The process of creating an image or identity in the minds of consumers is called positioning. It’s very important to travel and tourism destinations because it helps make your destination more attractive to consumers than other similar destinations.
The process of positioning involves market positioning, psychological positioning, and positioning approaches.
Step 1: Market Positioning
In this step, you select a target market segment (market segmentation), which is probably the group of people that you already are seeing at your destination. But if you need new customers, you may want to look at other possible segments, and target them. For example, if you normally have families at your destination, you could target wealthy retirees as a new source of business.
Now that you’ve selected a target market, you need to learn all about them. What do they like to do while on vacation? What do they want from a destination? Utilize surveys and focus groups to answer these questions and learn more about your target market. Money spent on that now will be well spent. You certainly don’t want to waste marketing dollars later on advertising the wrong message to your target audience. Make sure you find out what the right message will be, and don’t guess.
The other thing you need to learn from your target market is how they already perceive your destination. What benefits do they think your destination provides? What beliefs do they already have about your destination? Are any of them negative? If so, what are they? You will need to counter those beliefs in your new position.
Step: 2 Psychological Positioning
Now that you understand your target audience, you can put that information together with your business goals and figure out what you will communicate to the market segment that will plant the right image in their minds about your destination.
You can use physical attributes if they are unique. For example, Westin Hotels positioned itself with their industry-changing “Heavenly Bed” slogan. As the first hotel to offer premium mattresses and bedding, they had a unique physical attribute.
Step 3: Positioning Approaches
1) Head to Head Approach: Not recommended for most travel and tourism organizations, but it can be done. It’s more likely that you will:
2) Relate Yourself to Market Leader: If you can’t lick ‘em, join ‘em! Avis Car Rentals did this with their slogan “We try harder.” Marriott, Hilton and Radisson have all employed this technique too, adding premium beds to their offerings, thereby hitching a ride on Westin’s gravy train.
3) Price Value: Not to be mistaken for lowest price, which is usually avoided because consumers relate low price to low quality. Position for best value instead, using this approach.
4) Users and Attributes: Associate your travel destination with a group of people, or with the reasons they might come to your destination.
5) Destination Class: Can you associate yourself with a unique experience? Perhaps you are a tour operator that offers tours to the lost city of Atlantis. (If so, please contact me, I want to come…but you get the idea.)
You are now well set up to position yourself for maximum competitive edge. Do bear in mind other factors that might influence your position, such as location, economics, politics, and lifestyle changes. Go for the gold and enjoy a position as market leader for your target market segment.