Tourism destination branding largely depends on the partnership of the public sector and private sector.
The public sector (Government) plays a critical role in organizing, managing and governing the tourism sector.
Governments owns and manages many iconic tourism attractions, national parks, heritage sites, such as museums, art galleries, and historic monuments.
In essence, government cannot afford to leave such an important economic sector to the whims of the market and private sector.
It is also the government’s role to alleviate the negative consequences of tourism and to ensure that the sector is regulated and planned effectively.
The private sector mainly owns “support facilities” which are critical for high quality visitor experience such as hotel accommodation, restaurants, amusement parks, and touring services.
There is therefore need for partnership of government and corporates to come up with a total package for tourism enjoyment.
However, for tourism effectiveness and efficiency scholars argue that tourist board staff such as the ZTA must appreciate what drives the private sector.
It is argued that it is ideal to inculcate private sector culture into what are normally public sector organisations and not merely pay lip service to it.
Out of this approach, it is argued that links with the tourism industry have to be close and effective.
It emphasises joint cooperation and the abandonment of political boundaries. Tourism boards should ensure that there is a strong linkage between the message and the product.
If you are to use words such as “dreams” or “paradise” think about whether the product you are offering reflects your customers’ ideas of paradise, train your tax drivers, improve the quality of hotels etc.
The Working Group championing destination branding must come up with a core idea such as “Uniquely Singapore” or “South Africa” a land by possibilities”.
Coming up with a core idea is a result of stakeholder consultations which assist in creating a sense of identity and acceptance of the idea.
Stakeholders should promote the core idea at every platform.
The process of developing a core idea should be inclusive and participatory rather than of top -bottom.
Stakeholder management is the driving force for destination’s sustainability and will be a full subject for another day.
Long term financing the long term government commitment
Tourism scholars agree that tourism needs money for tourism development, infrastructural and superstructure development in terms of transportation infrastructure and utilities.
Tourism strategists should convince the whole cabinet by showing the benefit of tourism to the national economy, to job creation and to foreign exchange mobilisation.
The destination is where the consequences of tourism occur whether positive or negative and it is therefore the focus for planning and management of Tourism, all wrapped into a framework of sustainability where the public sector plays a major role.
In focusing on endowed resources of destinations one has to understand that destinations have many common features but a key distinction is between attractions which draw the visit and the support facilities which are essential for tourism, that support rather than draw the visit.
Sustainability is critical for destinations and this delivered through management of the carrying capacity of tourism resources and the destination management and strategic planning.
All this requires long term government commitment and consistency.
In conclusion, the destination branding framework above is a product of years of research and is summarised as follows.
Destination Branding Strategy (DB) which is derived from corporate branding involves brand positioning, brand identity development, brand promotion, brand association, brand culture, rebranding, brand personality development, and stakeholder involvement and other elements of the brand architecture.
The branding process (for Zimbabwe) particularly or branding involves brand audit which entails assessing the performance of the brand in a given situation.
It involves carrying out an analysis of the target audience in terms of demographics, lifestyles, incomes, cultural orientation and other factors.
It is not a one size fits all scenario of going into Europe and think all people will want to visit Zimbabwe.
It also involves an analysis of the target market.
Competitor analysis is a critical element in the branding process as it analyses the performance of competitors in order to craft strategies to outcompete them and consolidating own position. This becomes the basis of differentiation.
However, branding on its own may not entirely influence the performance of a DB or tourism performance in general.
Intervening forces at macro-level can affect the branding process directly.
The forces have to do with political unity, the commitment of government in the long term and a united and consistent message.
Other macro-economic fundamentals such as economic stability, investment, infrastructural development and others can affect tourism performance directly.
These fundamentals can directly affect destination brand performance and ultimately the performance of tourism generally.
Lastly, the DB strategy requires that Monitoring and Evaluation be adopted to ensure a continuous improvement on destination branding strategy as determined by changing circumstances.
The M&E approach is important in this dynamic and fast changing world.
The processes and factors above ultimately determine the destination branding status ,competitive edge and the performance of tourism generally to contribute to a country’s GDP