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Sun, sand, sea...and then some

Destination branding in The Bahamas

ONWRD brand agency in Bahamas

Many countries in the Caribbean trade on our natural resources from beautiful beaches, blue skies and warm waters to oil. Fortunately, for those that trade on their beauty, according to the World Tourism Organization, the business volume of tourism equals or even surpasses that of oil exports, ‎food products or automobiles. However, the value of this contribution depends on the quality and diversity of the product and there is an increasing amount of competition between destinations.

Collectively and as individual countries, our destination brands are based on tangible assets. Developing a more effective strategy to attract tourists and investments, for that matter, means diversifying the brand with intangibles that are important to a global audience.

A holistic approach to destination branding is essential for creating an image of distinction and authenticity that will draw in visitors. Taking into account all of the core elements of a destination such as culture, environment, attractions, infrastructure, and services helps to ensure that potential travelers have an enjoyable experience when they visit. This ultimately leads to increased tourism numbers which benefit local economies. As such, holistically approaching destination branding should be a top priority for any successful tourism marketing plan.

This kind of branding requires a departure from the way in which most policymakers think and how they operate. If policymakers operated with the core principles of design thinking they would be empathetic to the needs of the end users, open to diverse ways of thinking and engagement within multi-disciplinary teams and there would be an ideation process to put ideas forward.

The ingredients of a holistic destination brand

Getting the basics right

Building a sustainable destination brand requires understanding the integration of multiple sectors from tourism to finance and the shared needs of the people who represent the ability of those sectors to generate revenue. Whether a visitor or a company is considering making an investment, the destinations that are the most attractive possess traditional features like modern infrastructure, safe environments and skilled labour.

And, ironically, the type of amenities that a destination provides can also build a positive perception that transfers to other areas of government. That is, it leverages a correlation between those amenities and transparency, a willingness to embrace new ideas and to build partnerships.

Everything from transportation networks and public utilities to social services like healthcare and education can have a significant impact on the overall effectiveness of a destination brand. Destinations that execute the delivery of these basic necessities well are bound to attract more tourists, because they make it easier, safer and more comfortable to visit, crafting a brand identity that is modern and trustworthy.

Identifying what already exists and building on it

In The Bahamas, we know what the main selling points are — sun, sand and sea. And while we’re fortunate to have those natural resources in abundance, a successful destination brand requires more than just having the right assets. It also means finding ways to not only market them and provide safe access to them but also, in many cases, to protect them.

In the case of The Bahamas, it’s sensible, from a holistic perspective, to not only market the natural resources, but also to protect them and to work towards adopting a culture of sustainability.

While the hallmark pieces of more traditional tropical tourism like mega-resorts and all-inclusives of Nassau may be here to stay, there’s no shortage of opportunities to work towards a more sustainable tourism product, particularly in the many Family Islands that are relatively untouched.

Destination brands should strive to reduce their environmental footprint while promoting eco-friendly activities and sustainable policies to attract travelers who are looking for responsible tourist experiences. By doing so, they can create a strong and attractive identity that will set them apart from other destinations.

Digging deeper

While it’s easy to rely on the obvious resources to build a brand, many people are looking for something more than just the surface-level beach attributes.

Increasingly, emotional and social attributes can weigh heavily in the decision making process. Destinations that project authenticity and deliver with amenities including creative or cultural experiences like diverse restaurants, lectures, heritage sites, theater, music and museums are in the best position for differentiation. They are the elements that have the potential to set destinations apart. Looking about the region, it’s easy to see how other countries have successfully done this. Just this week, following a two-year COVID hiatus, we saw the return of Trinidad’s carnival, which attracts thousands of tourists (spending thousands of dollars) every year to play Mas. And while carnival is just one event on the very surface of Trinidad’s rich identity and history, it creates an easy and recognizable segway for visitors to travel to the country and interact with its culture.

Culture tells the story of a place, attracts attention, engages with potential customers and creates meaningful connections and relationships that are more powerful than just marketing slogans or logos.

Telling the story

Once the key selling points have been identified, it’s important to craft a compelling story that encapsulates an identity for the destination, creates an emotional connection with potential visitors and gives an accurate idea of what they can expect when visiting.

Weaving together tales of the destination’s history, attractions and culture helps to create a meaningful connection with customers and fosters an appreciation for the destination in its entirety — as something that’s larger and greater than only the sum of its parts. Storytelling helps establish a unique and comprehensive identity for the destination, one that resonates with visitors and encourages them to explore further.

Pura Vida (We all know where this is going, and that’s the point.)

Few destinations have done a better job of branding themselves than Costa Rica. Its “Pura Vida” destination branding is one of the most successful campaigns in modern tourism history. And the idea and promise of a “pure life” is one that Costa Rica has leveraged to bring people from all over the world to the country and to create a strong international brand for its tourism sector.

The campaign’s success is no secret. “Pura Vida” draws on the country’s rich history, natural assets and cultural identity. And it speaks directly to the holistic tourism experience in Costa Rica: an unspoiled setting, friendly locals willing to share their culture with tourists, and a laid-back lifestyle that encourages travelers to slow down and appreciate the beauty of the country.

The Costa Rican government has also played an active role in not only spreading the "Pura Vida" message, but also doing what it takes from a policy standpoint to live up to what it’s selling.

The results of the well-thought-out and holistic approach are evident. In just a few years, a simple phrase has become synonymous with Costa Rica. Through its clever use of communication strategy and masterful storytelling, the Costa Rican government has managed to create an unforgettable image that continues to draw tourists from all over.

Costa Rica's "Pura Vida" campaign has helped put the country on the map as a must-visit destination. With its simple yet effective message, the campaign has resonated with travelers from all corners of the globe.

It’s a clear example of a country that’s done destination branding right and reaped the benefits. Identifying its natural and cultural offerings, taking the initiative to not only market, but also preserve them, and then crafting a story that’s both authentic and appealing has made Costa Rica one of the most successful tourism destinations in the world.

And it could be to the benefit of other countries to take some notes.


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