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7 Jan, 2008

Backlash Against Branding Gains Ground

Imagine a tourist destination that openly brags about having no McDonalds, Pizza Huts, KFC, Starbucks, Travelodge or Holiday Inns.

In this dispatch:

1. BACKLASH AGAINST BRANDING GAINS GROUND: Imagine a tourist destination that openly brags about having no McDonalds, Pizza Huts, KFC, Starbucks, Travelodge or Holiday Inns. A remarkable press release, one among the hundreds piled up in the media centre of the World Travel Market last November 2007, did just that.

2. THE 2008 OLYMPICS WILL HIGHLIGHT THE YEAR OF CHINA: As host of the 2008 Olympics, this year is set to be a critically important one for China. The official Xinhua news agency summarises the challenges and developments facing the populous and rapidly-developing country

3. CHINA UNVEILS BLUEPRINT FOR HIGHWAY DEVELOPMENT: China will finish the planned construction of national highway system that comprises five north-south highway trunk roads and seven east-west trunk roads and build eight inter-provincial roads this year.

4. 187 NATIONS, ORGANISATIONS CONFIRM TO JOIN SHANGHAI WORLD EXPO 2010: Organisers said the number has already set a record in the World Expo history, surpassing the previous record held by Hanover, Germany, in 2000.



Imagine a tourist destination that gleefully brags about having no McDonalds, Pizza Huts, KFC, Starbucks, Travelodge or Holiday Inns. A remarkable Press Release, one among the hundreds piled up in the media centre of the World Travel Market last November 2007, did just that. Rather than highlight all the various cliché-ridden products and services that destinations claim to have, the release applied a little reverse psychology by highlighting what it DID NOT HAVE!

Not only was the message conveyed by VisitGuernsey remarkably effective as a communication vehicle, it also tapped into the growing backlash against the mind-numbing onslaught of branding and globalisation, which is painting global destinations with images of sameness and forcing a search for those unique selling propositions that differentiate one destination from the next.

This is a trend that management and branding gurus certainly will not highlight; it contradicts everything they believe to be holy. I call it “clonalisation”, a word I coined in 2000 to underscore my belief that globalisation in its current shape and form will eventually fizzle out, and that while the branding concept may help associate products with the symbol of quality, the resulting homogenisation in the imagery of places and destinations will be the absolute antithesis of the distinguishing cultures, sights and sounds that travel & tourism sells for a living.

Press releases such as this one by VisitGuernsey are indicative of a backlash gaining ground. I am reproducing it in full because it created an impact, making it well worth examining further in the august halls of our marketing and communications channels:

<> It was short and sweet, a total of only eight A4 pages, and remarkably eye-catching and effective;

<> It was not packaged within an environmentally wasteful and grammatically excessive press kit, with no CDs, photographs or coverings all destined for the WTM garbage bins;

<> It highlighted the destination’s strengths and unique selling propositions.

<> Most importantly, it certainly triggered a desire to visit Guernsey. I had never heard of Guernsey before encountering the release, but will certainly seek it out on my next trip to the UK.

Communicators will find that such messages will become increasingly common as they seek to distinguish their product from the clutter. It has clearly broken new ground, and I look forward to reading more such creative messages at future travel events. Reproducing two key sections of the release in full here is a high-impact way to start the Travel Impact Newswire dispatches for 2008.




The island of Guernsey is famous for her white sand beaches, more sunshine hours than mainland Britain and fabulous seafood. But there’s a negative side:

<> No chain restaurants: There are no McDonalds, Pizza Huts, KFC…..none of them here. Instead, there are owner-run places, individual chefs, individual style from beach cafes to gourmet restaurants.

<> No chain coffee outlets: With respect to the great Starbucks, Neros and Co of our time, they aren’t here. Places with names like “A Piece of Cake”, Cobo Tea Rooms and the Pelican make just as good tea and coffee – really.

<> No commuter chaos on the railways: Because there are no trains (except for a two-mile long ride on Alderney where a toy train provides easy sightseeing). Saturdays, Sunday, Bank Hols only, Easter-September of course.

<> No hotel chains: Not a single Travelodge or Holiday Inn. Our places to stay have names like Old Government House, Fermain Valley, La Fregate, Aval du Creux, La Collinette, Milles Fleurs and St. Pierre Park.

<> No in-flight movies: Blink and the flight’s over! Around 45 minutes from Gatwick and around an hour from Birmingham (and direct flights from 6 other UK airports)

<> No theme parks, amusement arcades or zoos: Children on holiday here have to suffer crabbing in rock pools, playing on the sands, boat trips to see the puffins parading off the coast of Herm island (if the weather’s bad they have to watch English TV too) or take a RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) ride to see the seals on the rock crops in the north of the island.

<> No traffic hassle: On Guernsey they think “congestion charge” is something to do with a chest infection. Maximum speed is 35 mph. The islands of Herm and Sark are car-free. On Guernsey, horse riders, cyclists and pedestrians have priority in the “ruettes tranquilles” (French for tranquil routes) and a single fare of 60p applies to all bus journeys.

More information from VisitGuernsey, 01481 723552 or www.visitguernsey.com


VisitGuernsey unveils a new look at this year’s WTM, with the launch of their 2008 brochure pack designed to provide visitors with the best possible destination information in a clear, vibrant publication with stunning photography.

This brochure will also be a great resource for tour operators and travel agents. With its fresh new design the brochure pack will also contain a separate ‘How To Get Here’ guide and accommodation book, detailing the wide variety of places to stay on the islands of Guernsey, Alderney, Herm & Sark. VisitGuernsey recognises the importance for visitors to have interesting local information to ensure they get the best from their holiday.

During 2008 VisitGuernsey will also introduce a series of new product literature, in three languages, to enable visitors to make the most of Guernsey’s rich heritage and natural beauty whilst on the island:

<> a “must have” map showing island-wide attractions, floral highlights and heritage

<> walking and cycling maps concentrating on exploring Guernsey outdoors, including the ruettes tranquilles and stunning cliff top walks

<> a map depicting the famous French novelist Victor Hugo’s relationship with Guernsey during his period of exile in the 18th century. The map will provide a colourful insight into his fascinating character and this period of history. Hugo was most famously author of Hunchback of Notre Dame, Les Miserables and Toilers of the Sea (Hugo worked on the latter two during his time on Guernsey).

<> A separate map of St Peter Port will provide a fascinating step by step trail bringing alive the history of Guernsey’s capital and her many museums and historical sites..

<> In addition, for cruise liner passengers and those visiting Guernsey for short breaks there will be a ‘Pocket Guide to Guernsey’ giving essential information on St Peter Port, facts about the island and snapshots – what to see and do.




As host of the 2008 Olympics, this year is set to be a critically important one for China. Recent dispatches by the official Xinhua news agency summarise the major challenges and developments facing the populous and rapidly-developing country between this year’s Olympics and the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai. Travel & tourism industry executives with an interest in China will find these summaries interesting.



Beijing will host the 29th Summer Olympic Games starting on Aug. 8 and the Paralympics on Sept. 6. From stadium construction to recruitment of volunteers, China has tackled preparation for the upcoming games. As the Beijing Olympics logo says, ‘One world, One dream,’ China is trying to provide best services for the competitors and spectators. China also intends to showcase an open and harmonious China to the world and carry forward the Olympic spirit in China.


This year will be the 30th anniversary of China’s reform and opening up. At the end of 1978, the Third Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee was held in Beijing, starting an era of reform and opening up. The session adopted the policy of reform and opening up and shifted the work of the party and state from “taking class struggle as the key link” to economic development. From the countryside to the city, great changes have taken place in China since that decision, which has been proven correct by history.


New laws are taking effect in 2008 to promote social justice and harmony. The Labor Contract Law, which took effect on Tuesday, entitled employees who have at least 10 years’ service in one company to sign contracts that protect them from dismissal without cause. It also required employers to contribute to employees’ social security accounts and set wage standards for probation and overtime. Also from this year, a milestone corporate income tax law took effect. The law set a unified income tax rate for domestic and foreign companies at 25 percent. This came after years of criticism that the original dual income tax mechanism, intended to attract foreign investment, was unfair to domestic enterprises. The anti-monopoly law, which aims to ensure fair competition, will take effect on Aug. 1. Lawmakers said the statute will improve market regulation and provide a better environment for domestic and foreign investors.


The economy has grown faster than 10 percent annually for the past five years. The primary task of China’s 2008 economic work has been set: “to prevent the economy from becoming overheated and to guard against a shift from structural price rises to inflation.” Fueled by continuous food price hikes, the consumer price index (CPI) jumped by 6.9 percent in November, the highest in nearly 10 years. This sharp increase indicated accelerating inflation pressure. Higher food prices, including those of pork — the country’s staple meat — had a strong impact on people’s lives, especially low-income earners. Inflation could affect China’s stable economic development and the government has put a high priority on curbing price hikes. In 2008, China shifted its monetary policy from a “prudent” stance, which the country had followed for the last 10 years, to “tightening.” China will use tighter monetary policies and prudent fiscal policies to ensure structural adjustment and uniform economic development.


The government promised to establish a cooperative health care network covering all rural residents by the end of 2008. Also, by the end of 2010, it will extend the medical insurance system for employed urban residents, aiming to provide safe, effective, convenient and low-cost public health and medical services to the entire population. China would also set up an independent system for the production, procurement and distribution of basic drugs, and also a government fund to allocate more subsidies to rural cooperative medicare and urban insurance. Medical reforms started in 1992 with the aim of creating a multi-faceted system to satisfy different types of public demand. China will continue to spend more on education in 2008 and expand free nine-year compulsory education among rural and urban children. The government has also vowed to curb rising housing prices to help urban low-income families, by expediting the low-rent housing system and improving the affordable housing system.


China has decided to convene the first plenary session of the 11th National People’s Congress (NPC) on March 5, 2008, during which top state and government leaders will be elected. The 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), convened in October 2007, drew up overall plans for economic, political, cultural, social construction and party building activities. During the First Session of the 11th NPC, the deputies will discuss and vote through major reform plans, including a State Council plan on institutional reform.


China’s third manned space mission is scheduled to be launched in 2008. Compared with the previous two manned space flights, the upcoming Shenzhou VII space mission, which includes a space walk, is more complex. The crew is also scheduled to perform extravehicular work such as installing equipment and tightening screws. There are 14 astronauts undergoing extensive training for this project and learning to cope with any contingencies. The Shenzhou VII is expected to carry three astronauts in 2008 on a Long March 2F carrier rocket that is being tested now. China launched its manned space program in 1999. It successfully sent Yang Liwei, the country’s first astronaut, into orbit on the Shenzhou V spacecraft in 2003. Yang spent about 21 hours in orbit. Two years later, astronauts Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng completed a Chinese record five-day flight on the Shenzhou VI. All astronauts returned safely.


Chinese President Hu Jintao will visit Japan this spring, which will be the first visit by a Chinese President to Japan in a decade, since former President Jiang Zemin’s journey in 1998. Hu’s trip was scheduled by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, who concluded a China visit last week. In 2008, the two countries will mark the 30th anniversary of the signing of the China-Japan Treaty of Peace and Friendship. Meanwhile, youth exchange programs will be promoted to observe the China-Japan Friendly Exchange Year of the Youth in 2008. Long-term, stable and friendly relations are the common goal of people in both countries and the responsibility of their leaders.



BEIJING, Jan. 6 (Xinhua) — China will finish the planned construction of national highway system that comprises five north-south highway trunk roads and seven east-west trunk roads and build eight inter-provincial roads this year, communication minister Li Shenglin said on the weekend. So far, the highway system, which has a total mileage of 35,000km, has taken shape, Li said at a national communication work conference held in Beijing.

Meanwhile, China is to build new expressway roads with a total length of 5,000 km and expand construction of eight inter-provincial highways, he said. More important, Li said, the country will start building a road to Medog, the last roadless county in southeastern part of Tibet, this year. The central government has been considering building the highway in Medog since 1975. However, the highway poses a number of engineering challenges as Medog sits on the Himalayan fault line where there are many earthquakes and landslides.

By the end of 2007, China had built roads with a total length of 116,000 km. The mileage of highway opening to traffic totals 3.57 million km, Li said. Work has completed on 80 percent of the eight inter-provincial highway roads. Constructions on bridges over the Yangtze River, Hangzhou Bay and some other key rivers are in final touches.



KUNMING, Jan. 6 (Xinhua) — A total of 187 countries and international organizations have confirmed their participation at the Shanghai World Expo in 2010, organizers said here Sunday. The number has already set a record in the World Expo history, surpassing the previous record held by Hanover, Germany, in 2000, said Zhu Yonglei, deputy director of the Bureau of Shanghai World Expo Coordination. “Shanghai will strive to get confirmation from 200 countries or international organizations by the end of 2008,” said Zhu.

The city has just started to organize domestic participants. On Jan. 2, Hong Kong SAR government submitted its theme statement, an official document to confirm the theme of its pavilion to the Bureau of Shanghai World Expo Coordination. Currently, four major permanent buildings of the Expo, including the China National Pavilion, have all started construction.

Shanghai unveiled its mascot for the Expo last month. The mascot is named Haibao, literally means “treasure of the world”. The blue smiling cartoon figure has curly hair and is in the shape of Chinese character REN, or human beings. The expo, which runs May 1 to October 31, 2010, was expected to draw 70 million visitors, an average of 400,000 a day. It was the first time for the event to be held in a developing country since the inaugural fair in London in 1851. Shanghai won its bid for the expo in December 2002.

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