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Tourism policy and destination marketing in developing countries: the chain of influence

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Tourism policy and destination marketing in developing countries: the chain of influence Dr. Jithendran Kokkranikal (Corresponding author) Department of Marketing Events and Tourism University of Greenwich
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Tourism policy and destination marketing in developing countries: the chain of influence Dr. Jithendran Kokkranikal (Corresponding author) Department of Marketing Events and Tourism University of Greenwich Greenwich, London SE10 9LS United Kingdom Mr. Paul Cronje Clyde Travel Management Kintyre House 2009 Govan Road Glasgow G51 1HJ United Kingdom Professor Richard Butler Strathclyde Business School University of Strathclyde Glasgow United Kingdom ABSTRACT Tourism marketers including Destination Marketing Organisations (DMOs) and international tour operators play a pivotal role in destination marketing, especially in creating destination images. These images, apparent in tourist brochures, are designed to influence tourist decision-making and behaviour. This paper proposes the concept of a Chain of Influence in destination marketing and image-making, suggesting that the content of marketing materials is influenced by the priorities of those who design these materials, e.g. tour operators and DMOs. A content analysis of 2,000 pictures from DMO and tour operator brochures revealed synergies and divergence between these marketers. The brochure content was then compared to the South African tourism policy, concluding that the dominant factor in the Chain of Influence in the South African context is in fact its organic image. Keywords: Image; Chain of Influence, Tourism Marketing, Third World, Tourism Policy, South Africa 1 Tourism policy and destination marketing in developing countries: the chain of influence ABSTRACT Tourism marketers including Destination Marketing Organisations (DMOs) and international tour operators play a pivotal role in destination marketing, especially in creating destination images. These images, apparent in tourist brochures, are designed to influence tourist decision-making and behaviour. This paper proposes the concept of a Chain of Influence in destination marketing and image-making, suggesting that the content of marketing materials is influenced by the priorities of those who design these materials, e.g. tour operators and DMOs. A content analysis of 2,000 pictures from DMO and tour operator brochures revealed synergies and divergence between these marketers. The brochure content was then compared to the South African tourism policy, concluding that the dominant factor in the Chain of Influence in the South African context is in fact its organic image. Keywords: Image; Chain of Influence, Tourism Marketing, Third World, Tourism Policy, South Africa 1. INTRODUCTION Destination marketing and image-making play a major role in influencing how tourism is developed in a community (Crompton, 1979; Echtner and Ritchie, 1993). Considering the catalytic role of tourists and their behaviour in determining tourism s impacts, the ramifications of destination marketing and image-making go far beyond the realms of marketing effectiveness, (Baloglu and McCleary, 1999; Jenkins, 1999; Gallarza et al, 2002; Pike, 2002; Beerli and Martin, 2004; O Leary and Deegan, 2005; Bonn et al, 2005; Wall and Mathieson, 2006; Hunter, 2008). They determine the type of tourists (customers) a destination receives and their behaviour, which in turn will influence the impacts of tourism in a destination community. Image-creation in tourism consists of a number of methods, the most important being marketing communication, within which tourist brochures, advertisements and destination websites dominate (Pennington-Gray et al, 2005). These 2 are effective tools by which destination marketers can create and promote one or more images that will help influence perception of prospective tourists and achieve their tourism development and marketing objectives. However, the overall direction for a country s tourism development is provided by its tourism policy, which provide the guidelines, strategies and objectives for tourism development (Goeldner and Ritchie, 2009). The tourism policy also provides an overall framework for a country s tourism development so that all private and public sector activities are geared to achieve its tourism policy objectives. The national tourism policy objectives help focus on enabling tourism to help achieve the social and economic development needs of the county such as employment generation, foreign exchange earnings, development of marginal and disadvantaged communities and overall economic development. Reflecting concerns over tourism s impact on society, culture, environment and economy of the destination communities, sustainability has also become a key part of tourism policy objectives. Destination marketers, i.e. tour operators and Destination Marketing Organisations (DMOs) tend to employ marketing materials to influence potential tourists decision-making and behaviour in a way that would help fulfil their business objectives (Hunt, 1975: Chon, 1990). The type of tourists and tourist activities targeted are often therefore reflected in the destination image promoted by the marketers. However, images created through marketing materials are not the only sources of information that can influence tourists decisions and behaviour. Images are created organically as well, accumulated through personal experiences, word of mouth and one s own learning and thus tend to have greater acceptance by receptors as the emitters are known and trusted sources (Gunn, 1972; 3 Stepchenkova et al 2007). For this reason, organic images act as a more powerful influence on tourists decision-making process than other sources of information (Gartner 1993; Hankinson, 2004). Very few destination marketers would find themselves in a position to take advantage of the organic images alone to allure their target markets, especially those tourist destinations that are relatively new. The organic images of newer destinations could often be non-touristic ones and fail to relate to the needs of holidaymakers. Despite their limitations, induced images and destination marketing thus assume major importance in a destination s ability to attract its target audience and thus achieve its tourism development objectives. However, it has been argued that Third World destinations experience major difficulties in creating favourable destination images and indeed there have been concerns about the portrayal of Third World destinations in international tourism marketing, especially its context and content (Britton, 1979, Cohen, 1993; Silver, 1993, Wilson, 1994, Palmer, 1994, Selwyn 1996; Dann, 1996; Echtner and Prasad, 2003, Bryce, 2007; Dieke 2010). Often there exist stereotypical images of Third World destinations in the Western societies (Bhattacharyya, 1997; Etchner and Prasad, 2003). Besides the stereotypes of poverty and backwardness, the tourism industry produces information that too often depicts places as unreal and demeanng their inhabitants (Britton (1979). With their less attractive organic images and what Britton (1979) and Etchner and Prasd (2003) consider to be a deliberate portrayal of backwardness and decay in international tourism marketing, inducing attractive images pose a major challenge to Third World tourism destinations. Silver (1993) and Echtner and Prasad (2003) noted that there exists in parallel with the image of a struggling developing world, a glamorised version where tourists from the affluent First World can 4 indulge in luxury and rediscover the unknown. These authors maintained that the portrayal of developing countries in tourism marketing is reminiscent of a colonial attitude towards the Third World. Their collective assumption was that Third World tourism marketing, particularly where this is aimed at potential visitors from First World, has been and is still dominated by the views of First World tour operators. Stepchenkova et al (2007) made a similar comment in the context of the image of both China and Russia promoted to an American market. While local DMOs may strive to present less standardised images, at least to the international market, in many cases the websites of individual enterprises show marked similarities in their imagery to both their competitors and to Western or international tour operator brochures. At least until the emergence of the World Wide Web (WWW), many Western tourists had little or no access to the promotional materials produced by Third World DMOs and had to rely primarily on information provided by tour operators in the source market. However, Internet as a popular source of information is a mixed blessing to Third World destinations. While providing an effective medium to communicate with potential target markets, the Internet could also be a source of information that may not always be in tune with what the destination marketers want the outside world to see. As Dwivedi (2009) argues the Internet allow consumers not only to perceive destination images depicted by destination marketers but also to construct and share their own images of the destination based on information they find on non-touristic websites. As a consequence destination marketers would find their induced images contested. 5 Given the fact that tour operators are driven by their own corporate business objectives, their portrayal of Third World destinations is always likely to be closely aligned to achieving their own goals which may not be identical to those of the destinations. On the other hand, tourism development and destination marketing activities of DMOs are driven by the development imperatives of these destination communities and in many cases those of national economies (Dieke 2010). This would suggest that it is likely there could be an image divide between the way in which First World tour operators and the Third World DMOs portray the same destination. DMOs often try to portray destinations in ways that are compatible with their tourism development objectives while tour operators portray destinations in ways that are best suited to meet their commercial offerings. The customers perceptions of tourism destinations are determined by the effectiveness and reach of these destination marketers. However, the power relations between tour operators and destinations seem always to favour the former. As gatekeepers of tourism destination, coordinators of tourism products, and key manipulators of tourism origin-destination flows, tour operators have considerable influence on destinations success and failure, placing them at a disadvantage (Ionnides, 1998). Given the spatial and cultural proximity that tour operators in the source market have to their consumers, they have an advantage when it comes to reaching potential customers, especially compared to DMOs located in the Third World. It is argued that congruence of images promoted by the DMOs and tour operators, and tourism policy objectives could contribute to the competitiveness and sustainability of tourism destinations. Moreover, as Singh and Lee (2009) argue, consistency in messages and destination image can have a positive influence on consumers perceptions and develop loyalty towards the destination. 6 The objective of this paper is to explore this image divide in destination marketing and to propose the concept of a Chain of Influence, illustrating it through a review of literature and the application of the concept to South African tourism marketing. A content analysis (Gallarza et al, 2002; Hunter 2008) of tourist brochures of South African DMOs and British tour operators was conducted to analyse the potential image divide between the two and to consider the nature of the chain of influence 2. IMAGE IN DESTINATION MARKETING The way in which tourists and non-tourists view a destination is often ascribed to its image (Crompton, 1979). Destination image has been most frequently discussed and researched in relation to how tourists perceive the destination and how the image influences the tourist s decision-making process (Gartner 1993; Pike, 2002; White, 2005). Image has an undeniable influence on tourist behaviour too (Baloglu and McCleary, 1999; Beerli and Martin, 2004; Bonn et al, 2005; Gallarza et al, 2002; Jenkins, 1999; O Leary and Deegan, 2005; Pike, 2002). How DMOs wish to portray destinations and how inbound tourism is envisioned by national tourism planners is often overlooked in destination image studies. Awaritefe (2004) argued that destination marketers place most emphasis on appealing to what they believe tourists want, an action supported by the aforementioned research focussing on the role of destination image in tourist decision-making and Santos (2006) noted how travel writers tended to describe as best images of destinations in comparison 7 to American society. Laws et al (2002) argued that most destination image studies disregard the host community and Tapachai and Waryszak (2000) discussed the role of what they described as beneficial images in influencing potential tourists to select specific destinations. In studying destination image as an element of marketing, it is important to focus on induced images, which are deliberate attempts by the travel trade and DMOs to develop a destination image that matches their development, objectives (Gunn, 1972), which confirms the view that perceptions gained from organic or personal sources can be changed through marketing communication (Anderdeck, 2005). However, destination marketers can control the induced images of a destination only to a certain extent and have to deal as well with the organic images and tourists personal experiences. Beerli and Martin (2004) argue that there are nine factors that can influence destination images: natural resources, general infrastructure, tourist infrastructure, tourist leisure and recreation, culture, history and art, political and economic factors, natural environment, social environment and the atmosphere of the place. These dimensions can be summarised into five A s : attractions, actors, actions/activities, atmosphere and amenities Prayag and Ryan (2011) noted that nationality also appears to be a factor in the context of push and pull aspects of a destination s image to potential visitors. Britton (1979) started the debate on underlying themes in Third World tourism marketing. He detected attempts to portray them as unreal or Disney-like, stressing foreignness yet highlighting Western comforts, the stereotypical portrayal of locals as props, 8 reference to the locals poor but happy lives and finally the sexual appeal of exotic locals. Likewise, Echtner and Prasad (2003) themed the portrayal of the Third World as the myths of the unchanged, the unrestrained and the uncivilized, arguing that the marketing of Third World destinations is still governed by colonial attitudes by which the superiority of the West is reinforced. In referring to Gunn s work on image, Britton (1979) argued that if organic images form the strongest base of tourist decision-making, then the Third World, which has not enjoyed the most favourable press in Western markets, could only rely on induced images to correct these misgivings. The dangerous image of some developing countries re-enforced by travel advisories issued by Western governments have been a long-standing concern of African nations (WTO, 2004). This apparent one-sidedness of Third World tourism images has caused great concern in Third World countries and among postcolonial scholars. However, both Britton (1979) and Echtner and Prasad (2003) failed to examine the way in which Third World DMOs attempted to promote their own destinations, in particular whether DMOs of developing countries portrayed a different image to that promoted by Western tour operators and whether the financial power of the latter alone was instrumental in overshadowing local attempts to alter organic destination images. McGregor (2000) noted the dynamic aspect of both text and images viewed under the tourist gaze and Hunter s (2008) work on a typology of photographic images pointed out how the portrayal of specific chosen sites involved a range of approaches. 9 Destination marketing needs to be closely related to the way in which tourism is planned, i.e. it is one of the tools to realise the objectives of tourism policies. Burns (1999) identified two paradoxical approaches in tourism planning - a) The Tourism First approach with stress on tourism growth and; b) the Development First approach emphasising tourism s role in the overall community development. The continuing popularity of tourism as an agent of development in the Third World has been widely recognised (Opperman and Chon, 1997; Sharpley and Telfer, 2002; Azarya, 2004; Van der Duim et al, 2005), yet tourism growth, as reflected in increased tourist numbers does not automatically stimulate socioeconomic development and regeneration in the Third World. Although many developing countries have experienced a quantifiable success in tourism, recent years have seen attempts to incorporate more sustainable socioeconomic goals in their tourism policies (Burns, 1999; Scheyvens, 2002; Handszuh, 2008) Laws et al (2002) argue that the selection of which aspects of a destination to feature in the market place depends on the destination s special advantages or attributes as well as understanding how to entice the types of tourists that the destination hopes to attract. Cooper et al (2005) and Dore and Crouch (2003) consider destination marketing as the principal responsibility of a DMO. The DMOs marketing planning process in turn follows from the objectives of the tourism policy. Papadopoulos (1989) suggests DMOs should ask: Where do we want tourism to go? How do we get there? The answers to these questions should be found in the national tourism policy, confirming the influence of tourism policy on DMOs marketing plans. 10 The travel trade in the source markets (most notably Western ones) plays a major part in marketing a destination through brochures, websites and personal recommendation Silver (1993) argues that tour operators play a pivotal role in marketing destinations for which information is not readily available otherwise. Such remote destinations are often perceived as primitive due to their organic images - therefore tourists want to see the primitive and tour operators, often having equally limited experience of these destinations, oblige, at least in their offerings. Ryan and Cave (2005: 143) however, argue that images may be both specific to place and characteristics of respondents. and that cognition influences both image complexity and the response of potential visitors. Silver (1993:305) also places the marketing actions of First World tour operators in a colonial context by arguing that touristic [sic] representations often portray the notion that natives exist primarily for the consumption of Western tourists. Whereas most DMOs are led by tourism policies, most tour operators are driven by their own business objectives, which may be different from or incompatible with benefits desired by the host community. Further concern about the content and context of Third World tourism marketing originates from tour operators excessive use of iconic or stereotypical pictures in brochures (Cohen, 1993). As Becken (2005) argues, tour operators use icons to attract attention because tourists who instantly recognise the icon are more likely to purchase that product. Visual portrayal of destinations is a common method applied to induce images and provides what is probably the most appropriate instrument by which to understand the principal approaches to portraying the Third World in international tourism. 11 Beerli and Martin (2004) are two authors who support the notion that DMOs should develop a relationship with relevant intermediaries and ensure that the message transmitted by the trade corresponds with the image desired by DMOs, while Morgan et al (2003) argue for the inclusion of all stakeholders in such relationships. Riege and Perry (2000) go to the extent of suggesting that DMO

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Jul 25, 2017
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