In tourism marketing, it's becoming more and more complex to convince potential guests of themselves and to book travel. For decades, tourism marketing was characterized by interchangeable topic marketing: “Wanderbare Österreich” differs only slightly from the Allgäu hiking trilogy and hiking initiatives in German low mountain ranges. Social media consultants and advertising agencies then packed these “topics” as (rather less) creative campaigns in pretty pictures. Depending on the agency's ability, happy vacationers and cows laughed on the front pages of magazines, blogs, insta channels or websites, supplemented by identical key messages and irrelevant "come and buy" messages.
Design the brand positioning and make it tangible
A new development in the marketing of tourist services can now be observed: Starting with mountain railways, tourism organizations are also developing into designers of the tourist experience. Destination managers are increasingly involved in staging the brand positioning of the entire tourist region. More and more destination management organizations are hiring scenographers, dramaturges, artists, experience designers, architects or landscape planners and are increasingly refraining from handing out brochures, pursuing tourist information in community rooms or appearing as stand tenants at trade fairs.
Planned communication instead of aesthetic chaos
This development is nothing new. At the beginning of the 20th Century, home improvement associations "staged" the tourist destinations by setting up flower pots and benches for "the strangers" who arrived for the summer freshness. And every spa park, every decorated tourist information, every tour and every evening at home in the towns and hotels shaped the holiday experience of the guests and thus the perception of the tourist region as a brand. Today we see that the aesthetic chaos in tourist regions only creates brand-relevant consumer decisions through staging, scenography and planned communication in (public) space.
Brands are what guests feel
A tourism brand is therefore much more than a logo, moody PR texts and pretty postcard motifs on brochures. Brands are what guests feel. Brands are the reliable keeping of a promise of products or services from the perspective of the consumer. This is achieved by creating feelings. The term imagineering was identified in amusement and adventure parks. It stands for the combination of the two terms "imagination" and "engineering". Walt Disney is said to have invented it in 1952 and soon founded a subsidiary called Walt Disney Imagineering. In this company, interdisciplinary experts such as copywriters, set designers, technical engineers, lighting and sound designers, screenwriters, scenographers, exhibition designers, landscape planners and architects developed new amusement parks and magical storyboards. The common goal of all of them was to invent new attractions and experiences.
Giving meaning to places
Many tourism experts have denounced this strategic experience planning with experience design methods in tourism as 'disneying'. But the criticism came up short. Rather, brand management in tourism has changed significantly since 1999 at the latest and has meanwhile established itself as communication of brand contact points in the (public) experience area. At that time, Pine and Gilmore coined the term “adventure society” with their publication “Welcome to the experience economy” (1998) and propagated a fundamental change. After traveling through Europe, they published another publication asking companies to appoint a chief experience officer to ensure successful brand management. Its task was to develop, design and manage a rich portfolio of "Place Making Experiences". This is intended to open up new income and sources of profit in a world in which authenticity shapes consumer behavior. The main responsibility of the Chief Experience Officer in destinations is to ensure that the experiences of the consumers in the “places” correspond to what one stands for as a company and brand.
Content for modern communication channels
Today, authenticity is more important than ever when trying to manage the tourism brand. Place-making is communication in space with authentic, honest stage utensils such as attractions, museums, encounter areas, everyday experiences, lost places, views and insights into stage designs such as city centers, urban, river, lake, mountain and natural landscapes. Place branding follows as a logical consequence of this and uses modern communication channels from YouTube to Snapchat, from Twitter to Google Earth to bring the authentic stage sets of the most attractive travel destinations into the world as “snackable content”. Supported by the main multipliers for tourism destinations, the travelers themselves who like and share the content on social media.
Communication in space (or place making) as a marketing tool has three functional areas:
1. Service design: The destination management organization relieves the guest of everything that is pure everyday life in order to free up time for intensive experiences. The tourist experience space is systematically designed as a leisure hub for all outdoor/cultural/culinary activities along the brand positioning.
2. Experience planning: Communication in space is the planned design of the customer journey along the positioning of a tourist brand (place brand). The entire travel experience is a value chain of transactions, services and behavior of the hosts, which together represent the travel experience – in the age of instagrammability, the brand-compliant design of these ad hoc experiences is particularly important.
3 . Habitat design: The destination management organization from Copenhagen defines a new guiding concept in tourism management called "Localhood" and identifies the temporary experience of everyday culture in the ultra-local neighborhood as one of the most important motives of modern travel:
“Today, fewer and fewer people want to be identified as tourists. Instead, new generations of travellers seek out experiences that not only provide a photo opportunity, but also get their hands ‘dirty’ and immerse them in the destination. The travellers seek out a sense of localhood, looking to experience the true and authentic destination – that which makes a destination unique. With the increasing number of providers and businesses that tap into the sharing and collaborative business potential, travellers gain increasing access to the local travel experience.” (Wonderful Copenhagen 2016, p. 5)
That means that the authentic experience of the local peculiarities and real idiosyncrasies of a destination, the living of the everyday culture of the inhabitants and the encounter with local people (locals and visitors) are among the great desires of today's travelers. For tourism experts, this means new tasks, but also new opportunities.