What is a Marketing Positioning? Position is a form of market communication that plays a vital vital role in enhancing the attractiveness of a tourism destination. On this module we will describe the different parts of the positioning process and applies it to the case of positioning a U.S. destination to Japanese visitors. The World Travel and Tourism Council claimed that tourism was the worlds largest industry in l991 (World Travel and Tourism Council, 1991).
What is a Marketing Positioning The past few years have shown a steady increase in the volume of international travel, and along with this growth in travel, the number of tourism destination choices has also increased as many policy-makers have recognized the value of tourism to the economies of their regions. To some extent, this increased travel can also be attributed to an increase in advertising, as tourism marketers try to enlarge their share of the global tourism pie by promoting their destinations to specific target markets.
Increasing Advertisement For example in 1987, Canada and Australia decided to increase advertising in Japan and this resulted in an increase in Japanese visitors of 55% and 33% respectively. One of the most effective tools in tourism marketing is positioning.
What is the objective of Positioning? The objective of positioning is to create a distinctive place in the minds of potential customers. A position that evokes images of a destination in the customers mind; images that differentiate the destination from the competition and also as a place that can satisfy their needs and wants. Positioning is a communications strategy that is the natural follow-through of market segmentation and target marketing.
Market Segmentation Since market segmentation is based on the notion that different tourism destinations appeal to different types of tourists, target market segments must be selected before tourism marketers can begin to entice these potential customers. An effective positioning strategy provides a competitive edge to a destination that is trying to convey its attractiveness to the target market
To Gain a Competitive Edge On this Tourism Module we will discuss the vital role played by positioning in tourism marketing and to present various approaches to positioning a tourism destination. Positioning is more than just image creation. This important form of market communication helps to distinguish tourism destinations from similar destinations so that customers can choose the one that is the most attractive. Thus, true positioning differentiates a destination from its competitors on attributes that are meaningful to customers and gives it a competitive edge.
Effective Positioning According to the basic principles of marketing, products and services are created to solve customer "problems" (i.e., to satisfy needs and wants) and provide benefits. Thus, to be effective, positioning must promise the benefit the customer will receive, create the expectation, and it offers a solution to the customers problem. If at all possible, the solution should be different from and better than the competitions solution set, especially if the competitors are already offering a similar solution.
Positioning Intangibles One of the biggest challenges faced by tourism marketers is that the product is largely intangible. Some would argue otherwise, because what is more important than the hotel room, the meal, the beach, the ocean, and the mountains? These are all tangible aspects of the tourism destination. However, these tangibles are what is being "sold", but not what is being "marketed". If we were selling beaches or mountains, what difference would it make where the tourist went, assuming a comparable level of quality?
Positioning Process The positioning process consists of the various steps needed to develop an effective positioning strategy . This process must be continuous to keep up with changes in the environment including the changing needs of the customer and the competitors tactics. Developing a positioning strategy for a destination in the United States to attract visitors from Japan will be used as a test case to illustrate the steps in the positioning process.
Market Positioning Market positioning is the first step and is defined as the process of identifying and selecting markets or segments that represent business potential, to determine the criteria for competitive success (DiMingo, 1988). This must be based on a thorough knowledge of the needs, wants, and perceptions of the target market, along with the benefits offered by the destination.
few crucial questions must be answered 1.What is important to the target market? 2. How does the target market perceive the destination? 3.How does the target market perceive the competition? 4. What attributes should a destination use to differentiate itself to make the best use of its limited resources?
Psychological Positioning This step utilizes communications to convey a destinations identity and image to the target market. It converts customer needs into images and positions a destination in the visitors minds. Psychological positioning is a strategy employed to create a unique product image with the objective of creating interest and attracting visitors. Since it exists solely in the mind of the visitor, it can occur automatically without any effort on the part of the marketer and any kind of positioning may result.
Objective Positioning Objective positioning is concerned, almost entirely, with the objective attributes of the physical product. It means creating an image about the destination that reflects its physical characteristics and functional features. It is usually concerned with what actually is, what exists. For example, Colorado is mountainous and the French Quarter is in New Orleans. However, objective positioning need not always be concrete. It may be more abstract than these examples. The French Quarter is in New Orleans which is also "the birthplace of jazz." Objective positioning can be very important and is often used in the tourism industry. If a destination has some unique feature, that feature may be used to objectively position the destination, to create an image, and to differentiate it from the competition.
Subjective Positioning Subjective positioning is concerned with subjective attributes of the destination. Subjective positioning is the image, not of the physical aspects of the destination, but other attributes perceived by the tourist, (i.e., they do not necessarily belong to the destination but to the tourists mental perception). These perceptions and the resulting images may not necessarily reflect the true state of the destinations physical characteristics. They may simply exist in the tourists mind and not all tourists imaging agree with a particular perception or image.
Positioning Approaches This is the final step in the positioning process, and there are several different approaches to positioning any tourism destination (Aaker and Shamsby, 1982). While psychological positioning creates an image, this positioning approach completes the picture, using visual and words, to reinforce what the destination does best and what benefits are offered. Tourism marketers may decide to select the most appropriate of the following approaches, depending on the information gathered during market and psychological positioning.
Positioning by Price Value International destinations are not usually positioned on the basis of price because lower prices may be perceived as connoting lower quality. However, value offered to visitors can be effectively utilized as exemplified by Malaysia which claims "Malaysia gives more natural value." With this positioning statement Malaysia is appealing not only to the sense of value (more for the money) but also to its natural attractions.
Positioning with respect to use or application Here a destination is positioned based on the reasons for visiting it. Bermuda positions itself to the American meetings market with "Sometimes you have to leave the country to get any work done" which promises productive meetings in a relaxed environment. Cancun, Mexico is positioned as "The meeting place for sun worshipers."
Positioning according to the users or class of users In this case, positioning features the people who should visit the destination. Hong Kong appeals to the incentive travel market with the statement When theyve reached the top, send them to the peak," referring to Victoria Peak, a major tourist site in Hong Kong: Fisher Island, a luxury residential development in Florida, positions itself as the place "where people who run things can stop running."
Positioning with respect to a product class This technique is often used to associate a destination with experiences that are extraordinary and/or unique. For example, the Principality of Monaco is positioned as "The fairy tale that does not end at midnight," or holding a convention in Thailand is "Smooth as silk where the skys the limit, or "If your looking for an ideal meeting place, heres one thats close to heaven" for Israel.
Positioning vis-a-vis the competition This approach is used when it is necessary to meet the competition head-on; to bring out differences between destinations. This approach is not used frequently in international tourism destination marketing since it may involve negative statements about another country or region. However, it is regularly employed in product and services marketing. For example, Visa credit cards compete with American Express by showing examples of places from around the world that do not accept American Express and only Visa cards are accepted. Ritz-Carlton Hotels is a little more subtle when they say, After a day of competition, you deserve a hotel that has none."
Positioning is the ultimate weapon in niche marketing. Stripped of all its trappings, positioning analysis answers the following questions: What position does a destination own now? (In the mind of the target market.) What position does the destination want to own? (Look for positions or holes in the marketplace.) Who must the destination outposition? (Manipulate whats already in the mind.) How can it be done? (Select the best approach that will work for the target market.)