San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge

Global tourism as an industry has always been closely interconnected with brand identity and, thus, trademarks. Using a combination of logos, iconic imagery, slogans, and consistent messaging, today’s global hotspots set themselves apart from the pack by constructing a coherent identity to drive visitors’ experiences.

When you think of Orlando, Florida, what pops into your head? Probably not strip malls or department stores, although the city has its share of those. Orlando is affiliated in the popular imagination with theme parks, beaches, and famous mice, and your view of the city is likely inseparable from those things.

A brand is a way of consolidating a set of thoughts and impressions about the branded entity, and a place can be branded as much as anything else. But why is this important? Read on to learn what trademarks mean for the global tourism industry.

Differentiating Your Destination

So what is the useful purpose of all of this? Research shows that, when tourists are looking for a destination, what they actually want is an escape from the drudgery and ordinariness of their day-to-day experience. Obviously, such an escape can’t happen if the destination seems no different from the tourist’s home.

The branded thoughts and impressions mentioned above, epitomized by a trademark, will better allow a location to emphasize what sets it apart. And by doing so, the brand enables the tourist to have an enjoyable trip. What could be better than that?

Cultural Identity

People Consulting a City Map of London

Image via Wikipedia Commons

Differentiation is well and good, but how can it be achieved? Well-known destinations usually distinguish themselves through local culture. Think of famous American cities: New Orleans has jazz, Los Angeles has Hollywood, and New York is a uniquely American juxtaposition of high culture and street life.

In all three cases, the local culture-production industry forms a locus for identity formation. Subsequently, the process for creating brands for a locality often begins by looking at local cultural institutions, like musical styles, local festivals, and notable traditions. As a bonus, this spotlight can help cultural institutions to play a more visible role on the international stage.

Awareness-Building

A good trademark will draw attention to the community in question, emphasizing its hidden virtues and drawing visitors from around the world. Tourists want to think that the place they are visiting offers something unique and exciting.

When properly done, the trademark can underscore what makes a place special, allowing visitors to better engage with the area’s most interesting experiences. This, in turn, can potentially draw more visitors seeking the experiences they have heard so much about from other travelers. It’s a chain reaction that benefits all parties.

Getting Locals Involved

In an issue related to cultural identity, creating a tourism trademark also allows opportunities for the branding entity to get the community involved in the process. Consider the possibilities of a slogan contest. By allowing locals to try their own hands at summing up the place they love in a phrase or image, the brand offers them a stake in trademarking.

This really pays off when the tourists arrive; if a community filled with individuals who are invested in the brands, slogans, and identities they helped generate, then the locale is likely to provide those tourists with an on-point and enjoyable experience.

A Unified Experience

Locales are defined by more than just the physical buildings and landmarks that exist within them. Think about the United States as a whole from a tourism perspective. The U.S. isn’t just the Statue of Liberty or the government in Washington. It is also a large and interconnected set of industries and services: transportation, hospitality, and leisure, to name a few.

A trademarked idea or slogan often provides a core around which these industries can organize. This even can happen automatically to some extent; Lawrence, Kansas, former headquarters of the antislavery “Jayhawkers,” is positively overflowing with businesses using the free-state verbiage, not to mention the local university’s trademarked “Jayhawk” sports teams.

Driving Quality in Global Markets

Poorly run local businesses often are the bane of local tourism industries. A tourist who has a bad experience is like a virus to your location’s tourism industry — a bad impression, empowered by modern media, can influence the opinions of thousands of other potential visitors.

A logo provides a means for the licensing agency to guarantee a level of experience by creating an enforceable means of quality assurance. If a license holder is found to be inadequate, the agency can revoke the business’ right to use the logo, thus de-affiliating the business from the location.

Destination Specific Merchandise

A cluttered variety store

Image via Flickr by Shawn Hoke

At some point, a trademark or brand is expected to generate revenue. After all, the trademarking and branding production process is not free of costs, and the purpose of trying to expand tourism is linked with stimulating the local economy.

Tourism trademarks often allow destinations to make money off location-specific merchandise, spawn businesses devoted to the production and distribution of said commodities, and offer travelers an increased selection of memorable souvenirs. It’s a win-win proposition.

Global Competition for Tourism Dollars

Tourism, like any industry, is driven by competition; the more players providing options, the stronger the pressure is on providers to produce quality experiences and products, leading to more satisfying products and services. Trademarks, by pushing the locality into the limelight, enhance that competitive structure, moving destinations towards the need to provide better experiences for visitors. And what could be better than that?

As we’ve seen, a tourist trademark not only can drive business to a region, it potentially can ensure a higher quality of experience for visitors as well. A carefully deployed trademark can be the cornerstone of a tourism strategy.

However, it is worth noting that a trademark, in and of itself, is nothing but a tool. Its proper use is contingent on the user’s experience and expertise. While it may seem intimidating to the uninitiated, check out these resources to help you navigate the trademark application process. You may also want to speak to a trademark attorney who can knowledgeably discuss your tourism organization’s branding and trademarking needs.