenings
Arklu says 'girls can be superheroes too' with doll design competition
Coke enters squash market with Oasis Mighty Drops
Virgin Galactic signs up Land Rover as space flight sponsor
Motorola marketer Andrew Morley departs as Google gears up for sale to Lenovo
US Airways apologises after tweeting obscene image at a customer
Mumsnet admits users' emails and passwords accessed via Heartbleed bug