Updated April 2023 – You know that you offer the most amazing views of the ocean from your sailboat excursions, and you rely on your online marketing strategy to promote your once-in-a-lifetime experience to people around the world. However, sometimes you need to look beyond your own business in order to truly succeed as a tour and activity operator. Sometimes, you have to work to promote your entire destination.

To do this, you will want to create a destination marketing strategy as well as a destination branding strategy. But before you develop and implement these important business strategies, you need to know the difference between place and destination marketing.

What is destination marketing?

Destination marketing in tourism refers to a strategy that is often developed by a destination marketing organization. The organization is typically made up of travel leaders from a particular area, and can include tour and activity operators. Together, these travel industry professionals work to promote the destination or region as a whole. They highlight the various attractions and things to do, and they seek to target specific market segments who would be most likely to visit their destination.

The best destination marketing strategies focus on a specific theme. For example, your oceanfront destination may be promoted as a relaxing place to stay and play on the beach, whereas a mountainside community may define itself as a ski town. The destination marketing organization should come to an agreement on a common theme, and make that the forefront of all marketing materials.

Destination marketing examples

Destination marketing is all about promoting a specific location or destination to potential visitors. One great example of destination marketing is Visit Scotland’s “Scottish Spirit” campaign, which showcases the country’s unique culture, stunning landscapes, and iconic landmarks to entice visitors to explore Scotland. Another example is the “Incredible India” campaign, launched by the Indian government’s tourism board, which highlights the country’s rich history, diverse culture, and natural beauty to attract tourists from around the world. In both cases, the marketing is centered around the destination itself, rather than a particular brand or product, and seeks to create an emotional connection with potential visitors by tapping into their sense of adventure, curiosity, and wanderlust.

How tour operators are involved

Now, let’s take a look at how tour operators are involved in tourism destination branding.

Developing unique tours and experiences

By working closely with local businesses and attractions, tour operators can develop itineraries that highlight the most interesting and exciting aspects of a location, while also providing visitors with an immersive and authentic experience. For example, a tour operator in Italy might create a food and wine tour that takes visitors to local wineries and restaurants, while also providing opportunities to learn about the history and culture of the region.

Marketing and advertising campaigns

Tour operators often have a deep understanding of the target audience and can provide valuable insights into what will resonate with potential visitors. By leveraging their expertise and networks, tour operators can help to amplify a destination’s message and reach a broader audience. For example, a tour operator might collaborate with a local tourism board on a social media campaign or produce a video showcasing the destination’s top attractions.

Partnership and collaboration with suppliers

Another way in which tour operators contribute to destination marketing is through partnerships and collaborations with local suppliers. Through building relationships with local businesses, tour operators can offer unique experiences and support the local economy. This is especially important in the tourism industry, where many small businesses rely on visitor spending to stay afloat. Tour operators can help to showcase these local suppliers by featuring them in their marketing materials and offering their products and services as part of their tours. This not only benefits the suppliers themselves but also adds value for visitors who are looking for an authentic and immersive experience.

The importance of networking in tourism cannot be overstated, as it enables tour operators to build strong relationships with local businesses and create a mutually beneficial ecosystem.

Promoting visitor referrals

what is destination branding

Tour operators often rely heavily on word-of-mouth recommendations to attract new customers, and destination marketers can play a key role in facilitating this process. By promoting a destination effectively and creating positive associations with it, destination marketers can help to build a strong brand reputation that encourages visitors to share their experiences with others. This, in turn, can lead to increased referrals and repeat business for tour operators who offer experiences that align with the destination’s brand values and messaging.

Tour operators can also help to generate referrals for a destination by creating a memorable and engaging experience for visitors. When visitors have a positive experience with a tour operator, they are more likely to recommend the destination to friends and family members.

What is destination branding?

While the similarities between destination marketing and branding are similar in the sense that the goal of both is to promote the region as a whole, there are a few distinct differences between these two important strategies. Rather than seeking to cause an influx of travelers during a specific time period, a destination branding strategy works to improve the general perception of the destination among a large group of people.

To start, a destination branding organization must identify what people know about the region, and also highlight what they may not know. Everyone knows that a city on the shores of the ocean is going to have great beaches, but do they realize that your town also has a historic downtown area with several notable attractions? With destination branding, the organization will often highlight lesser-known facts about the area in hopes of improving or changing the general perception of the region.

Destination branding examples

Tourism destination branding is a crucial aspect of destination marketing, as it helps to create a unique identity and position a location in the minds of potential visitors.

Some successful examples of destination branding include “I Amsterdam” for Amsterdam, Netherlands, which has become an iconic symbol of the city’s open and welcoming culture. Another example is “Pure Michigan” for the state of Michigan in the United States, which emphasizes the state’s natural beauty and outdoor recreation opportunities. In Australia, the state of Queensland has adopted the brand “Beautiful one day, perfect the next” to promote its warm climate and stunning beaches.

These tourism destination branding campaigns have been successful in attracting visitors and creating a memorable image of the destination in the minds of travelers. They showcase the importance of creating a unique and compelling brand identity that aligns with the destination’s values and resonates with potential visitors.

Importance for tour operators

For tour operators, destination branding is incredibly important as it helps to differentiate their offerings and create a sense of place for visitors. 

Creative a unique brand identity

When a destination has a strong and recognizable brand identity, it becomes easier for tour operators to market their products and services to potential customers. By aligning their offerings with the destination’s brand values and messaging, tour operators can tap into the emotional connection that visitors have with the location, and create experiences that resonate with them on a deeper level. This, in turn, can lead to increased customer loyalty, repeat business, and positive word-of-mouth recommendations.

Offering authentic experiences

Visitors are increasingly looking for experiences that are genuine, immersive, and reflective of the local culture and way of life. By offering these types of experiences, tour operators can create a sense of connection and authenticity that resonates with visitors and helps to build a positive brand reputation for the destination. In contrast, if tour operators offer generic or stereotypical experiences that don’t reflect the destination’s unique identity, they run the risk of diluting the brand and turning visitors off. 

Crafting a compelling story

A well-crafted story can help to differentiate a tour operator’s offerings and create a sense of emotional resonance with potential customers. By telling a compelling story that aligns with the destination’s brand messaging, tour operators can tap into the emotional connection that visitors have with the location and create experiences that resonate with them on a deeper level. 

destination marketing and branding

Providing excellent customer service to visitors

When visitors have a positive experience with a tour operator, they are more likely to associate that positive experience with the destination as a whole. Tour operators who prioritize customer service can help to create a positive reputation for the destination by providing personalized and memorable experiences that align with the destination’s brand identity. By going above and beyond to meet the needs and expectations of visitors, tour operators can create a sense of loyalty and advocacy that can lead to positive word-of-mouth recommendations and repeat business. 

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How are destination marketing and branding linked?

Destination marketing and branding are closely linked as they both focus on promoting a location or destination to potential visitors. 

Building a destination image

Both destination marketing and branding are focused on promoting a location or destination to potential visitors and creating a unique and compelling identity that sets it apart from other locations. Additionally, by consistently reinforcing the destination’s brand identity and messaging across all marketing channels, destination marketing efforts can create a sense of familiarity and trust among visitors, which can further solidify their perception of a destination.

Communication a destination’s unique selling point

A destination’s unique selling point is the key feature or benefit that sets it apart from other destinations and makes it an attractive option for visitors. By creating a distinctive brand identity that reflects the destination’s unique selling point, destination branding efforts can effectively communicate this feature to potential visitors. Destination marketing efforts, in turn, can use this messaging to promote the destination and attract visitors who are interested in experiencing its unique offerings. 

Enhancing visitor experiences

When a destination has a strong brand identity, it can help to create a sense of anticipation and excitement among visitors, who are more likely to have a positive experience if their expectations are aligned with the destination’s brand messaging. Effective destination marketing can also play a role in enhancing visitor experiences by providing information and resources that help visitors to plan and enjoy their trip.

By working together, destination marketing and branding can create a cohesive and memorable experience for visitors that aligns with the destination’s brand identity and enhances its reputation.

Establishing destination loyalty

A destination’s brand identity can create a sense of connection and emotional attachment among visitors, which can lead to repeat visits and word-of-mouth recommendations. By promoting a unique and compelling brand identity, destination marketing efforts can help to foster positive associations with the destination, which can lead to increased loyalty among visitors. Effective destination marketing campaigns can also help to communicate the value and benefits of visiting the destination, which can further enhance visitor loyalty. 

Key takeaways

While destination marketing focuses on promoting the location itself and the experiences that visitors can have there, branding is concerned with creating a distinctive and recognizable identity that reflects the destination’s unique selling points. For tour operators, understanding the difference between destination marketing and branding is essential to effectively align their business with the destination’s identity and create a cohesive and memorable experience for their customers.

By tapping into the power of destination marketing and branding, tour operators can help to promote a destination’s unique offerings, enhance visitor experiences, and establish long-term relationships with visitors that drive loyalty and repeat business. 

Promote your destination with Rezdy

Once you’ve set up your destination marketing and branding strategy, it’s best to have an online booking software in place that will help you easily manage your reservations.

For instance, Rezdy is an online booking software for tour and activity operators that equips your business to handle bookings seamlessly. With the advanced features that Rezdy provides such as real-time availability viewer, automatic communication, and payment gateway integrations, your admin and duties are automated, thus, streamlining your business and customers’ booking processes.

Furthermore, as a Rezdy booking software customer, you’ll have instant access to the industry’s biggest operator marketplace, Rezdy Channel Manager. With over 25,000 active resellers ready to resell your products, broadening your distribution channels has never been easier.

Curious to see how Rezdy can fit within your business? Start your FREE 21-day trial today, or book a demo to understand our products in greater detail.

If you enjoyed this article, then be sure to subscribe to the Rezdy newsletter, where you’ll receive up-to-date learnings from the experiences industry, straight into your inbox.

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