Academic journal article Journal of International Business Research

Destination Branding: The Comparative Case Study of Guam and Vietnam

Academic journal article Journal of International Business Research

Destination Branding: The Comparative Case Study of Guam and Vietnam

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

In the context of a global recession, the tourism industry has struggled hard to battle declines in sales turnover, particularly in countries where inbound tourism is a major economic contributor to national output. To improve their competitiveness, many countries not only promote their natural attractions but also differentiate their destinations with branding strategies that establish their unique position to attract more international visitors and to boost sales. The challenge for destination marketers is how to differentiate their offering from competitors in a growing competitive tourism market place.

In the tourism literature, many authors suggest that tourism destination branding represents the most obvious means by which destinations can distinguish themselves from the mass of commodity destinations around the world (Folyey, Fahy, 2004, cited by Fyall, Laesk, 2007). However, the need to attract visitors requires conscious branding strategies for the different target visitor groups (Kotler, Gertner, 2002; Freire, 2002). Several countries were very successful in applying the country branding concept, particularly New Zealand (Lodge, 2002), Spain (Gilmore, 2002), France, Scotland (Olins, 2002), and the re-imaging of former Yugoslavia (Hand, 2002), other destinations experienced failures (for instance the case of Ontario analyzed by Lodge, 2002).

The purpose of this paper is to compare and contrast the experience of destination branding on Guam and Vietnam to differentiate their tourism products, both destinations possessing many similarities in climate, culture, and beautiful beaches. The paper will focus on the key inbound market segment for both destinations: the Japanese segment. The chosen segment in this comparative study is justified by its high spending potential and this segment is considered for both destinations their important market to attract. The perception of tourism destination image from Japanese visitors will be analyzed empirically through our exploratory qualitative survey with a small group of Japanese visitors arriving in Vietnam and Guam during the same period of study. Thus, the better understanding about Japanese consumer's behavior, in particular their individual perception about the two destination images explored in this paper will help marketers to identify specific destination image attributes and to design appropriate destination branding strategy for this market.

Our paper is structured as follows: The first section presents tourism destination branding research through a brief literature review. The second section analyzes the tourism industry performance and competitiveness of the two destinations of Guam and Vietnam. The third section explores through empirical study the Japanese consumers' behavior and their perception of these two destinations. The last section will discuss the findings and suggest solutions to differentiate the destination brand images in order to improve significantly customer satisfaction.

TOURISM DESTINATION BRANDING RESEARCH

Tourism destination branding has been viewed as the most powerful tool for destination marketers for differentiation strategies, as places have been becoming more and more substitutable. This section presents the complex nature of a tourism product, and particularly the role of a destination image in the tourism destination branding process and its implications to current destination marketing strategies adopted by destination marketers.

The nature of a destination product

A tourism destination is defined by the Word Tourism Organization (WTO) as "a physical space in which the visitor spends at least one night. It includes tourism products such as support services and attractions, and tourism resources within one day's return travel time" (WTO 2009, Handbook on Tourism destination Branding). In other words, it is an amalgam of individually produced tourism amenities and services such as accommodation, transportation, catering, entertainment and a wide range of public goods including natural beauty, socio-cultural surroundings, and atmosphere (Murphy, Pritchard, Smith, 2000). …

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