Nine success factors in city destination marketing

The most important success factors in marketing any city as a destination are “people, companies and entrepreneurship” and ensuring these all work together.

This is the view of city destination marketing expert Claes Bjerkne, who gave the keynote address at a strategic workshop for Cape Town’s tourism industry leaders, organised by Cape Town Tourism on October 7 and 8.

The workshop was held at the Mount Nelson, and was attended by representatives from the Cape Town City Council and Mayor’s Office, business initiative Accelerate Cape Town, Creative Cape Town, Cape Town Tourism, South African National Parks and several key Cape Town visitor attractions, including the Two Oceans Aquarium, the Table Mountain Cableway Company, and the Robben Island Museum.

Bjerkne is globally renowned for his leadership in helping to develop the Swedish city of Göteborg as one of Europe’s top cities to live, work and study in and to visit. He has also worked with dozens of Europe’s top cities to help them become more friendly and attractive to tourists and citizens alike, and was a keynote speaker earlier this year at the prestigious ITB Berlin, the world’s leading travel trade show.

The full list of Bjerkne’s key success factors in marketing cities as tourism destinations, as shared at the Cape Town meeting, is as follows:

1. People, companies, entrepreneurship

“In my experience, people always come first,” said Bjerkne. It’s also important to continually invest in research and development, so that you know what visitors and citizens think of your efforts, so that you can plan to raise the bar.

2. Strong political commitment is necessary

If you don’t have political buy-in to what you’re trying to do, your chances of success are limited.

3. Private-public partnerships are crucial

“All successful European cities have leveraged this well,” noted Bjerkne. He recounted how in Göteborg, the hotel groups, banking sector and business joined many others to form Göteborg&Co, a strong private-public partnership that focused on developing and marketing the city.

4. Keep a holistic perspective

Bjerkne argued that it was important for a city to take care of any important aspects or attractions that were in trouble. He said a city should look at its assets as a family. If one family member was ill and someone asked how your family was, you wouldn’t say “Fine, thanks!” You might say something like so-and-so was ill, but everyone was doing everything they could, and the family hoped the particular person would be well again soon.

5. Vision

You need to agree to a big picture. “If you don’t know where you’re heading, you’ll end up somewhere else.”

6. Goals and strategies

These are key to attaining the long-term vision. Bjerkne said Göteborg&Co worked with three types of business plans: a 10- to 15-year vision; a three-year business plan, and an annual, short-term operational plan.

7. Professional management

Employ great staff, manage events and services well, be open with the media, be bold and prepare to take calculated risks, and your city and tourism will grow.

8. Co-operation

No single entity can create a great city for tourism on its own. Work with others, but that doesn’t necessarily mean waiting for others who are too slow or cynical. Tourism leaders need to get on and lead!

9. Continuity

Keep doing what you do well, year in and year out, and success will come to you. “In any business,” says Bjerkne, “repeat business is the best business.”

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