As many professionals operate in the travel and tourism sector, and as the general concept of branding (corporate and product/service) is more and more intertwined with that of stakeholder relationships in practically every conscious public, private or social organization (while marketing and corporate communicators continue to uselessly struggle at many higher levels on who should be in charge…) it is useful to see what the market says.
Here are some excerpts from a press release I received this morning. Nothing dramatically new, but a good pretext to open up our conversation on the relationship between public relations and branding.
For some, branding (not brand…attention) is another way to say reputation which in turn is another way to say communication which is only another way of saying public relations…
For others all these concepts imply different consequences.
Australia ranks as the top overall country brand, according to the second annual Country Brand Index 2006 (CBI) released at World Travel Market, the premier annual exhibition of the global travel trade. The United States and Italy ranked second and third, respectively. The CBI identifies countries as brands and emerging global travel trends in the world’s fastest-growing economic sector(1) — travel and tourism. This sector accounts for more than one in every 11 jobs worldwide. The CBI also identified China, Croatia and the United Arab Emirates as the top three “rising star” countries — those likely to be major tourism destinations in the next five years.
Developed by FutureBrand, a leading global brand consultancy, in conjunction with public relations firm Weber Shandwick’s Global Travel Practice, the global study of more than 1,500 international travelers, travel industry experts and hospitality professionals examines how countries can be branded and ranked according to key criteria. This year’s CBI includes rankings, as well as emerging trends, travel motivations, challenges and opportunities within the world of travel, tourism and country branding.
“Countries can no longer continue to see themselves as commodities. A country brand is more than tourism. It is exports, investments, trade and industry,” said Rina Plapler, executive director, FutureBrand. “We continue to believe that branding is a tremendous opportunity for both developed and developing countries to build preference, consideration, loyalty and advocacy.”
The CBI also reports that new trends in travel and tourism are emerging, and key markets are gaining momentum as consumers are focused on meeting their unique criteria when planning a trip. This year’s trends revolve around “experiences beyond the guidebook,” including:
* By Travelers for Travelers – A new generation of travel content no longer relies on authoritative experts. Technology has given rise to countless Web sites and blogs that are geared to social networking. Travelers are embracing these vehicles to organize and shape a travel community for travelers, by travelers.
* Scarcity Drives Demand – Travelers are becoming more attracted to the scarce and the limited. The harder it is to get in, the more desirable the experience is becoming.
* At Home While Abroad – Many travel companies now employ people of the same visitor nationality to service their tours. Speaking the language is no longer sufficient and now many travel companies promote “travel with someone from your own country.”
With new trends and an expanding global travel community come new audiences that are seeking intoxicating spas, “health-tels,” semi-permanent vacation homes and commemoration trips abroad, e.g., weddings, anniversaries, reunions, milestones and multi-generational bonding.
FutureBrand’s research continues to affirm the importance of practical needs (safety, value for the money, ability to easily communicate, proximity and weather) and experiential wants (natural beauty, authenticity, art/culture, lodging and resort options, and outdoor activities) in a country-brand ranking. It shows that the fine chemistry of practical needs and experiential wants helps define the brand and overall destination experience, and influences how and why leisure travelers select a country to visit.
FutureBrand has developed a three-tiered evaluation system for ranking country brands. This study incorporates traditional quantitative market research from a globally diverse sample. It also includes expert opinions, and references relevant statistics that link brand equity to assets, growth and expansion. The result is a unique evaluation system that provides the basis of our rankings. More than 1,500 respondents participated in a travel survey. Respondents were recruited from a globally diverse sample including the Americas, Europe, Asia, South America and the Middle East. Participants were screened to include only frequent international travelers (travel internationally more than once a year) between the ages of 21 and 65, with a balanced split between men and women. Business and leisure travelers were both included. More than 35 international travel industry experts spanning writers, editors, analysts and hospitality professionals participated. Experts were recruited from multiple regions to ensure a diverse and representative sample of opinions.