NEW YORK: FutureBrand and Weber Shandwick have released their first survey ranking countries as brands, as the Interpublic Group firms stress that tourism departments must rethink their marketing strategies.
Italy was ranked as the best tourism destination, a rating it received because of its dedication to customer service, said Rene Mack, president of WS' travel and lifestyle practice.
"People come back from Italy and say things like, 'I had the greatest cup of coffee there.' It's always about the great personal experiences," Mack said.
Australia and the US ranked second and third, respectively.
Countries were ranked based on statistics from travel industry trade organizations, government agencies, and opinions from respected tourism professionals.
"We're seeing the industry evolve from the antiquated notion of just putting heads in beds to one where countries compete in the global marketplace as brands," Mack said.
Rina Plapler, executive director of FutureBrand, said that countries must start thinking like Fortune 500 corporations.
"Countries are corporations: they have business plans, profit margins, and budget goals," Plapler said. "Marketing countries is about the most complicated challenge out there. You'd think that they would have the most sophisticated branding and marketing implementations, but they don't."
Mack noted that successful countries must have a better grasp of their customers, perhaps by using immigration cards to build databases.
"With the number of mediums people access information through, formulaic marketing plans don't work anymore," Mack said.