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­­­ The role of destination brand in developing its attractiveness for tourists

Priority areas of development: management
The project has been carried out as part of the HSE Program of Fundamental Studies.

Goal of research: to examine the influence of destination brands on their competitiveness on the basis of identifying destination’s brands and subbrands components with the aim of developing a more efficient system of marketing communications and determining the strongest components of a destination brand.


  • Content analysis of regulatory documents governing the tourist development of destinations, in order to identify the promoted components of their brands
  • Netnography, the purpose of which was to analyze qualitative and quantitative social network data on the perception of destination brands components
  • Survey of tourists and potential tourists on the perception of the destination brands components
  • In-depth expert interviews on the competitiveness of the destinations, the components of the destination brand and the trends of place development as a tourist destination

Empirical base of research:

For the research "Brand of St. Petersburg as a basis for the tourist development of the city", the empirical basis of the study was:

  • Regulatory documents in the field of culture and tourism: the St. Petersburg Act "On the policy in the sphere of culture of St. Petersburg", the State Program of St. Petersburg "Development of the sphere of culture and tourism in St. Petersburg" for 2015-2020, the Strategy on Economic and social development of St. Petersburg for the period until 2030, the Strategy of State Cultural Policy for the period until 2030 (approved by the Government of the Russian Federation), Government Decree No. 644 of August 2, 2011 "On the federal target program" Development of Internal and inbound tourism in the Russian Federation (2011-2018) ".
  • Interviews with experts in tourism and culture (10 interviews)
  • Quantitative data obtained by interviewing tourists and potential tourists (597 questionnaires)

For the "Study of the specifics of the formation and promotion of the brand of Estonia to the target markets of Russia and Finland," the empirical basis was:

  • Regulatory documents on the formation and development of the Estonian brand to various target markets (Estonian State Tourism Development Strategy 2014-2020, Marketing Strategy for Tourism Promotion, Strategy for Promoting Tourism to the Russian Target Market 2015-2018, Strategy for Promoting Tourism to the Target Market of Finland 2015-2018)
  • Qualitative and quantitative social network data (598 photos from social networks, 1946 tags, 333 reviews)

Results of research:

The results of the St. Petersburg brand components analysis revealed that the most promoted sights in various tourist markets are the Hermitage, Peterhof, St. Isaac's Cathedral. Awareness about the other cultural sites is at a fairly low level. It should be noted that in the general list respondents name the cathedrals, suburbs, museums, theaters of St. Petersburg, but rarely do they mention particular objects. Slightly more often specific palaces, monuments, walking areas and creative spaces are mentioned. Also speaking about St. Petersburg the respondents in general refer to gastronomic and entertainment events held here. Sport symbols, musical groups, weather and the city’s history are listed among intangible objects. Depersonalization of the things to visit in the perception of tourists indicates that St. Petersburg has a high potential for development, but there are problems associated with the development of a tourist product for the different target groups and problems with the promotion of all the variety of cultural sites that the city has.

The peculiarities of the St. Petersburg brand perception are confirmed by the results of expert interviews and point to the lack of a coordinated policy regarding the development of St. Petersburg as a tourist destination. To date the city lives exclusively on the long-existing rich resource and historical potential, without the use of place marketing mechanisms that have long been used in foreign countries. A packaged approach to the development of a tourism strategy in St. Petersburg involves the use of not only cultural and historical heritage, but also the development and coordination of the travel services market, including the infrastructure and stakeholders services in the industry, and services market that can meet the needs of all categories of tourists.

The analysis of promotion effectiveness of the brand of Estonia to the Russian and Finnish target markets has demonstrated that the Estonian authorities are actively pursuing a policy of creating and promoting the brand of the country as a whole and for the countries concerned in particular. For the Finnish tourists the tourist product associated with cultural, family and wellness tourism is promoted. For the Russian audience – urban tourism, wellness and family tourism. The effectiveness of the promotion of these directions is confirmed by the results of a study of Russian and Finnish tourists based on social networks data, showing the increased interest of Russians and Finns to urban / recreational and cultural / recreational tourism respectively.

As for family vacations, the lack of photos on social networks taken at sights associated with this type of recreational product, and a low percentage of reviews about these sites from both Russian and Finnish tourists indicates the need for a reconsideration of the policy regarding the promotion of these countries’ brand components. The analysis also revealed the peculiarities of the Estonian tourism products consumption in the studied target groups. So tourists from Finland are more interested in the entertainment component. In addition to visiting cultural sites, this type of tourists also consumes other services, usually associated with gastronomy, shopping and events.

Moreover, the way and novelty of presentation, the quality of the tourist product and its low price also plays a role in the process of choosing Estonia as a tourist destination by Finnish tourists. A Russian tourist who is interested in the Estonian tourist product is distinguished by its unpretentiousness, interest in interactivity and in the mechanisms of the original presentation of the tourist product. Unlike the Finns, Russians are a less profitable target group for Estonia because they consume fewer services and participate in events less often. Moreover, some of the offers are expensive for Russian tourists.

The results of the theoretical and empirical research confirm the fact that the presence of a strong territorial brand activates its resource potential while also increasing its competitiveness. The data shows that the branding process is multifaceted: it requires not only the mobilization of resources but also targeting available tourist products for different target groups as well as consolidating the efforts of stakeholders interested in providing tourism products. Undoubtedly the creation of a strong destination brand and its promotion cannot be possible without state participation and regulation. Summing up, we can conclude that competitive destination branding is a system of measures to create an image of a place tourist product with the involvement of all available resources including tourism service providers in compliance with the needs of potential consumers and active participation of the state regulating the position of each actor in the system.

Level of implementation,  recommendations on implementation or outcomes of the implementation of the results

The results of the performed research will be in demand by the tourism authorities of St. Petersburg. This is due to the currently developing and discussed St. Petersburg‘s state program "Tourism Development in St. Petersburg" where for the first time a section devoted to the formation and promotion of the city's brand is introduced. In this regard, this study provides particular significance.


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