Destination Branding: Internship Report
The idea of brands, brand images, and brand personality are well known concepts but their link to tourism and destinations is relatively new to certain people. Destinations need to be a brand to help their positioning and to create uniqueness to that place. Destination branding is an activity that is related to destination marketing, which is aimed at promoting a particular destination among the tourists by creating a linked brand of various factors such as safety, feasibility, culture, leisure, entertainment etc.
The purpose is to give a brand identity to the destination so that tourists or travelers are able to recognize and share the brand.
Branding within the tourism industry is a process that separates a certain destination by its features or characteristics, creating the identity of a destination. The greatest success means emphasizing the authenticity of the factors that have been linked to that particular destination. Destination branders are using the idea of destination positioning; it is a form of market communication that plays a vital role in enhancing the attractiveness of a tourism destination, a position that creates images of a destination in the customer’s mind; images that differentiate the destination from others and also as a place that can satisfy their needs and wants. A positioning strategy stands for when a company chooses one or two areas of importance to concentrate on and excels in those areas. An effective positioning strategy takes into consideration the strength and weakness of the organization and the needs of the customers and the market. Destination Branding represents one of the important factors for the tourist development of a place. It mainly aims to create value on that destination, from the point of view of the tourists and that of the stakeholders (both associations and businesses), it is important to give proper consideration to destination branding and the factors that are considered while branding a destination as the mindset of the target customers that is the tourists are as important as the profit motive of the company. Destination branding is a complex because it includes elements such as products, services and corporate brandings. Destination branding acts as a roof to an abundant mass of products which may or may not be related and has a diversity of customers.
Need for the study
Since the tourism industry is a sector that is growing rapidly with a lot of potential of yielding high benefits there is a need to develop strong strategies and branding for tourism in India. Marketing strategy and branding of tourism need to have a strong foundation to make powerful brand architecture so as to bring more and more tourists in India.
If a particular destination is studied on and is carefully branded the data obtained in the study can be used to improve or bring in more tourists to these branded destinations.
Destination branding is not an easy task and requires a lot of effort and study into all factors that could come into association with the particular destination.
Scope of study
At present it has become a need to implement the concept of destination branding in the area of Kochi as all others tourist hubs have already done the same, branding the city of Kochi would help the company, ‘My Agent travel and tourism’ gain an competitive edge over other companies as so far no other companies have attempted to brand the destination.
The study “a study on customers’ perception on destination branding at ‘My Agent” in the city of Kochi is concerned in the following areas:
Analyzing the factors that influence branding of the city of Kochi by taking into consideration the available facilities in the city for tourists and some of the basic elements such as safety, political stability etc.
Helps understand which all factors are of priority to the tourists by enquiring to the customers at the time clients approach the company.
The study helps understand the factors the tourists prefer and would act as a feedback mechanism for the effective branding of the destination.
MY AGENT TRAVEL AND TOURISM was established in 2011 by its proprietor
Mr. Asif Jalal and has been running successfully for the past 9 years.
The company originated in the city of Kochi and later spread to other parts of South India.
To attain a competitive edge over other Galileo consortium providers.
‘The names says it, we are your agent’
The company has no other partners and is managed and owned by the proprietor alone with branches at Ernakulam, Varkala, Chennai, Madurai and Bangalore.
The company has 10-20 employees including trainees at each branch
The departments they have are –
Marketing for promotion of various services
Human Resources for handling matters related to employees and trainees.
Sales department for the registration of consortium and sub consortiums for other business clients.
The company provides air ticketing/reservation services to both inbound and outbound clients in both international and domestic market.
The company requests the clients to pay at least 50 percent of the travel cost in advance and in some cases, they do not seek any advance payments such as the case in corporate clients as the payment would be done by the respective company of the clients once the travel is completed.
Mostly guidelines are provided to the clients and for only those who require complete service, the entire visa processing is done by the company and also this feature is outsourced to another agency dealing in visa only services.
For clients who require taxi services for local runs, airport pickup/drop off, sightseeing, long runs with multiple stops, the agency makes arrangements for as and when required, in the case a package tour the total cost covers the cab expenses.
There are two types of tours arranged for students and they are:
These are arranged by providing a customized or pre available package to the colleges or schools as and when they enquire and the company provides commission in certain cases to the tour coordinators in order to receive the package.
Student exchange programs
They arrange student exchange programs to various global universities by connecting foreign universities and Indian universities and enable the students from India to do a part time course or internship at foreign countries and vice-versa.
Medical tourism is focused mainly on Middle East clients as the treatment costs are really high in the Middle East and hence there is a flow of clients towards India and the company takes advantage of this factor.
They offer forex services up to a limit and beyond that they have suggestions of various forex’s that provide exciting rates to the customers of My Agent.
Reservation of train tickets for clients is done.
And for those who require entire coaches, there is provision for entire coach bookings also.
IATA registration is a B2B service, guidelines for registration and the initiation for application are done for other agencies meeting the requirements specified in the travel agent handbook, this varies from country to country.
The marketing strategies adopted are they keep a keen watch over their trip adviser profile, Google reviews, comments and tags in the social medias like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others.
They update their website and social media pages on a regular basis about the changes, new offers, updates and satisfied clients.
They set up stalls at major fests organized by the tourism management authority.
They provide T-shirts and caps to huge groups in the banner of identification mark for managing the crowded groups but in reality, would act as an advertisement for the company.
They promote the offers and exclusive deals via boosting ads in social media.
They have created a Whatsapp broadcast channel that constantly shares new offers and updates on flight rates and changes in timing of flights in case there are any.
While posting in Social Medias they leave hyperlinks to connect to their websites in order to make aware of their website’s presence to the viewers and the website would have more offers and deals compared to what can be found in other social media platform.
Giving complimentary stays or travel facility to corporate clients often ensures they receive business from them further.
Using paid promotion to top the search list in Google so that any tourism related queries would show the company’s profile on top.
They have been focusing on branding destinations in order to market destinations to potential clients by studying the expectations of previous and current clients to cash in these data for the future client.
SWOT stands for strength, weakness, opportunities and threats of the company in their field of working.
The key strength of the company is the efficiency in satisfying to the needs of their customers and treating their potential customers in the same manner as of their customers. Their ability handle the queries from their customers add to their strength as satisfied customers would serve as future potential clients.
The weakness the company faces is the credit settlement i.e. the tickets and other services the agency has given as credit to other agencies and the outstanding credit the company has to settle to other agencies act as weakness, the delay in receiving the money from other agencies and the delay in settlement of others would create trouble in the smooth running of the business.
At present the travel and tourism industry has a new business opportunity i.e. the Galileo and Amadeus consortium business which would give the agency a reimbursement of a percentage from the amount of business they do and also a percentage from the ones that are registered under them.
The main threats the company faces is from the fellow Galileo and Amadeus consortium providers. There are about 3 other consortium providers that act as a threat for the company.
During the period of internship, I worked on handling the consortium agents of the company along with destination branding and the various aspects relating to branding a destination i.e. the city of Kochi in this case.
The company has close to 250 agencies under them and out of this 34 are in Kochi and the settlement of the consortium commission money to these agents and the commission Galileo had to pay My Agent was all handled by me and I was to make sure all these transactions were made on time (both to and fro).
Galileo offers the company 18 percent of every transaction through their software by the consortium agencies to the company and in order to attain more agents registered under the company I was made to market the ticketing software among the agents in Kochi by offering them 5 percent reimbursement of every ticket issued via Galileo by them so that they would register under My Agent.
This reimbursement criterion enabled the company to get an additional 7 agents registered under them, earlier it was 3 percent offered, now for every INR 100000 worth of booking would give the company a revenue of INR 18000 back and My Agent would provide the corresponding agent that made the INR 100000 worth of transaction with INR 5000.
The other task that was assigned to me by the company was to brand the destination i.e. Kochi by identifying the factors that tourists would take into consideration while visiting a place and for identifying these factors I had indirect in person with the tourists visiting Kochi at various places such as airport, railways stations, malls etc.
I was able to identify the following as the factors that are of importance to tourists:
- cost and quality
- political stability
- accommodation facilities
- friendly locals
- sightseeing spots that depict the destination
- entertainment facilities
- weather conditions
- opportunity to experience culture and ways of life
- natural wonders
- easier commutation
- cheap transport
- hospital facility
- cab service
It was identified from direct enquiry that these are the factors that the tourists take into consideration while planning a journey.
And further the factors for branding a destination was further identified and analyzed by enquiring directly to customers while they approach with an enquiry and each previous data is what the company considers as an acting benchmark for the standards the clients expect.