Research Paper (undergraduate), 2010
SYNERGISM BETWEEN ONLINE BRANDING AND PROMOTION OF TOURISM DESTINATION: REVIEW IN THE CONTEXT OF DESTINATION MANAGEMENT ORGANIZATIONS (DMOs)
The present study is based on exploring the link between online branding and tourism destination’s promotion. From the last two decades, the online media(s) and internet tools contributing enormously in promotion of products as well as services. With the advent of globalization, the service sector also upgraded and the world-class customers are emerged. Henceforth, the promotion of tourism destination by using the online media(s) has drawn extensive attention with ample amount of opportunities. The strategic role played by internet and online technologies in the promotion of tourism destinations across the globe has been catching the attention of researchers to fully explore this segment and utilizing it to earn the desired results. The overall process of online branding contributes in the worldwide promotion of tourism destinations’ and ultimately it helps to secure the sustainable competitive advantage. There are several case studies of the tourism destinations which preferred and utilized the latest online technologies as their main conduit to promote and nourish their destinations to reach their potential markets and able to promote it and also creating the wider scope for future online branding strategies. The findings of the study suggesting also considered the online branding strategies along with traditional methods of destination branding.
Keywords: Online branding, Tourism destination promotion, Online branding Strategies, Destination branding.
Tourism, being an international industry, emerged as the biggest job provider across the globe. In the international arena, it boasts a greater array of heterogeneous stakeholders than many other industries. Due to huge dividends in tourism sector, there have been many new entrants among the players on the tourism stage, shifts in market share and balance of power, changes in political perceptions of tourism and a growing recognition of the importance of tourism to an ever-increasing number of national and regional economies.
In the present era of globalization and digital technologies, the role of brands as well as branding are already attracting considerable attention. With the advent of World Wide Web (www) in 1993, the internet has revolutionized the businesses and commercial organizations and new dimensions have begun in the online markets across the globe. Internet shown the potential of grown explosively beyond the national boundaries and it proved to be the vital tool in terms of online branding of products and also helpful in generating the curiosity amongst the present and potential customers. Internet also one of the inexpensive medium as compared to the traditional ones and it also facilitates the two-way communication between providers and consumers.
Technological progress and tourism have been going hand in hand for years (Poon, 1993; Sheldon, 1997). The use of internet is mounting and people continue turning to it for more information about tourism destinations. The one of the significant definition of tourism destinations by Buhalis (2000, p. 97), he defined the tourism destinations as geographical areas and can be interpreted as amalgams of tourism products and services. They offer an “integrated experience to consumers”. A tourism destination is defined by the Word Tourism Organization (WTO) as "a physical space in which the visitor spends at least one night. It includes tourism products such as support services and attractions, and tourism resources within one day's return travel time" (WTO 2009, Handbook on Tourism destination Branding).
The area of tourism destination branding already attracted lot of attention and lot of researchers given the definitions. Destination branding can be defined as the development and active management of destination brands. The development of brand names, logos or symbols may push a destination’s competitive edge, although the destination management needs to plan carefully because branding decision are of a strategic and long-term nature (Caldwell & Freire, 2004; Okoroafo, 1989).
Although branding is not a new concept, the study of destination branding is a relatively recent addition to the field of tourism research (Ricardo, 2009). The notion of branding has only recently started to expand into the tourism industry and apparently became a topic of examination in the late 1990s (Pike, 2002; Tasci & Kozak, 2006). According to Kerr (2006, p. 277), a destination brand is defined as a “…name, symbol, logo, word or other graphic that both identifies and differentiates the destination; furthermore it conveys the promise of a memorable travel experience that is uniquely associated with the destination; it also serves to consolidate and reinforce the recollection of pleasurable memories of destination experience”. Another most recognized definition of destination branding is presented by Cai (2002, p. 722), who claims destination branding is “…selecting a consistent element mix to identity and distinguish it through positive image building; unlike typical goods and services, the name of a destination brand is relatively fixed by the actual geographic name of the place”. Over the years, further definitions of destination branding were developed by a number of authors (Blain, Levy, & Ritchie, 2005; Gnoth, 2008; Morgan et al., 2004), leading to a greater complexity in the literature about destination branding. In the tourism destination context, six benefits of branding were identified by Clarke (2000): (1) tourism is typically a high involvement activity, branding helps to reduce the choice; (2) branding helps in reducing the impact of intangibility; (3) branding conveys consistence across multiple outlets and through time; (4) branding can reduce the risk factors attached to decision making about a holiday; (5) branding facilitates precise segmentation; (6) branding helps to provide a focus for the integration of producer efforts, helping people to work towards the same outcome. Tasks of DMOs cover numerous management and marketing activities: DMOs attempt to enhance long-term prosperity of locals and maximize profit of local businesses. In addition, destination managers should maximize positive multiplier effects and optimize tourism impacts. The latter includes the creation of sustainable balance between economic profit and socio-cultural and environmental costs. Buhalis (2000, p. 100) defines destination marketing tasks which goes beyond traditional business marketing approach. Destination promotion has to operate as a mechanism to facilitate regional development objectives and to rationalize the provision of tourism; ensures equitable returns-on-resources-utilized for the production, delivery of tourism services; needs to care for the regeneration of resources used in the destination. Therefore, destination promotion is a strategic mechanism and not only a sales tool. As such, it requires a certain way of strategic thinking with a particular focus on local stakeholders and destination resources.
It is obvious that online communication is one of the major pillars of destination promotion and includes all communication channels, instruments and strategies used by DMOs to transfer brand issues. On a primary level online communication is driven by local governments to different stakeholders, secondarily it includes tourism promotion to business and leisure groups and on a tertiary level word of mouth can have strong impact on the destination brand (Trueman et al., 2004). Brand promises have to be communicated to various groups of stakeholders in the tourism destination. These co-producers need to be aware that they play a significant role in creating tourist experiences. Without awareness, a destination brand identity can hardly be created (Burmann & Zeplin, 2006). E-communication of destination brands can be interpreted as a process that starts with an activity by a sender who usually has actively developed a brand. Within the communication process another individual or group of individual receives the brand message. The brand itself is message and medium at one time (Adjouri & Büttner, 2008, p. 70). The sender creates the brand whilst communicating it: in a destination context brand communication can play an important role in satisfying stakeholder needs. The brand communicator can create a strong corporate attitude by convincing local stakeholders of the destination’s value and unique resources. Brand communication has a strong impact on the brand itself and thus, on the brand identity. Online communication patterns (e.g., modes, sources, channels) can be manifold and it can be assumed that we find various communication characteristics in different tourism destinations.
The present age is the age of technological mediums. The internet already became an effective medium for both sales as well for marketing purposes. According to Computer Industry Almanac report (2009), there are more than 1.5 billion active internet users in the world and it still increasing with rapid pace. Hence, the trend of online branding and marketing also pick up the pace and now it becomes mandatory for the service providers especially in the tourism sector to show their presence on internet.
The region of Jammu, India received more than 8 million pilgrim tourists for both Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji Shrine (SMVDJS) and for Shri Amarnath Ji Yatra (SAJY). After the pilgrimage, these huge numbers also move towards the other alternative options for tourism activities. Majority of the pilgrims as well as the tourists visited Jammu region already pre-planned their itinerary by themselves or customized from their travel advisors. Therefore, the need for providing information to them means to earn the economically future dividends. The social interaction and social development also depends on these tourists. Now-a-days, the trends for searching on internet also very popular and well utilizes by the potential tourists. Therefore, to cater all such needs and to explore more the preferences of tourists and to analyze the present policies of Destination Management Organizations (DMOs) providing services for Jammu region, this study helps to guided towards the more fruitful planning so that desire results could have been achieved.
The majority of the literature on e-branding and tourism promotion focuses on the usage of new age technologies like virtual touring and decision making process regarding the choice of destination. The persual of the literature brings out the mind set of the next millennium travelers who are time constraint and most of the time relies on the virtual search for making their vacation decisions.
Although the branding literature commenced during the 1940s, the ﬁrst publications related to destination branding did not emerge until half a century later. A review of 74 destination branding publications by 102 authors from the ﬁrst 10 years of destination branding literature (1998–2007) found at least nine potential research gaps warranting attention by researchers. In particular, there has been a lack of research examining the extent to which brand positioning campaigns have been successful in enhancing brand equity in the manner intended in the brand identity. Steven Pike (2009) in his study reports the results of an investigation of brand equity tracking for a competitive set of destinations in Queensland, Australia between 2003 and 2007. A hierarchy of consumer-based brand equity (CBBE) provided an effective means to monitor destination brand positions over time. A key implication of the results was the ﬁnding that there was no change in brand positions for any of the ﬁve destinations over the four year period. This leads to the proposition that destination position change within a competitive set will only occur slowly over a long period of time. The tabulation of 74 destination branding case studies, research papers, conceptual papers and web content analyses provides students and researchers with a useful resource on the current state of the ﬁeld. Gyehee Lee, Liping A. Cai & Joseph T. O’Leary (2005) explore the role of internet in attracting visitors and facilitating their trip planning and reservations. The website of a destination has become a crucial branding channel. However, electronic branding has yet to be adequately conceptualized, particularly in the context of destination marketing. The current study aims to ﬁll this gap through the analysis of the 50 states’ ofﬁcial tourism websites. Speciﬁcally, the researchers attempt to delineate the unique selling propositions (USPs) and positioning strategies of destination organizations at the state level through a content analysis of slogans, graphic projections, verbal expressions, and other explicit or implied messages. The state tourism slogans are categorized and analyzed in terms of USP building and market targeting. Among other ﬁndings, ﬁve types of slogans emerge: (1) buy us because we are good; (2) common attributebased; (3) unique attribute-focused; (4) exclusive appeal; and (5) average Joe. Results also show that almost all the states emphasize nature and culture/heritage, and that many of the states’ ofﬁcial websites do not maximize their utility as marketing tools due to lack of consistency among the website elements. Govers et al., (2007) in their study discuss the utilization of enabling internet and computerized content analysis technologies to measure destination image from a phenomenographic post-positivist perspective. In an online survey, respondents were asked to describe their image of one of seven case study destinations that they had never visited before, in a narrative format. The large amount of qualitative data was content analyzed using artiﬁcial neural network software. The results produce a vivid three-dimensional picture of the differences and commonalities among the images of selected destinations. It is concluded that an interactive narrative approach presents an alternative measurement technique that can contribute signiﬁcantly to future image research. Bing Pan & Xiang (Robert) Li (2011) in their study examine the linguistic structure of destination image using China as an example. The phrases the tourists use to describe China’s image follow the power-law distribution and exhibit the long tail pattern. The destination image is dominated by a few very popular phrases, but contains a large amount of phrases in small niches. Analysis on Google keyword search volumes shows that those phrases are likely to be the keywords tourists use when searching destination information online. In addition, the tourists who use those niche phrases are more likely to travel to China. Thus, Destination Marketing Organizations should promote the niche images as well as the commonly held images in their online marketing effort. Jeou-Shyan Horng & Chen-Tsang (Simon) Tsai (2010) discuss the content of government tourism websites as a very important source for promoting a tourist destination’s exciting cuisine and food culture. These websites help to shape a country’s, region’s or locality’s culinarycultural image; they create a virtual experience for culinary tourists. This study explores the contents of the cuisine and gastronomy websites of Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand, analyzing the techniques used to introduce and promote these East Asian tourist destinations’ cuisine and food culture. Speciﬁcally, the researchers examined the capacity of government websites to introduce and advertise traditional and local foods, restaurants, gastronomic tours, recipes and culinary cultures (including table manners and other dining customs). They also looked more generally at culinary tourism marketing strategies, including the use of restaurant guides and certiﬁcations.
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