Using Place Branding to Restart Marketing in Travel and Tourism

Place branding ideas that will strategically enhance your hotel marketing efforts and assist in post-coronavirus recovery.

Place branding refers to creating an identity for a location, such as a city, town, or state. The idea started to gain traction a few years ago as a way to attract visitors, businesses, investors, and residents to various destinations. As has happened after some other disasters, place branding might provide an effective way to help enhance marketing in travel and tourism. Consider some hotel marketing ideas to use to help restart tourism by using place marketing concepts after the outbreak of coronavirus.

Enhancing marketing in travel and tourism with place branding after coronavirus

Right now, news of the COVID-19 outbreak has consumed attention all over the world. Governments have imposed various travel bans, stay-at-home orders, and social distancing directives. Naturally, tourism marketing companies have found themselves in the tight spot of attempting to produce revenues while still acting responsibly.

City Nation Place provides an entire publication dedicated to place branding. According to that publication, even more than the current lost revenues and profits, the damage to the reputation of some states and cities could take a long time to repair. At the same time, they have observed some localities responding to disasters better than others. Anybody who is involved with marketing in travel and tourism can benefit from examining some case studies about the way certain destinations have responded to disasters in a way that could enhance or detract from their brand.

California wildfires and the California Wine Country

During 2019, wildfires made the news all too frequently. Locations hit by these fires include California, the Amazon, and Australia. In a reference to earlier fires that affected California’s Wine Country, the CEO of Visit California said that the destruction impacted less than one percent of the entire state. At the same time, that’s not the picture that people from elsewhere got from media coverage. Instead, it appeared as if the entire state was burning.

Obviously, news stories about blazing infernos can attract attention. Factual stories that mention that the fires only affected five wineries and less than two percent of California grapes rarely get much notice by the public. Still, Visit California responded by organizing a feast to help raise funds for assistance and promote the resilience of the residents. They held the celebration, called The Grateful Table, in a field that bridged both Napa and Sonoma Counties. The successful event raised about $150,000 and perhaps best of all, attracted very positive media attention to California Wine Country.

Puerto Rico and Hurricanes Irma and Maria

Most people have probably seen images of devastated landscapes and cityscapes after Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico. Images of desperate pleas for water, food, and supplies also made the top of the news cycle. While this narrative did help ignite relief efforts, it also had some negative long-term ramifications.

Even a year later, people sympathized with the island territory, but they no longer wanted to make travel plans to visit. According to the CEO of Discover Puerto Rico, Brad Dean, news on the anniversary of the disasters did more to remind people of unfinished repair work than to inform them of all of the projects that had been successfully completed. They worked hard to change the news narrative to one that highlighted the progress they had made and how welcoming and pleasant a destination visitors would find Puerto Rico. Though they faced a tough battle, they succeeded by ensuring that the majority of news stories about the disaster’s anniversary contained a positive message.

How can I incorporate place branding into marketing for my hotel or other destination?

The case studies above illustrated good efforts to rehabilitate the image of an area impacted by such natural disasters as fires and floods. In many ways, people should compare a pandemic more to a natural disaster than any other kind. Except for a few conspiracy theorists, nobody thinks that anybody intentionally spread the virus or certainly, meant to get themselves or their own family infected.

As with other disasters, people mostly can’t judge a location for experiencing the calamity. On the other hand, they might judge the destination’s reaction to that disaster. For instance, neither California nor Puerto Rico wasted any energy trying to present a false narrative that minimized the destruction they experienced. Most of all, they simply wanted to show the world the true narrative of the ways that their people reacted, that they welcomed visitors, and that guests could still have a great experience when they came.

Why you should brand your location when you brand your hotel

As noted in Creative Supply, few people visit Paris because they want to stay in a particular hotel. Instead, tourists stay in a Parisian hotel because they want to visit Paris. Just as in other kinds of real estate, location matters a lot. You should consider this if you’re looking for hotel marketing ideas for a big city, tropical beach, or even a convenient suburban location beside a major freeway, airport, or business district.

Naturally, you want to sell the value and attractiveness of your hotel; however, you will miss opportunities if you don’t also promote the attractiveness of your address. In order to develop this asset, you should think about ways to invest in it. Your investment might consist simply of helping to promote it as you promote your own property. During this time of a worrisome disease outbreak, you can also consider investing by figuring out ways that your hotel can help your community.

For instance, if you the chefs and staff of your closed dining room don’t have enough to do, perhaps you could see if local hospital employees could use your catering services or even a wing of your underutilized rooms to house traveling nurses. You don’t even necessarily have to give all this away for free, but you might try to offer the kinds of promotions and flexibility that will make your offer attractive. By engaging in this kind of enlightened self-interest, you will also have a chance to develop plenty of feel-good stories for your social media and advertising platforms. You can highlight the good work your local people do to combat COVID-19, and in turn, highlight the good job you’ve done supporting them.

Follow the principals behind place branding 

At any time, you should follow established principals behind place branding to help make your efforts more effective. As documented by Place Brand Observer, good principals of place branding should include:

  • Distinctiveness: Consider the aspects of your location that set it apart from other places.
  • Authenticity: Of course, you will want to focus on the positives, but you should remain honest and highlight things that will matter to travelers.
  • Memorability: Figure out what visitors probably remember about your location and even what might entice them to return or even want to live there.

The publication also mentioned co-creation and place making. Your hotel cannot control all of these aspects because they require partnerships with other institutions, organizations, businesses, and even the government. The section above mentioned the example of reaching out to a nearby hospital to see if they could find uses for your services.

To really drive place branding, you should consider reaching out to all sorts of other businesses, government organizations, and institutions to develop cooperative efforts. As you work to improve your location for everybody, these other entities can also add to the effort and even help promote your hotel.

How place branding will improve tourism marketing for the post-coronavirus recovery

Some hotels may have such unique features that people travel to stay there. Still, people even usually stay in Disney hotels because they intend to visit the amusement parks. You will have a much easier time marketing the value of your own property if you also make sure that travelers understand you provide easy access to a welcoming location that offers them the things they want to experience.

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