Destination branding: Why branding your location matters as much as branding your hotel

by Jean-Guillaume Marquaire , 1 September 2017

When considering how to attract guests, most hotel operators focus on selling the hotel’s attractiveness. But do you really go to Paris for its hotels or the city itself? Learn how to leverage one of the most underexploited assets hotels have at their disposal in their marketing toolbox.

Location as an asset

One of the most accepted rules in the hotel and hospitality industry is the following: “location is key”. Whether it is the new “it” destination, the developing hub, the iconic city or the up-and-coming neighbourhood, one common denominator remains: to take advantage of the location’s touristic attractiveness and capture some of these flows of potential clients. However, behind this golden rule often lies one of the greatest challenges for hospitality professionals: if your location is so essential, then what are you doing to effectively promote it?

Pause and think for a moment: what makes your hotel truly unique? Are your hotel Spa, fitness centre or fine-dining restaurant protectable assets that you can leverage on to differentiate yourself in a sustainable way? If you want to avoid the pitfalls of competing on purely tangible elements and falling into the commoditization trap, then think again. With the rise of digital platforms like Tripadvisor.com where customers can compare hotels across this range of features, most of these hotels’ assets have already been commoditised.

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New travelling era

The tourism landscape has changed and it calls for a new paradigm. Today, thanks to the technical progress and democratisation of transport modes, tourists have access to an ever-increasing range of destinations to choose from: people can travel farther quicker and cheaper than at any previous time in history. In the buying decision-making process, most people are not arbitrating on whether or not they should go to this hotel or the other. First they decide on the destination (where to go) and then decide on which hotel to book. So in the end, if your destination brand is weak then your hotel will have a lower chance of being effectively chosen.

This is where the concept of “Destination Management” comes in. It calls for a shift in the way hoteliers view and market their business: the hotel shouldn’t be considered as the destination itself, but rather the location where it’s based.

Think different

Hotels should view their location as a brand: in order to exploit it, they first need to invest in it. Whether we are thinking at regional or local level depending on the existing attractiveness of your location, the idea is to leverage on its unique assets (the history, surrounding landscapes, attractions, etc.) to create a compelling message for your target audience. This can also be referred to as “Place Branding”. Some successful cases in place branding include the Douro region in Portugal and the city of Dubrovnik in Croatia, which have both become major touristic destinations thanks to effective branding and communication efforts.

Only after having developed their location’s brand can hotel operators leverage this sustainable advantage into their branding and marketing strategies. The key is to adopt a more holistic approach in creating and selling a relevant value proposition to the consumer that is also consistent with the hotel’s location. From concept definition to communication and promotion, all elements should be articulated around the location itself and its key protectable assets to confer to the hotel one cohesive and unique brand story.

The original version of this article was published earlier on Bridge Over Group.