Image Divide in Destination Marketing: An Exploration of the Chain of Influence in South African Tourism Marketing Paul Cronje Clyde Travel Management …

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" Image Divide in Destination Marketing: An Exploration of the Chain of Influence in South African Tourism Marketing" Paul Cronje Clyde Travel Management …
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  1 "Image Divide in Destination Marketing: An Exploration of the Chain of Influence inSouth African Tourism Marketing"Paul CronjeClyde Travel ManagementGlasgow, United Kingdome-mail: pcronje@clydetravel.comJithendran KokkranikalUniversity of StrathclydeGlasgow, United Kingdome-mail: jithu@strath.ac.uk  ABSTRACT  Tourism marketers including Destination Marketing Organisations (DMOs) and international tour operators play a pivotal role in the creation of induced images of destinations. These images,apparent in tourist brochures, are designed to influence tourist decision-making. This paper  propose the concept of a Chain of Influence in induced imaging, suggesting that the content of marketing material is influenced by the priorities of those who design these materials.A content analysis of 2,000 pictures from DMO and tour operator brochures revealed synergiesand divergence between these marketers in aspects of the induced destination image. The brochure content was then compared to the South African tourism policy, concluding that thedominant 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, SouthAfrica Introduction Destination image plays a major role in influencing how tourism is developed in acommunity (Crompton, 1979 ; Ritchie and Etchner, 1993 ) . Though normally consideredas part of the tourism marketing process, its ramifications go far beyond the realms of marketing effectiveness. It determines the market of a destination, which in turn willinfluence the consequences of tourism in a community, especially considering thecatalytic role of visitors and their behaviour in determining tourism’s impacts ( Balogluand McCleary, 1999; Beerli and Martin, 2004; Bonn et al  , 2005; Gallarza et al  , 2001;Jenkins, 1999; O’Leary and Deegan, 2005; Pike, 2002). Image creation in tourismconsists of a number of methods, most important being marketing communications,within which tourist brochures and websites seem to dominate. These are effective toolsfor destination marketers to create and promote an image that will help achieve tourismdevelopment and marketing objectives.The contents of destination marketing as witnessed in tourist brochures are commonlychannelled towards influencing prospective tourists (Anderdeck, 2005). Destinationmarketers, i.e. tour operators and Destination Marketing Organisations (DMOs) expect  2 marketing material to influence potential tourists in a way that would fulfil their objectives. The type of tourist and tourism activity desired is therefore reflected in thedestination image portrayed in marketing material.Tourist behaviour has been rigorously researched in the sphere of destination image(Bonn et al  , 2005; Gallarza et al  , 2001; Jenkins, 1999; O’Leary and Deegan, 2005; Pike,2002) and marketing material are not the only sources that can influence tourists’decisions (Gunn, 1972). Images are created organically, accumulated throughexperience, and as induced by the promotional activities of marketers (Gunn, 1972).There have been concerns about the portrayal of Third World destinations amongacademics, especially about the content and context in which these destinations aremarketed. Britton (1979:319) observed that “…the tourism industry…producesinformation that too often depicts places as unreal and demean(ing) their inhabitants.”Silver (1993) and Echtner and Prasad (2003) noted that in parallel with the image of astruggling developing world exists a glamorised version where Western tourists canindulge in luxury and “rediscover” the unknown. These authors maintained thatdeveloping countries’ portrayal in tourism marketing is reminiscent of a colonial attitudetowards the Third World. Their collective assumption was that Third World tourismmarketing is dominated by the view of First World tour operators. Until recently manyWestern tourists could not access the promotional material of DMOs and had to rely oninformation produced by tour operators in the source market. This would suggest thatthere could be an “image divide” between the way in which First World tour operatorsand the developing countries portray destinations. DMOs often try to portraydestinations in ways that are compatible with their tourism development objectives andtour operators would portray destinations in ways that are best suited to meet their commercial objectives. The customer’s perceptions of tourism destinations aredetermined by the effectiveness and reach of the destination marketers.The objective of this research is to explore this image divide and propose the concept of a Chain of Influence in induced destination marketing, illustrating its existence through athorough review of literature and applying the concept to South African tourism. Acontent analysis of tourist brochures of South African DMOs and British tour operatorswas conducted to analyse the image divide between the two and their relative dominancein the British tourist market. Literature Review The way in which tourists and non-tourists view a destination is often ascribed to itsimage (Crompton, 1979). Although Crompton’s definition refers specifically to the imageheld of a destination, the image  portrayed  thereof is of significance in this work.Destination image is most frequently discussed and researched in relation to how tourists perceive the destination and how the image influences the tourist’s decision-making process (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  , 2001; Jenkins, 1999; O’Leary and Deegan, 2005; Pike, 2002). HowDMOs wish to portray destinations or how inbound tourism is envisioned by national  3 tourism planners is often overlooked in destination image studies. Awaritefe (2004)argued that destination marketers place more emphasis on appealing to what touristswant, an action supported by the aforementioned research focussing on the role of destination image in tourist  decision-making. Laws et al  (2002) concur that mostdestination image studies disregard the host community.In studying destination image as an element of marketing, it is important to focus on induced images which are deliberate attempts to develop a destination image (Gunn,1972). However, perceptions gained from organic or personal sources can be changedthrough marketing communication (Anderdeck, 2005). Destination marketers can controlthe induced  images of a destination only to a certain extent and has to deal with theorganic images and tourists’ previous experiences. Beerli and Martin (2004) argue thatthere are nine factors that can influence destination images: natural resources, generalinfrastructure, tourist infrastructure, tourist leisure and recreation, culture, history and art, political and economic factors, natural environment, social environment and theatmosphere of the place. These dimensions can be summarised into five “A’s”:attractions, actors, actions/activities, atmosphere and amenities.Britton (1979) started the debate on underlying themes in Third World tourismmarketing. He detected attempts to portray them as “unreal” or “Disney-like”, stressing“foreignness” yet highlighting Western comforts, the stereotypical portrayal of locals as“props”, 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 ThirdWorld as the myths of “the unchanged”, “the unrestrained” and “the uncivilized”, arguingthat the marketing of Third World destinations is still governed by colonial attitudes inwhich the superiority of the West is reinforced.By referring to Gunn’s work on image, Britton (1979) argued that if organic images formthe strongest base of tourist decision-making, then the Third World, which has notenjoyed the most favourable press in Western markets can only rely on induced images tocorrect these misgivings. The “dangerous” image of some developing countries portrayed by Travel Advisories in the West has been a long-standing concern of Africannations (WTO, 2004). This apparent “one-sidedness” of Third World tourism marketinghas caused great concern. In this regard, both Britton (1979) and Echtner and Prasad(2003) failed to examine the way in which Third World DMOs attempted to promotetheir destinations. Their works have failed to examine whether DMOs of developingcountries pursued a different image or whether the financial power of Western tour operators overshadowed their attempts to alter destination images.Destination marketing need 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” approachemphasising tourism’s role in the overall community development. The continuing popularity of tourism an agent of development in the Third World has been widelyrecognised (Opperman and Chon, 1997; Sharpley and Telfer, 2002; Azarya, 2004; Van  4 der Duim et al  , 2005). Yet, tourism growth, reflected in increased visitor numbers doesnot automatically stimulate socioeconomic development and regeneration. Althoughmany developing countries arguably have experienced quantifiable success in tourism,recent years have seen attempts to incorporate more socioeconomic sustainable goals intheir tourism policies.Laws et al  (2002) argued that the selection of which aspects of a destination to feature inthe market place depends on the destination’s special advantages or attributes as well asunderstanding how to entice the visitors that the destination hopes to attract (i.e. benefitsaccruing to the destination ). 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 getthere?” The answers to these questions are found in the tourism policy, proving theinfluence of the policy on DMOs’ marketing plans.Tour operators in the source markets play a major part in marketing the destinationthrough brochures, websites and personal recommendation. Where most DMOs are lead by tourism policies, most tour operators are driven by their own business objectives,which may be at the cost of any planned benefits accruing to the host community. Themajor criticisms of tour operators’ portrayal of the Third World tourism destinations havealready been discussed. Further concern about the content and context of Third Worldtourism marketing srcinates from tour operators’ excessive use of iconic or stereotypical pictures in brochures. As Becken (2005) argues, tour operators use icons to attractattention because tourists who instantly recognise the icon are more likely to purchase the product. Visual portrayal of the destinations seems to be a common method applied toinduce images.Beerli and Martin (2004) are some of the few authors who support the notion that DMOsshould develop a relationship with the intermediaries and ensure that the messagetransmitted by the trade correspond with the image desired by DMOs. Riege and Perry(2000) suggest that DMOs should involve the foreign trade in tourism development andmarketing. In doing so, DMOs could impress an image on the tour operator, which couldlead to the latter’s marketing material being in synergy with that of the DMO. The traveltrade in the source markets plays an overtly prominent role in marketing Third Worlddestinations, (Echtner and Prasad, 2003; Silver, 1993, Britton, 1979), especially of thosedestination for which limited information is available (Silver, 1993). These far-off destinations are often perceived as primitive due to their organic images - thereforetourists want to see the primitive and tour operators, often having equally little experienceof these destinations, oblige. Silver (1993:305) also placed the marketing actions of FirstWorld tour operators in a colonial context by arguing that “touristic [sic]representations… often portray the notion that natives exist primarily for theconsumption of Western tourists.” These inaccurate notions and patronising images portrayed by tour operators are commonly found in marketing material.  5 DMOs would try and portray the destination in a highly attractive manner (Britton, 1979;MacKay and Fesenmaier, 2000) as would be the case in almost all marketing in anyindustry. Having an attractive image of a destination is however only one element of influencing the tourist’s decision-making process – destinations should differentiatethemselves from competitors by building on their unique selling points and strongesttourism assets. Therefore, the content of marketing material should provide more than just a positive portrayal of the country or resort, but should also aid in positioning thedestination in the mind of the tourist.To summarise, a link exists between the destination’s tourism policy and the marketingactivities of DMOs and the travel trade, which the authors describe as the Chain of  Influence in induced destination imaging. Chain of Influence   The concept of a Chain of Influence in destination marketing srcinates from anassumption that the content of marketing material reflects the objectives of destinationmarketers. If one considers a tour operator’s brochure, it could be argued that the tour operator is driven by the need to generate maximum return on its investments. The resultwould be brochure contents that would appeal to its target market segments, thus helpingit maximise profit. In this instance there is a Chain of Influence trickling down from thetour operator’s business objectives, through brochure material to the behaviour of thetargeted market. On the other hand, the DMO is driven by the objectives set out in itstourism policy and would therefore promote tourism products that would help achievethese objectives. National tourism policies often include objectives such as thedevelopment of peripheral areas and are commonly directed towards achieving asustainable tourism development in the long term. A Chain of Influence thus exists between the destination’s tourism objectives and DMO brochure content, with theultimate aim of attracting those tourists who would help achieve the policy objectives.Figure 1 illustrates what the authors term the  Positive Chain of Influence , advocating asustainable tourism approach. In this model, the dominant element influencingdestination image and subsequently the type of tourism to the destination are touristdestinations’ policy objectives. It suggests that promotional material developed byDMOs and foreign tour operators in synergy with the tourism policy would attracttourists who are most likely to help achieve those objectives. Success in attracting thetarget market could lead to a more sustainable tourism industry at the destination, hencethe reference to this model as “positive”.
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