Changing international perceptions of Los Cabos
Following the dissolution of Mexico's Tourism Promotion council, the private sector of Los Cabos stepped into fill the gap. Rodrigo Esponda, Managing Director of the Los Cabos Tourism Board, shared details of the collaboration with us, along with the work that they're undertaking to challenge negative stereotypes in the media.
CNP: Why do you think that this is a good time to be launching City Nation Place Latin America & Caribbean to bring together national, regional and city place branders to explore the unique challenges that the region faces?
RE: Latin America and the Caribbean continue to face important challenges impacting the travel and tourism industry. It is important to address issues but, more importantly, it is to acknowledge the importance of working together along with other destinations and country brands to improve the image of the entire region. Safety, natural disasters, environmental issues, and social and political unrest are just few of the problems being faced by global country brands and it is important that we act together to promote the resilience of our local industries. This is why having an organization like City Nation Place Latin America & Caribbean is important to bring together the industry and destinations under one roof to share best practices and to explore effective promotional strategies to keep the tourism industry thriving.
CNP: What do you consider to be the biggest challenge facing place branding and marketing teams working for cities, states and places across Latin America and the Caribbean?
RE: Destinations are facing unique challenges to differentiate their unique assets and experiences versus the commoditization of the mass tourism market. Social media and technology has made searching for destinations a frictionless process for potential travellers to learn, discover and take an educated decision of where to travel; however, there is still a challenge to change stereotypes, eliminate generalizations, and influence price dependency.
CNP: How are international perceptions of Latin America and the Caribbean changing on the world stage? Is this affecting your own place brand strategy?
RE: Negative media headlines impact the way travellers perceive a destination worldwide. Unfortunately, Mexico has been caught in the turmoil of negative news over the last year which has impacted the overall perception of the country. Particularly in Los Cabos, we have worked proactively to provide ongoing updates to media, travel partners, and stakeholders of the reality versus perception and the work Los Cabos Tourism Board is doing to promote the destination internationally. Working alongside the private and public sector, Los Cabos implemented a cohesive safety action plan and an international promotional strategy to protect and promote our brand image.
CNP: What do you see as being the key difference between place branding and place marketing?
RE: The main difference is that place branding is a more strategic approach which encompasses a more holistic view versus place marketing that it is more tactical and short-term spam.
CNP: City brands are finding their way into the spotlight – how can nation brands work more effectively with cities to support a clear place brand identity?
RE: Nation brands need to highlight in their umbrella strategy the uniqueness that cities, regions and destinations have inside the country with a clear alignment of the tourism assets and the target market needs, trends and travel intentions. An effective strategy is that which demonstrates that there is a synergy between nation branding and the destination branding.
CNP: What advantages are there for promoting better collaboration between economic development and destination marketing teams?
RE: There is no doubt that tourism contributes to the economic development of the community of the destinations, and we are proud to be an important economic engine behind the economy of Los Cabos where 90% of the economy depends on the travel and tourism industry. As Mexico’s fastest growing destination, we are committed to our local community, making sure everyone benefits from our booming economy. Although tourism is an important economic driver, we think there are better-off public policies that can contribute in a more effective way to alleviate poverty, conserve and restore the environment, and foster socioeconomic advancement. A long-term approach with a clear respect to the environment, heritage, and community values will have long-lasting effects to make local economies independent.
CNP: Do you think there is a growing role for the private sector in supporting nation and city brands? If so, what is your top tip for engaging private sector organisations in the process?
RE: In today’s economy, the only way country brands can succeed is to make all partners accountable for the promotion of a destination.
Los Cabos has always had the fortune of having a strong private sector that has strongly influenced the promotional and development plans of the destination. We have been rapidly adapting to the new realities and making sure we engage our private and public partners in an effective way. In Mexico, the Los Cabos Tourism Board has been a pioneer creating a private trust that encourages travel partners to contribute financially to the international promotion of the destination. The private trust looks to keep everyone accountable on this mission, to strengthen the marketing and promotional activities in our target markets, and to supplement the funds that were previously received from the government for promotional activities. To date, the private sector has welcomed this initiative with open arms and is supporting Los Cabos Tourism Board on this important initiative.
CNP: Do you think it’s becoming more important to advocate for the value and positive impacts of place branding to both citizens and governments? Why is that?
RE: Definitely, as external situations such as climate change, over-tourism, pollution, etc. continue to impact destinations, it is becoming even more important to implement comprehensive promotional plans that engage every level of the travel and tourism sector. When there is a more comprehensive collaboration among all participating sectors, there is a better understanding of its value, contributions, and tangible benefits. Citizens and governments play a crucial role to promote the value of a destination and remain accountable of all marketing initiatives.
CNP: What is your top tip for creating a place brand strategy that is sustainable in its approach – both in terms of preserving the culture of your place and of minimising environmental impacts?
RE: A consistent and aligned strategy with the core elements of the destination will always have a more sustainable approach to preserve the culture and to minimize any environmental impact.
CNP: Other than your own session, what are you most looking forward to at the City Nation Place Latin America & Caribbean conference?
RE: I am looking forward to learning from peers about trends, best practices, contingencies plan, innovations, marketing strategies and public relations tips that we can use and leverage to promote our destination.
CNP: If you had the opportunity to move to any place in the world, where would you be most interested in living and working?
RE: I moved to Los Cabos three years ago after living in New York, Chicago, Toronto and Mexico City and I am privileged for this unique opportunity. With almost 20 years of experience in the travel and tourism industry, I feel honoured with this opportunity and I would pick Los Cabos as the place I would love to live, work and play.