23 March 2012

Branding the green

Destination Management and Branding in the Mediterranean Region
Sustainable Tourism in Times of Crisis - 19th - 21st  April 2012, Antalya, Turkey
Branding the green. How place branding can contribute to the development of the
Northwest of Portugal as green tourism destination

Department of Planning & Environment, Faculty of Spatial Sciences, 
University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands

Place branding is a practice adopted by cities, regions and countries in the context of intensified competition for resources, investment, residents and tourists. Places, are faced with the effects of globalisation and are challenged by changes in their economic, cultural and social mosaic (Kavaratzis, 2005). Places have long been seeking to differentiate themselves from each other, in order to assert their individuality and distinctive characteristics in pursuit of economic (e.g. increase the tourism revenues), social and political objectives (Kavaratzis & Ashworth, 2010).
Destination branding has gained considerable importance, particularly in recent years (e.g. Morgan, Pritchard & Pride, 2004). The destination brand is described as a powerful tool with the ability to generate experiences and is considered critical to a successful marketing effort in tourism destinations (Leisen, 2001).  
Portugal is generally seen as a ‘sun, sea and sand’ destination, attracting international tourist markets (e.g. United Kingdom, Germany, France) very much due to its climate, historical cities and heritage of the discoveries. Each region has his own resources to offer. The Northwest is often associated with the ‘green’ of its natural scenery characterised by the biogeography of the Peneda-Gerês National Park, mountainous terrain of great beauty that provides tourism opportunities (e.g. Vinho Verde, rural and eco-tourism). The region is characterised by small communities and small-scale family businesses providing personalised tourist experiences (Kastenholz & Almeida, 2008). However, the Northwest region, has been facing several economic and social problems due to the relocation of multinational enterprises to low-wage regions. An increasing unemployment rate and less local purchasing power are consequences. To avoid environmental, social and economic degradation of the region as a destination, sustainable tourism development is paramount (Kastenholz & Almeida, 2008). Thus, the following questions are fundamental. Is branding the Northwest as a ‘green’ destination, through place branding theory and destination branding, the right strategy to address the contemporary issues? Is the process of branding an efficient and effective tool to achieve development and to link the regional strategy with the stakeholders?
Developing the enhancing factors of differentiation and competitive advantage (e.g. green landscape), through sustainable actions, the main theme of the conference, could be a strategy to counter economic and social weaknesses.
The purpose of this paper is to clarify the contribution of place branding and destination branding theories, to a brand strategy capable of enhancing the development and competitive advantage of the Northwest of Portugal as a ‘green’ destination.


KEYWORDS Place branding; Destination branding; Northwest of Portugal.

* With PhD supervision from GREGORY ASHWORTH and GERT DE ROO

Kastenholz, E. & Almeida, A.L. (2008). Seasonality in rural tourism – the case of North Portugal. Tourism Review, 63(2), 5-15.
Kavaratzis, M. & Ashworth, G.J. (2010). Place branding: where do we stand? In Ashworth, G.J. & Kavaratzis, M. (Ed.), Towards Effective Place Brand  Management-Branding European Cities and Regions (pp. 1-14). Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited.
Kavaratzis, M. (2005). Place branding: A Review of Trends and Conceptual Models. The Marketing Review, 5(4), 329-342.
Leisen, B. (2001). Image segmentation: the case of a tourism destination. Journal of Services Marketing, 15(1), 49-64.
Morgan, N. & Pritchard, A. & Pride, R. (2004). Destination Branding: Creating the Unique Destination Proposition. Oxford, UK: Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann.