Destination Marketing: Why Seasoned Pros Can Make All the Difference

September 7, 2021

Destination Marketing:

Why Seasoned Pros Can Make All the Difference


Destination marketing is a unique and evolving specialisation, bringing with it unfamiliar territory, structures and contexts for those not operating in the industry. But as with any marketing discipline, key to its success is well thought-out strategy and each of these should be as unique as the destination they relate to.

It’s an unfortunate reality that many destinations fail to gain expected traction when their marketing is carried out ineffectively, often taking years of realignment, which proves the case for a strong strategy in the first place. Oftentimes executives don’t understand the strategic importance of marketing and communications, or the marketing team working on the project is merely inexperienced – there are many added layers of complexity that in a destination marketing strategy that are not encountered elsewhere, so it pays to have specialists in your teams if there is to be a chance of success.


Get the mix right

Successful destinations rely on a mix of three markets: Business, Tourism and Residential. These are able to happily coexist but are not necessarily split into equal portions, however each is required to create a vibrant, successful and sustainable destination. As such, it’s vital to understand each of their requirements so that your marketing strategy will work for all of them. Understanding their requirements, how they interplay and how they’re different will make a difference to generating success.


Don’t be everything to everyone

‘Playing it safe’ or trying to be ‘everything to everyone’ can have seriously negative implications on the marketing of a destination – this is not the time to be afraid of being different and creating a niche in the market, so make sure you amplify your USPs! A great recent example of this is ‘Stayin’ on Yas’, which has been dubbed the most successful Yas Island advertising campaign in its history. This campaign highlighted the unique experiences that visitors can enjoy on Yas Island and steered away from the typical staycation approach of sunbathing and lazing by the pool.


Paint a Picture

When marketing a destination, you must always ‘paint a picture’. Though you might have a short-term goal in mind, you need to consistently paint the picture of the entire destination. For example, if you have a mixed-use destination but need a real estate sales campaign, make sure you also communicate the features of the destination as a whole, in order to avoid losing sight of its larger potential appeal. It’s also worth remembering that travellers are increasingly looking for ‘authentic’ holiday experiences, so failing to recognise and accurately convey the local culture of a destination will undoubtedly impact its long-term chances of success.


Competitors vs Benchmarks

Looking at competitive sets for destinations can be overwhelming. Given that each destination will overlap in the benefits, attractions and attributes on offer, it might be difficult to clearly define a direct or geographic competitor and their positioning could be quite different. Consider evaluating a few competitors, but focusing more on benchmarks and aspirational destinations that you are personally inspired by.


Design Intent

Follow, too, the design intent from master planning through to launch and ongoing communications – cities and destinations are planned for a reason and usually, that’s because there’s a perceived gap in the market. Ensuring the master planners’ design intent is understood and clearly communicated can make the difference between ‘scatter gun’ marketing that blurs segments and clear structures with identifiable campaigns that achieve goals.


In order to develop a strong and sustainable brand that is correctly communicated and comprehensively understood by consumers is both a challenging and vital focus of the marketing strategy and destinations that are fragmented (structurally or strategically) struggle with brand development. In summary, marketing a destination calls for experts – seasoned professionals who clearly understand the complexity of destination marketing – a subject quite unlike any other.

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