by Dr Heather Skinner
The Academy of Marketing conference attracts over 350 international marketing academics each year. Last year I was very privileged to be awarding the prize for Best Paper in the Place Marketing and Branding Track to the winners, this year I was even more delighted to win this Best Paper in Track prize myself. I have been attending the Academy of Marketing conference since 2001, and over the years have presented research on a wide range of subjects, but mainly on issues relating to Place Marketing and Branding, with my first ever paper “How Cymru Became Cool: An Examination of Wales’ Culture Production System 1990 – 2000” being based on work arising from my masters’ thesis. In 2008, at the Academy of Marketing Conference held in Aberdeen, I was awarded not only Best Paper in the Reflective Marketing Track, but also Best Paper in Conference overall for my work “The emergence and development of Place Marketing’s confused identity”, a full version of which was then published that year in the Journal of Marketing Management.
The prize winning research that I presented this year at the Academy of Marketing Conference that took place at Northumbria University in Newcastle between 4th – 7th July was “Business Tourists’ Perceptions of National and Capital City Brands: A comparison between Dublin / Republic of Ireland, and Cardiff / Wales”. This research focused on exploring the perceptions of destinations that attract business tourists for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events (MICE), with these destinations usually being national capital cities that have the infrastructure to serve such a market. While business tourists account for almost 14% of all international travel, less is known about this segment than other travellers. When destination images are analysed, this tends to be undertaken from the perspective of the leisure tourist, not the business tourist; place brand image attributes of business and leisure destinations may differ not only in the way these are communicated but also in the way they are perceived; when destination image analysis has related to business tourism, it tends to be from the perspective of the business event planner, not the business tourist; and where research does exist it tends to be on the destination itself as a unit of analysis, and not the host country. My research therefore attempts to fill some of these gaps in our knowledge.
The findings in this paper were based on a comparison of analysing data collected via questionnaires completed by business tourism delegates at the Academy of Marketing Conference held in Dublin, the capital city of the Republic of Ireland, in 2005, with data collected at the Academy of Marketing Conference held in Cardiff, the capital city of Wales, in 2013. My results showed that:
- A conference destination can influence a business tourist’s decision to attend or to not attend an event in a destination perceived as difficult to get to, expensive, and if the destination image is unattractive, with little cultural appeal, and is perceived as unsafe.
- The novelty of a destination that holds fewer MICE events than some of the major international MICE destinations can be a positive attribute on which to promote and encourage attendance at an event.
- Better co-ordination between the promotion of business tourism capital city and host nation by DMOs is needed to positively affect the cross-over between business and leisure tourism during the same visit.
MICE planners should be encouraged to organise more trips and delegate activities further afield, away from the main conference venue. Taking delegates to participate in activities or visit places of interest even outside of the destination city may not be detrimental to the overall delegate experience, even if the facilities outside of the city are not as highly developed. Delegates have recognised that while a destination capital city may be more lively, entertaining and cosmopolitan, they also recognise the charm associated with the wider host nation’s rural and scenic landscape, and these broader destination image attributes are also perceived as positive by business travellers