Branding Morocco as a Luxury Tourist Destination
Tourism is considered as a critical source of GDP for any region or country and also the fastest growing sector in the entire economy. Tourism is a broad activity capturing aspects like the environment, place, people and space. In fact, tourists’ destinations are multi-attributed enterprises with host population, natural attractions, and commercial businesses (Steenbruggen, 2016). Morocco is strategically located near European markets making its economy largely dependent on tourism. The country has a number of core advantages that enable to compete effectively in the global tourism sector (Wagner & Minca, 2014). The country has a rich culture that can be described as 'a blend of Berber' (indigenous Africa), Arab, and European influences (Steenbruggen, 2016). Besides, the country records relatively high number of tourists because of its specific attractions, relatively low prices, and strategic location.
Morocco is a vibrant heritage destination characterized by civilized society, tolerant and welcoming population, and is a responsible country committed to principles and values of sustainable development (Roudies, 2010). The vision 2020 focusses on placing Morocco among the top twenty luxury destinations across the globe while integrating respect to the authentic, cultural and social life of its citizens. The Ministry of Tourism designed the innovative approach towards achieving this objective. The framework is based on the generation of new tourist product, sustainable management of the ecosystem (Tekken, 2013), and participation of the community in developing and benefiting from tourism (Emoul, 2009). Moreover, the vision aims at doubling the industry size through building more hotels and accommodations, doubling the number of tourists, and tripling the domestic travelers (Ministry of Tourism of Morocco, 2014). These strategies must be implemented bearing in mind the aspects of quality, luxury, and strong brand positioning.
The Ministry designed various policies to foster strategic activities towards achieving 2020 goals. For instance, improving the tourist offering sites; Morocco has eight main destinations including Mediterranean Morocco, The Centre of Morocco, Atlas and the Valleys, The Northern Cape, Central Atlantic, Marrakech and the Atlantic, Souss-Sahara-Atlantic, and The Great Southern Atlantic Coast (Appendix). In these destinations, the Ministry emphasizes on fostering the cultural products offered, continuous and aggressive marketing of the seaside resorts, designing new nature products for tourists, developing themed corridors, and developing a range of guides and events. Accordingly, to improve the destination sites, the framework emphasizes on the competitiveness of the hotel and tourism companies, quality human resources in the tourism sector, marketing strategies, and sustainable growth (Foth et al., 2012).
Travel and Tourism spending can be used to determine the current positioning of Morocco in the luxury tourism sector (Mansson, 2011). Leisure travel makes the largest portion of the luxury tourism as seen from both domestic and inbound spending which in contributes to over 80 percent of total GDP from the sector (Travel and Tourism, 2015). Foreign visitors or international tourists make up most of the travel and recreation segment. In Africa, Tunisia is the leader in travel and tourism as seen from the table in the appendix. In other words, Tunisia is preferred to offer more luxurious experience compared to Morocco. However, Morocco is leading when it comes to government support and investment in tourism (Steenbruggen, 2016).
The vision 2020 of Morocco’s tourism sector is to make the site among the top twenty best or luxury tourism destinations across the world. Also, the vision aims at making Morocco a role model of sustainable tourism destination across the Mediterranean regions (Roudies, 2010). Therefore, this research seeks to evaluate various strategies to be implemented and key areas to focus on while branding and positioning Morocco as a luxury tourism destination. Thus, the study will recommend on effective branding process and experiential marketing techniques that will strengthen the destination brand and increase tourism performance in Morocco.
The aim of this research is to design effective strategies aimed at branding Morocco as a luxury destination and thus attracting a wider range of clients. This will be achieved through using new sources of data or fine-grained information from emerging technologies. Therefore, this study aims at extending on the policies designed by the Ministry of Tourism by evaluating experiential and branding factors to be considered in achieving the 2020 vision.
- How can the ministry of tourism brand Morocco as a luxury destination?
- How can Morocco establish and improve experiential benefits to tourism as a luxury destination?
- Identifying effective ways of strengthening Morocco's Tourism Sector
- Establishing effective ways of improving experiential benefits to tourists visiting Morocco.
Branding of Tourist Destination
Various destination marketers across the globe are striving to implement ways of fostering a long-lasting positive image in tourists' minds (Prebensen & Foss, 2011). Like any other commercial sector, tourism faces increased competition with rapid changes in customers demand and expectations. According to Naidoo and Ramseook-Munhurrun (2012), there are three reasons of emphasizing on the creation of a strong destination image. First, a strong brand influences the choice that must be made by tourists when choosing a holiday destination. Secondly, the established brand image has great influence on both after-visit decision making and satisfaction evaluation (Mossberg, 2007). Lastly, a strong brand has a direct impact on destination positioning which, in turn, entices both current and potential customers (Chen & Tsai Dung, 2007). Perceived brand depends on the how tourists rate the destination according to the quality of services, products, and destinations sites. High-quality services are always attached to luxury brands and thus stronger market positioning (Mikulić, Miličević & Krešić, 2014).
Destination branding entails the selection of a specific mix of attributes that identify and distinguish the place from other competing regions through building positive image (Naidoo & Ramseook-Munhurrun, 2012). It entails the creation of mental pictures which visitors observe, experience, and even feel about the place. These images can be analyzed on a continuum (Medway & Warnaby, 2008). At the first stage, tourists develop organic images in a long period. This is achieved through formal information like documentaries, newspapers, dramas, TV news, and shows. At the second phase, destination marketers need to create induced images that replace the organic images with the aim of improving the perception of potential tourists (Chen & Tsai Dung, 2007). Lastly, tourists utilize experiential images they develop after visiting the destination. These indicate a sequential brand positioning from the organic image, to the induced brand image, and then experiential images which depend on the quality of products and services offered (Dean & Lang, 2008). Various efforts are utilized across many destinations to create and maintain a strong brand with perceived high quality (luxury) services and products.
Pike (2004) argued for the use of positioning slogans to create an interface between the brand image and brand identity of a destination. Slogans should integrate the muti-attributes that brand the destination as luxurious through the use of meaningful information that differentiates the pace from other competing regions offering same tourists services (Damnjanovic, Kravic & Razek, 2010). Naidoo and Ramseook-Munhurrun (2012) categorized brand attributes into functional and psychological attributes that can make a place luxurious. Functional attributes include local cuisine, standard hotels, festivals, events, cultural diversity, prices, shopping facilities, water sports and golf, and nature-based activities or ecotourism (Carmen, Levy & Ritchie, 2005). On the other hand, psychological attributes include hospitality, safety, and security. According to Govers, Go and Kumar (2007) these attributes create vicarious experiences beyond the expectations of the tourists.
Mikulić et al. (2014), argued that branding is an intangible asset and it is extremely valuable when differentiating a place from competitors. It depends on the tourists' loyalty, behavior, and perceptions, brand awareness, synergetic and innovative interactions among various players in the tourism sector. In most cases, destination branding communicates the benefits and promises a pace that the country will offer to its tourists. However, there exists a challenge in destination branding because it consists of multiple attributed products and services (Naidoo & Ramseook-Munhurrun, 2012; Gokovali & Bahar, 2006 ). In destination branding, marketers focus on the long-term image that is appealing and desirable.
Mikulić et al. (2014), proposed three prospects that promote brand equity, tourist-based, financial, and combined perspectives. These three perspectives based on customers are highly recommended for tourism marketers because they provide specific guidelines (Marzano & Scott, 2009). This implies that to position a destination as luxurious in visitors mind, marketers need to focus on five aspects. Such attributes include brand loyalty, brand awareness, quality perception embedded in strategies of promoting the brand (Qu, Kim & Im, 2011); the appeal depicted in associations or ideas linked to the brand (Kotler & Keller , 2012); and proprietary assets of the brand such as distribution channels and trademarks (Pike, 2007).
According to The Future of Luxury Travel (2011), a luxury brand depicts uniqueness and imagery. The uniqueness entails creativity, quality, selectivity, high price, and limited production. On the other hand, the image includes the attributes of the brand, which makes it a special place and creates exclusive links among the target customers (Shaw & Ivens, 2005; Tynan & Mckechnie, 2009). These concepts are closely related to brand positioning that influences the experience of visitors. According to Veríssimo and Loureiro (2012), consumers search for extraordinary attributes such as unique and unusual places or product that offers the satisfaction of their needs beyond expectation. Therefore, providing unique fun, feelings, and fantasies leads to more happiness, pleasure, and contentment (Mitchell et al., 2013; Chen & Chiou-Wei, 2009). These additional features can be described as luxuries which, in return, attract premium prices (The Future of Luxury Travel, 2011).
Luxury streams down from the strong branding of the destination offer the unique experience and satisfying of the needs in an extraordinary way (Uriely, 2005; Prebensen & Foss, 2011). Veríssimo and Loureiro (2012) argue that achieving this luxury branding and positioning depends on three main ways: using electric techniques, focussing on customer/visitor experiences, and treating consumption of tourism as a holistic experience (Veríssimo & Loureiro, 2012). There is four E's experience, evangelizing, exhibitionism, and entertainment that can make a place to be luxurious. Indeed, tourism components like hospitality, destination management, retail, attractions, cultural events, and transport exist to offer new leisure experience to tourists (Mossberg, 2007). All of the tourist attractions sites offer substitutable products and experiences, and they are hard to distinguish from each other (Damnjanovic et al., 2010). Therefore, offering distinctive and authentic experience can boost the brand positioning of a country since it will be highly favored by visitors.
Tourists with luxury requirements have different characteristics which must be considered when establishing and improving the destination (Veríssimo & Loureiro, 2012). First, they travel to gather wonderful memories to share or keep for themselves. Second, they visit a place to have peace of mind that requires a high level of psychological and physical comfort and safety. Thirdly, they have high willingness to participate actively in the process of service delivery (Qu, Kim & Im, 2011). This implies that they demand to have control and choice of various products and services offered. Veríssimo and Loureiro (2012) claimed that they also demand to be informed, imbued, and educated in cooperation ways. Lastly, they demand personal recognition to feel confident and important. These characteristics are related to the high social status. Therefore, luxury branding should focus more on experiential benefits together with other cognitive and affective attributes (Scott, Laws & Boksberger, 2009). In this case, key attention should be paid on tourists privacy, personalization, simplicity, and perfection, authenticity, comfort and safety (The Future of Luxury Travel, 2011; Veríssimo & Loureiro, 2012).
Current Studies of Tourism in Morocco
Bouzahzah and El Menyari (2013) argued for measures beyond mass tourism to promote the positioning of Morocco and increase of international tourism. Benner (2013) suggested that cluster policies may be essential to handle the challenges of environmental conditions and landscape quality. These factors have a direct influence on human and natural resources which, in turn, determine the quality or tourism services and products (Porter & Ketels, 2008; Trapper, Hadjikakou, & Jenkinson, 2012). Steenbruggen (2016) acknowledged the existing government efforts like investing in sustainable tourism, creating awareness on preserving and safeguarding the natural ecosystem (Roudies, 2010; Maassen, 2007), and assurance of improving the long-term attractiveness of the attraction sites and places. According to Steenbruggen (2016), fostering the competitiveness of tourism sector will require improving the hygiene and health sector, additional tourism and transport infrastructure, and increasing security and safety in destinations (Baker, 2014).
The main aim of this research is to propose ways in which the ministry of tourism can brand Morocco as a luxury destination. From the literature review, it is seen that luxury branding involves emphasizing on brand equality and brand loyalty which, in turn, depends on experiential benefits derived by tourists during their visit. To fulfill this objective, the research will utilize qualitative secondary data. In this case, the best destination site offering luxury experience will be chosen. From this site, information regarding its tourism operations, marketing approaches, services, and products offered will be collected through desktop search and literature analysis. Therefore, the source of data will be the destination’s websites, periodicals, past case studies, government reports, Word Organization Reports, and Global Sustainable Tourism reports (Steenbruggen, 2016). The main aim will be to identify best practices utilized by the selected destination and relating it to the theoretical propositions. This benchmarking technique will offer best ways that can be used by the ministry of tourism to attain the 2020 goal of luxury and best destination across the world.
Main Tourist Destination Sites in Morocco
Leisure and Travel in Morocco
Positioning of Morocco Regarding Investment to Leisure and Travel and Export Contribution