Peter Watts Special to the Citizen
A common challenge for tourism development in a single rural community, such as the communities of Cowichan Bay, Duncan, Chemainus, Shawnigan Lake/Mill Bay, Ladysmith, Lake Cowichan and Port Renfrew is their limited drawing power. Most of our individual rural destinations are too small to form a critical mass required of a primary destination.
In order to make the most of rural tourism resources, communities must approach their marketing activities from a cooperative perspective. Rural tourism marketing through cooperative branding, helps individual rural communities increase efficiency in the use of tourism resources and the synergizing drawing power of their attractions.
World tourism organizations predict a significant rise of long-haul vacationers; and a demand for leisure in rural and natural settings is expected to grow at a faster speed. Greater drawing power with an appealing brand name supported by consistent image building will allow communities to develop unique and distinct brand identities and establish clear and competitive positions in the rural tourism marketplace. It is noted that while branding is a relatively new concept in destination marketing, there is no lack of good practices such as that of the Thompson Okanagan, Tofino Tourism and Parksville Qualicum to mention a few.
Cooperative branding is a step-up version of the individual community strategy in that it goes beyond image building, as it emphasizes the importance of selecting a brand element or element mix to represent the brand identity.
Cooperative branding removes the restriction of geographic names associated with individual cities and towns and provides a rare opportunity to give the defined regional destination a unique name and allows us to build a unique identity as a result. Existing regions in many parts of Canada are formed arbitrarily, and are numbered or named by their compass locations, such as southwest and north central. Cooperative branding seriously challenges such practice. Especially when we already own a viable regional brand image in Tourism Cowichan.
We can then see that a regional area can capitalize on an organic image even though a specific attraction is not exclusively tied to a regional area. The attraction has a better chance of discovery by capitalizing on the regional organic image so as to build a stronger induced image. For example the Raptor Centre.
Destination branding must take into consideration the four conditions of existing organic image, existing induced image, destination size and composition, and then positioning and target markets.
Peter Watts is the general manager of the Best Western Plus Chemainus Inn.