Destinations provide growing economic support to nations internationally. As the industry develops and grows, research pertaining to corporate strategy and operations has developed significantly; but marketing strategy frameworks are only just developing. In 2014, Kate Midttun wrote a dissertation to adapt existing strategic frameworks for use specific to destinations. Below is the introductory chapter, if you’d like to read more, please reach out to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Adapting Strategic Marketing Frameworks and Models for Use in Destinations

Tourism is one of the largest and fastest growing economic segments, globally. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (2014) latest report shows that, in 2013, international tourism generated US$1.4 trillion in export earnings. This is on track to grow more than four per cent in 2014 and beyond. The industry is responsible for 260 million jobs globally and generates nine per cent of global GDP. The development of tourism requires careful planning and attention, strategic marketers need tools to maximise outputs, increase competitiveness and capitalise on industry growth.

Because of this scale, the development of tourism requires careful planning and attention; strategic marketers need tools to maximise outputs, increase competitiveness and capitalise on industry growth.

In addition to economic importance, tourism assists in building community and retaining culture. Destinations provide an opportunity to showcase a place to live, a place to do business, invest in, and trade with. They can boost national pride dramatically.

 

1.1 Destinations are different

Destinations are unique, differing from traditional business types because the resources of which they are comprised are often not owned by the destination directly. The destination experience essentially comprises a region’s resources and amalgams of tourism facilities and services, which frequently do not belong to the collective destination organisation. It is the responsibility of the Destination Management Organisation (DMO) to manage these third-party resources by representing the interests of all the businesses and individuals who live and work in the area, including both professional and personal interests. (Middleton & Hawkins, 1998)

Buhalis (1999) contributes that destinations require specialised attention because they have different commercial and operating structures to many traditional organisations. Destinations are made up of a collection of assets consumed by the end user, but they are usually managed as an entity separate to the assets of which they are formed. Managing a broad range of stakeholders with differing objectives makes controlling and marketing destinations a complex challenge and unlike any other business.

Many of those generic frameworks derive from manufacturing, retail and FMCG sectors because of the vast array of data available there. But because of the significant number of differences between destinations and traditional businesses, the relevance of generic frameworks must be called into question. The application of these frameworks needs to be assessed for their fitness for purpose in destination marketing and management.

The economic and increasingly popular focus on tourism at a government level produces an emphasis on higher return on investment. Combined with fragmented efforts and increased competitive pressure, this means there is a need for high return, scalable and sustainable marketing strategy.

The concept and development of DMOs is also growing in response to the increased government focus. Much of the research to date on what is after all a relatively new business practice has been on operational and corporate structures. (Inskeep, 1991 and 1994; Pearce, 1989; Gunn, 1994; Davidson and Maitland, 1997)

A major weakness for destinations is the lack of experience of marketers and resource for this rapidly growing sector. Research has been done in part for destination marketing, this is further supported and detailed by Bornhost et al (2009), and Kosak et al (2010).

 

1.2 The Need for Specialised Frameworks

This dissertation aims to provide insight into how to adapt traditional strategic marketing frameworks for use in destinations to bridge the knowledge gap. By adapting existing frameworks, strategic marketing for destinations can help to ensure appropriate utilisation of resources, both in terms of destination consumables and marketing spending, to ensure that the best returns and the regeneration of the resources.

In this sense, marketing is a strategic mechanism that needs to be aligned with planning and management rather than a sales conversion tool (Buhalis and Fletcher, 1995). The strategy is also important to ensure long term sustainability through peaks and troughs of economy and GDP.

In addition to the lack of specific frameworks, consumers who are increasingly faced with more choices and better-marketed propositions need to have a clear understanding of what is on offer. Marketing must be sophisticated in order to achieve this, and that too is supported through the use of stronger strategic framework. For this reason, Sainaghi (2006) commands that effective marketing strategy delivering a clear understanding can have significant impact on competitive advantage of both the destination as well as the firms operating within it.

In view of the requirement for adapted frameworks, this dissertation will review information available to the industry and compile it against existing strategic marketing frameworks authored by Aaker and McLoughlin (2007). Furthering this, the information will then be assessed against what is currently being used by industry leaders in destination marketing. Strategies made publicly available by destinations have also been assessed in conjunction with the qualitative research conducted whilst putting the findings into practice with a growing destination, Yas Island.

 

1.3 Key Objectives

The purpose of this dissertation is to adapt existing frameworks and models used in strategic marketing for the purpose of developing strategic marketing for

destinations. The outcomes for this dissertation are to provide a useful structure, models and tools for destination marketers to use.

To those ends, this is a compilation of existing information, evaluation on existing models, interviews with industry leaders, review of strategies, and implementation for Yas Island. The aim is not undermine the generic frameworks in existence but to validate and further them for use in specific sector of an industry, in this case destination marketing.

In order to achieve this the following key objectives and sub objectives have been identified. The key objectives of the dissertation are to:

  1. Provide a strategic marketing report template, adapted from mainstream templates, for the use of destination marketers
  2. Review existing frameworks and models developed for other industries and discuss their relevance to destinations.
  3. Provide a compilation of information of relevant information that is already known about marketing for destinations, particularly focussing on internal and external analysis and the strategy formation.

This dissertation has three subsidiary objectives:

  1. Review available frameworks for the development of macro analysis, specifically relating to internal and external analysis.
  2. the reader to gain an understanding of how strategic marketing happens in practise at the destination level.
  3. Consider the differences between destination marketing in order to develop more sustainable tourism strategy.

Since a range of factors influence each of the objectives, this dissertation aims to offer insight and tools for evaluation rather than a conclusive and finite list of steps for use. The advantages and limitations of the tools and framework are highlighted, and issues for further research are identified.

 

1.4 Brief Methodology

The research methodology for this dissertation follows three stages. Firstly, preliminary information about what is currently known within the field of destination marketing will be collated, drawing on secondary research. Secondly, qualitative interviews will be conducted to validate or extend the secondary research. Thirdly, the findings will be applied to Yas Island and compared against case studies in existence. Case studies are part of the third phase because they rarely incorporate strategic frameworks, but findings that can be usefully applied against a framework or process.

Information available in journals and through secondary research provide an understanding of how to adapt some frameworks and models for more effective use in destinations. With the information from the literature review there is adequate information for delving into the process and discovering how effective the compilation of frameworks and strategies are for practical use.

Three destination marketing and management professionals have been interviewed about how they go about strategic planning for their destinations. The interview questions aim not to lead the interviewees by asking questions against specific models, but invite them to respond about general questions relating to how they have achieved best results for each section of analysis. This information is then recorded against and discussed against the model or framework in the results and discussion chapter.

To further support the interview responses and information collected, case studies have been reviewed to verify trends in responses and provide a volume of response. In addition, practical application of the framework and models through the completion of the Strategic Marketing process for Yas Island was also conducted to ensure relevance and create a test case for the findings.

The brief methodology of the full dissertation is summarised as secondary research, primary interviews and further case studies applied to the findings. This approach has been used to understand what is available before expanding and providing depth with real examples of application.

As a basis to focus the dissertation effort and scope, specialist or niche destinations have not been considered. Rather, a broad view of destinations and the application of frameworks to destinations in general has been considered, acknowledging that frameworks presented will not be applicable to every destination in existence.