This is a response to the article by Arsalan Kazemifar: Destination Brand Identity in the Process of Destination Branding: A case Study of Shiraz, Iran
Most of the scholars in the field of place branding consider branding as necessary for tourism marketing. Furthermore, destinations have developed place branding to the extent that brand strategy and brand management have become formal institutions in tourism marketing departments and associations. For realizing brand strategies which make the cities more competitive and successful, leaders of this science apply branding techniques in the fields of commerce and service. Not all the place branding is successful, however, and most branding projects deviate from their intended aims.
The brand image of a city does more than attract tourists. It has extensive economic, political and social value. Many jobs, businesses, and organizations owe their success to a city’s brand. If a brand is comprehensive, the duty of guaranteeing the continuing development is a challenge which depends on through the collaboration of all the partners. Apart from focusing on attracting more tourists, stakeholders in the branding process should define strategic aims from the beginning and make sure that there is enough budget for facilitating these aims. The financial resources must be sufficient to encourage a branding expert to lead a process.
As Mr. Kazemifar mentioned in his article, bilateral relations between these organizations and stakeholders are needed to develop a brand. Unfortunately, this cooperation is not operating in Shiraz and there are many infrastructural problems in aligning these organizations. My company, as the best tourism importer in Iran and in Shiraz, face with problems with these organizations which I individually try to solve as much as possible.
Two of the findings of Arsalan Kazemifar’s research on branding the city of Shiraz are specifically notable. First, Kazemifar states that one of the problems with the branding of the city Shiraz is related to “the expansion of the city which led to the division of Shiraz into two parts, called the old and new districts.” It sounds intuitive that having two distinct city parts can challenge the process of assigning a unique label or brand to a city. That being said, this argument can benefit from further elaboration.
One of the other findings of this research which I personally think is on target is the notion that in Shiraz, a lack of communication and collaboration between tourism stakeholders has brought upon challenges for designing a unique place identity and brand for the city. Being born and raised in Shiraz, I can attest that miss-communication between entities in charge is a prevalent issue with a number of other tourism destinations in Iran and in the region. A next step that can bring upon more impact would be investigating who those entities and stakeholders are in this specific case study. In other words, who has the power and right to make such decisions regarding destination branding in Shiraz? And what entity can bring everyone together in the process of branding the city?
Lastly, I find it advantageous that Kazemifar touches upon the impact of governmental leaders in Iran in the process of branding. He argues how it is important to find a balance between leaders’ viewpoint of what a destination should look like in the eyes of potential tourists and immigrants and, how the public perceive the destination to be. In a world where mass media and news channels negatively impacts the image of destinations for the favor of politicians, authentic branding is of vital importance for a true representation of tourism destinations. Research such as this can help beautiful and alluring tourism destinations such as Shiraz reach their full potential in attracting travelers from around the world. I enjoyed reading this research and I wish Kazemifar and his future colleagues the very best.