-With files from Joe Fries
An increasingly competitive world tourism market is making it harder for B.C. to set itself apart, according to the head of Destination BC.
But B.C. has a lot to offer that will become the basis of a revitalization of the Super, Natural British Columbia brand.
“I thank God everyday we are not Saskatchewan,” said Marsha Walden, Destination B.C. president, speaking last week in Penticton at the annual general meeting of the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association, discussing a new provincial strategy centred on setting a new direction for the brand.
Tourism Penticton executive director Chris Bower is glad Destination BC is taking time to consult with industry on the finer details of the plan and that they are retaining the core Super, Natural brand.
“I think it’s very positive rather than trying to do a whole new rebrand, because that’s what the consumer knows us as in British Columbia.”
Super, Natural will be repackaged, becoming the basis of a new package emphasizing B.C.’s wilderness.
“We believe a bold new brand platform is what is needed to dramatically set us apart from all the competitors that exist in the world today,” said Walden. “We need to be putting out a brand promise that really ignites the imagination of people that causes them to give us a second look.
“Few people come here to stay in their hotel room.”
Global travel is expected to double by 2030, with growth in affluent older adults travelling without children, seeking authentic experiences, what Walden described as “free spirits and cultural explorers.”
“The basis of marketing competition is changing,” said Walden, explaining that the goal of Destination BC’s three-year strategy is to make B.C. the most highly recommended destination in North America.
“You can’t just be marketing product that isn’t living up to the standards of the world consumer today,” she said. “We need to become famous for a few things.”
Maya Lange, vice president of global marketing for Destination B.C., said those few things include B.C.’s natural features, which appeal to the new type of travellers.
“The strongest brands are those that create an emotional connection,” said Lange. There are many new markets and locations that are opening up. We have to work harder to stand out.”
Ange Chew, tourism manager for the City of Vernon, hopes the new strategy will help shoot B.C. to the top of potential visitors’ must-see lists.
“Like they said, it’s bringing back the emotive connection to drive the urgency,” she said. “When you’re competing on the world market with rain forests that are depleting and other world destinations that have more drive, it’s hard, so I do like and support the direction they’re going in.”
At the core of the reinvigorated brand is “powerful nature.”
“It is not just nature, it is this idea of wilderness, which is unique in B.C. Our ocean, our rugged coastlines, our massive mountains and this idea of cities that are perched in wilderness are emotionally captivating for our visitors,” said Lange. “Our new brand is built on this true nature for B.C. To experience B.C. is to be renewed and transformed. At our core, we are wild at heart. it is who we are, it is what we are and it is how visitors feel when they experience us.”
An example of the new brand is the Wild Within video (tinyurl.com/wildbc), which Walden said was only posted to YouTube to gather input from provincial stakeholders. It has now received almost a quarter of a million views.
Lange said there is still much to be done, and they will be gathering input from TOTA and other destination marketing organizations as the rebranding is rolled out over the next year.
TOTA CEO Glen Mandziuk thinks this region, which is already working under a 10-year strategy launched in 2012, is well-positioned to capitalize on the new plan and refreshed brand.
“I think what we saw was good research went behind the marketing brand that was put together and shown to us, and now it’s our opportunity to leverage the ideas that come from that,” he said.
“It’s a fresh look to it. It’s actually more appropriate to the market, it’s fun, it’s a little more bold, and it’s something we’re pleased to see happen. And I think it’s something we in the Okanagan can really plug ourselves into.”