I advised him that firstly there’s no cookie-cutter answer to this question. It depends upon the competitive dynamics, visitor behavior and the nature of tourism in the region. The manager was very keen and said a regional brand comprising the two counties might be appropriate. However, after the conference, my research showed that the neighboring county had been winning an accelerating share of regional visitor nights, day trippers and lodging taxes.
While I am all for cooperation and partnerships, in the end it’s your customers who determine who your competitors are. In this case there was a very loud message that these counties were locked in a very intense battle for visitors and that one County government wasn’t aware that it was on the losing end of the deal at this point.
This competitive scenario may not necessarily spell the end of a combined brand because close collaboration may create benefits from the slip-stream of the stronger county. However, it does highlight the need for a separate strategy to ensure that the “weaker” county develops approaches that will gain an increased share of regional tourism. Further research revealed that the County executives were detached from the operating realities of tourism and had no regular contact with the local industry. It turns out that they didn’t even have a tourism committee.
Our recommendation to the County would be to first strengthen its internal tourism focus and actively engage local tourism leaders and stakeholders. It should initiate strategies and mechanisms that will attract and disperse visitors throughout the region before or in concert with investing in a brand strategy. Without getting the basics right, investing in a regional brand will have minimal benefits for this county.
Produced by: Total Destination Marketing
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