Dr Musekiwa Tapera
A destination should leverage on its culture. Culture plays an important role in moving the current brand image of Zimbabwe as a destination towards its desired brand vision. Culture is central to tourism and cultural tourism is identified as the highest yielding and fastest growing aspect of tourism. Culture is the area that starts to make a connection between people’s interest in the place itself and their interest in the life of a place. What it therefore means is that culture is magnetic for destinations.
A rich cultural life makes a complete place not just a tourist destination. It becomes a place worth visiting at different times of the year and possesses a broader social appeal particularly to the higher end market with a higher spending culture.
This category of tourist is older and stable and desirable at most tourist destinations. It is argued that in order for an attraction to be magnetic it has to have mature pulling power built through many years of excellence.
Events such as Motreaux Jazz Festival, Harare International Festival of the Arts, Cape Town Jazz Festival are so unique and irresistible that their pulling power is intrinsic and is born out of great magnetic ideas without huge investments in infrastructure or marketing.
The ideas generated through culture seize imagination and are compelling by their very nature. Culture also includes sport. Sport in itself can be leveraged by branding specialists to be magnetic. South Africa and New Zealand ride on Rugby while Spain and Brazil ride on Soccer. Bangladesh, India and Zimbabwe can leverage themselves on cricket. People in this case are the only efficient and cost-effective advertising medium for reaching large numbers of other people.
It is argued that creating magnetic attractions is often a matter of taking a basic cliché that everyone knows about a place as starting point. For example, Chinese culture is full of dragons, Zimbabwe has renowned wildlife and architecture, Brazilian Samba dance and Carnivals and many others can be the starting point. Destination branding strategists should utilize the human and natural capital that is readily available.
Knit it together to make a tourist magnet. Innovation is at the heart of creating cultural attractions. However, this has to be stimulated by the right people under right conditions to flourish.
In the Zimbabwean context ZTA can establish innovation groups whose responsibility is to produce a constant stream of innovative and creative ideas which can be circulated around companies, stakeholder groups and individuals who might add value to them.
The popular management creed that everyone is creative should be avoided.
The brand of places needs to be managed sustainably for the long term and branding specialists such as Anholt provides four basic qualities that are essential motivations in leading the brand management process.
Firstly it is argued that wisdom is essential because it is often difficult to make the right choices between the short- term promotion and long term brand building. Secondly, scholars call for patience which is necessary because brand of destinations move very slowly. The brand of the country that one inherits today may be the cumulative effect of years of management. It will take decades to change it.
Thirdly, it is argued that creative imagination is important because innovation and creativity can create real progress, change the brand and keep it going and healthy. Fourthly, care is always important because only people who have the best interest of the place at heart can be trusted always to do the right thing for its ecology, economy and community.
Lastly, Anholt argues that besides attributes of a destination branding strategy (efficiency, inclusiveness, consensus, vision and expertise) qualities such as poetry, ceremony and cultural rituals even romance can play a significant part in the success of the venture.
Consult writers, poets and comedians and film makers for imaginative ways of presenting issues. Anholt calls for doing things differently from the usual bureaucratic managerialism, formal meetings and conferences.
Authenticity and originality through culture
Marketers should not conjure up messages which are not true. Consumer research suggests that consumers were increasingly expecting honesty from brands. People were becoming more marketing savvy and can sport inconsistencies and false claims in brand communication. There is also the desire for more authentic experiences which can be delivered through cultural expositions to tourists. Destination brand strategists should send out messages that are authentic through cultural presentations.
Untruths and unauthentic messages breed suspicion and this can potentially be of great damage to the destination brand.
The importance of being authentic can be the difference between a differentiated or blended brand.
It is argued that a strategy to convey a feeling of being authentic is clearly connected to concrete things such as historic buildings, monuments and cultural aspects, the arts and sport which can be considered as factual and physical evidence of authenticity.
In this monuments such as the Great Zimbabwe and Nalatalie ruins can be used to market themselves and project unique attributes that cannot be matched by other destinations. This is a mark of authenticity. In support of the view of authenticity it is argued that to be effective, the desired image must be close to reality, believable, simple, appealing and distinctive, Culture is central to that approach and cannot be replicated by competitors.
Unique selling position
Destinations need to create a sense of being unique in order to outcompete and out position competitors and attract customers from the Global market that is increasingly becoming highly competitive.
Branding scholars argue that events, movies and celebrities can be central to enhancing the reputations of destinations. It therefore means that if destinations succeeded in hosting unique events that gain maximum publicity, it create an opportunity for marketers to take advantage in contract to its competitors. It can also boost the number of visitors during the event. A good illustration in Zimbabwe can be the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA), a prime event that invites international and national artists for a week of festivals of music, drama, poetry, painting and many other cultural presentations.
It attracts thousands of national and international participation and attendance. It is argued that the economic value of an event to the host city or region is often predicated on the media attention that the event obtains.
Featuring event images alongside those of the destinations product mix that reinforce aspects of its brand positioning significantly enhances the overall impact. It is therefore crucial for destinations to clearly and carefully consider which events to host in terms of economic value and marketing returns.
Spain leveraged on the Barcelona Olympics to re-launch itself as a prime tourist destination and correct its image globally after the dictatorship General Franco. New Zealand as a destination had its image boosted significantly by hosting the filming of the Lord of the Rings film Trilogy and Rugby, The New Zealand Destination Management Organisation has been highly successful in implementing the marketing value of these events in their destination marketing and has been able to brand the country as a adventurous place leading to high global awareness, unique events are critical for the differentiation of a destination’s image and products.
Branding strategists agree that many places and their leaders recognize that they also need to distinguish themselves through their culture and heritage.
Destinations can combine the effects for hosting unique events to promoting aspects of their culture in order to differentiate themselves and become strong, progressive and solid nation brands, Zimbabwe has an abundance of natural endowments and diversely of cultures. Bulawayo is the cultural capital of Zimbabwe Masvingo is the heritage capital, Gweru is the cosmopolitan city.
Mutare (Eastern Highlands), Victoria Fall, Chinhoyi are prime tourists centres of the country. Kadoma and Kwekwe are cities of gold. Every region in Zimbabwe has something unique that can add value to nation branding.
Competitiveness’ comes with proper pricing, market positioning, competitor analysis and benchmarking, creativity and innovation.