Tourist Perceptions of Destination Branding: A Case Study of Saint Lucia
Smith, Laura Anne
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The intent of this research was to identify the effectiveness of a destination brand as determined by international tourists visiting the destination. The Caribbean can be viewed as a homogeneous region to many individuals seeking sun, sand, and sea; therefore, product differentiation is essential. Destination branding represents and distinguishes a country among competing nations. This concurrent mixed methods study set forth to investigate the effectiveness of the Saint Lucia destination brand. The following objectives underlie this research: i) to explore how the current destination brand was chosen, ii) to evaluate tourists’ perceptions and images of the destination, iii) to explore the relationship between tourists’ perceptions and destination choice, and iv) to evaluate the extent to which the destination brand influenced destination choice. The research findings indicate a lack of awareness concerning the new destination brand. A lack of brand communication and insufficient exposure has been detrimental to the overall success of the destination brand. A conceptual model for the development process of a destination brand was suggested to enhance destination brand effectiveness. The six essential stages include market research, destination image, targeting and positioning, brand identity, communication of the brand, and continuous monitoring and evaluation throughout. It is recommended to engage in monitoring and improvement initiatives of the brand to better gauge its effectiveness; to enhance exposure of the brand through effective niche marketing initiatives that showcase the diversity and unique attributes of Saint Lucia; and finally, to work towards transforming the destination brand into a national brand.