We have done the analysis of the place and role of the branding strategies in the promotion of the Vladimir region as a tourist destination. Nowadays the market dictates its own terms, as a result the new brands can currently become a powerful resource to help the Vladimir land to implement the desire to attract more and more tourists. The article investigates the main factors which in the nearest past hindered the development of tourist activities. The lack of funding of the tourist programs and projects, the changing of the priorities in the regional policy of the territory have changed the image of Vladimir as the capital of the Golden Ring, the well known tourist route. That´s why brand orientation could be a strategy of survival for this tourist destination. The study includes the basic theoretical concepts of brand and branding of tourist destinations, city marketing, formation of the positive image and promotion of the territory.
The benefits of study are in the attempts to suggest the ideas of renovating the current image of Vladimir and to attract the city managers´ attention to establishment of cooperation between the stakeholders, formation of the new tourist products, marketing activities. These branding steps will contribute to the further regional tourism development.
The concept of tourism is difficult to be determined. In fact, there are so many definitions of tourism as those that deal with this phenomenon which significantly celebrates contemporary society. It is a part of our lives, it is hard to find someone who has never been a tourist.
Indicator for the differentiation policy of the tourist product should be a system of motives that runs on tourist spending. But, despite of tourist preferences, it is not pointless to offer the nature, history and culture of specific tourist destination, and use them for the promotion of tourism and local population life quality improvement. Tourism can provide many benefits to the territory. It can create new jobs, foster an entrepreneurial base, generate local tax revenue, stimulate capital investment, facilitate infrastructure improvements, protect cultural and natural resources, and build tourist area pride (Messer, 2004).
The Necessity of Creating a New Brand of the Town of Vladimir
The Vladimir land is the centre of Russia, the region of old towns and ancient monasteries, motherland of many outstanding persons, national men of genius and heroes. The region pays much attention to tourism development and keeping rich cultural and historical heritage. In the late 60-s 0f the 20th century the famous tourist route «The Golden Gate of Russia» started its history. Since that time Vladimir has been called the capital of the Golden Ring. This has become a new brand for the ancient town of Vladimir. The development of the tourist infrastructure including the sights, hotels, museum expositions, transport park has been increasing from year to year. But financial crisis and political instability in Russia of the end of the 20th century have become serious factors which hindered the development of the tourist route. The lack of funding of the tourist programs and projects, the changing of the priorities in the regional policy of the territories have changed the image of Vladimir as the capital of the Golden Ring.
Nowadays Vladimir must not live in the glory of the past but work hard at the creation of the new image which could contribute to the development of new products or branding existing ones, especially in the field of tourism as the most profitable field. In modern conditions of tourist business, many domestic destinations considered perspective within the development of local brands. Therefore, it is necessary to analyze the character of implementation of local brand in the tourist business.
Branding is perhaps the most powerful marketing weapon available to contemporary destination marketers confronted by tourists who are increasingly seeking lifestyle fulfillment and experience rather than recognizing differentiation in the more tangible elements of the destination product such as accommodation and attractions (Morgan et al., 2007). Most destinations have superb five-star resorts and attractions, every country claims a unique culture, landscape and heritage, each place describes itself as having the friendliest people, and high standards of customer service and facilities are now expected. As a result, the need for destinations, as well as for the Vladimir region, to create a unique identity - to differentiate themselves from their competitors - is more critical than ever.
Brand and Branding of Tourist Destinations
In the Dictionary of Business Terms, the brand is explained as «a sign, symbol or word by which the different products or services are determined. Brand is a broad term that includes all the brand names and trademarks» (Kotler, Armstrong, 2004).
According to Rita Clifton, a brand is: «a mixture of tangible and intangible attributes, symbolized in a trademark, which, if properly managed, creates influence and generates value» (Clifton, Maughan, 2000).
This definition truly captures the essence of a brand, and highlights the importance of brand management. Branding is about creating «value», both for customers, and for the destination. This value stems from the products and services that companies create and bring to the market, but extends further to encompass added values derived from factors such as the brand-customer relationship, the brand´s emotional benefits and its self-expressive benefits.
Tourist destination branding is a method of revealing the specifics of an environment, it makes the implementation of the tourist facilities and is presented to tourists. Tourist loyalty to a brand is reflected in the ability of the destination to content visitors´ experience which is in line with their expectations (Blashenkova, 2011).
A destination brand is a brand related to defined geographical region that´s understood by tourists as a unique entity, with a political and legislative framework for tourism marketing and planning. Destinations are amalgams of tourism products, offering an integrated experience to the consumers. This amalgam of tourism products and services offered by a destination is consumed by tourists under the brand name of the destination during their period of staying (Buhalis, 2000). Brands incite beliefs, evoke emotions and prompt behavior. They have social and emotional value to users and speak to them (Kotler and Gertner, 2002).
Marketing of a city, or marketing of a territory - is a conscious promotion of a particular territory as a place for the implementation of various projects, its advantageous «sell» to investors, tourists, new residents, etc. This may be as about a whole country, a developed industrial city, and about a small town. Such marketing is used successfully in many European countries such as Finland, Britain and Germany.
The Formation of the Positive Image of the Territory
The most acute problem facing the leaders of the regions and businesses is how to form a positive image of the territory.
Experts suggest three approaches:
Exploitation by regional companies, real or mythologized historical events that have occurred or are alleged to have occurred at a certain time on this territory. This is about the origin of traditions, claiming that it appeared, was preserved and developed something uniqueand attractive, for example, in crafts, customs. Thus, the historical and cultural information systems are created, which form the image-making landmark system. However, these even completely mythologized images must be supported by reality.
Development of a brand, symbolizing the attractiveness to consumers of services and related products. This process in the presence of well-known attractions, natural features, infrastructure development associated with their operation, provides significant revenue to the regional budgets. This approach may be effective in the absence of raw materials and industrial resources, or transportation benefits. In this case, the brand can develop as a tourist, health, educational, etc.
Presentation of the region as an attractive object for investors. Attracting factors - the availability of promising enterprises in terms of investment and business linkages (industrial, oriented on natural resources exploitation, cultural), the potential of the tourism industry (including fishermen, hunters, «extreme») and its infrastructure (Gunare,2009).
Images of the regions and regional industrial brands are interdependent. The first help the formation and capitalization of the second, which, in its turn, often even as competitors, «spin» the first. Once a land becomes the owner of a number of strong brands, marking the real or mythological characteristics of the region, there is a synergistic effect - generated value of a higher order, creating a positive image of the region as a whole - the symbolic capital. The image of Vladimir as an ancient capital of Russia, the famous centre of old Russian white stone architecture of the 12th century is the world known brand. The Golden Gate, the Assumption and St. Dmitry Cathedrals have become the well recognized symbols of Vladimir.
To attract tourists, along with advertising and PR, it is equally important to use the marketing appeal, that is, architectural monuments, historical places, etc. Thus, according to the Regional Tourism Development Strategy such towns of the Vladimir region as Vladimir, Suzdal, Yuryev-Polsky, Murom, Alexandrov, Gorokhovets and Gus-Khrustalny were included in the new local tourist route «Small Golden Ring of the Vladimir Region». The increasing level of competitiveness of the regional tourist product is provided by state support in the framework of the regional programme of tourism development, Small Golden Ring started in 2005 for creating new excursion facilities and promotion of the regional tourist product in specialized print media and at the largest international exhibitions and tourmarkets.
Futurologists predict that people will be increasingly involved in active leisure, providing an opportunity to try new experiences and there will win a region that is able to offer «the unique experience». Event tourism has currently become a powerful resource to help to implement the desire to attract tourists. In the Vladimir region such festivals as «Bogatyrskie Zabavy» (ancient Russian athlete contest), «Cucumber Holiday», «Geese Fights», «Russian Fairy Tale Festival» have become very popular and traditionally are held every year. In July, 2012 for the first time the Festival of Vladimir Cherry was organized in Vladimir. There is an idea to create a new brand for the town of Vladimir based on the image of the unique cherry variety grown in the Vladimir land and called after it.
If we believe that the territory - is the brand, it should be glamorous, stylish, eye-catching. Accordingly, based on the needs of the region, businesses can participate in various projects related to cultural heritage. Investment in commercial projects impact on improving the image of the territory and the image of the organization, participating in or organizing special events. It´s possible to restore historical sites or «invent» new attractions (Makatrova, 2011). Thus, in Vladimir there is a lack of unusual and unique museum expositions. The monopoly of the State Vladimir-Suzdal museum-reserve hinders the appearance and development of the private museums in Vladimir. But nowadays it is so important to engage more tourists and, therefore, money by a large number of cultural and recreational activities, attractive places of interest.
The rich in cultural terms place should have the critical mass of cultural events - from one-off festivals to the regular activities of cultural organizations. On the other hand, the architecture blends old and new in an urban environment, freely dispensing with visual contrasts. Such a creative approach enriches identity, creates originality, instills confidence, fills with new strength and adapts to modern conditions of territories, their traditions, myths, history. If you use holidays, parades, carnivals and festivals to attract visitors, the cumulative effect of such activities is expanding in terms of tourism, culture, creating an image by specifying the territory of new prospects.
Creating a positive image of the territory inside and outside - is not spontaneous, but long-term, systemic activity, which requires a conceptual approach, coordination and continuous monitoring of results. In the structure of the city management there should be organized special services, which are supposed to create a favorable background for the formation and development of the territory image, responsible for the formulating a branding strategy, establishing the cooperation between the stakeholders, accumulating the efforts for the further promotion of the Vladimir region.
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The work was submitted to International Scientific Conference «Problems of socio-economic development of regions», France (Paris), 14-21, October, 2012, came to the editorial office on 05.09.2012.