Cornell Report Demonstrates How to Develop a Destination Brand

Jan 19, 2011

Contact:  Glenn Withiam, 607.255.3025,

Cornell Report Demonstrates How to Develop a Destination Brand
Student team used six-step process for marketing and branding Zambia as a tourism destination

Ithaca, NY, January 19, 2011 – The branding process for a tourism destination involves complex marketing strategies, because the brand must capture the alignment between what potential travelers desire and what the location offers.  When the destination is an entire nation, the destination marketing plan and branding development process becomes even more complicated. Branding and marketing Zambia as a tourism destination was the assignment of a team of Cornell graduate students, when they took on the challenge of creating a new identity for the nation of Zambia, at the invitation of Zambia's tourism leaders.

The master's degree students (who have since graduated) used a six-step brand-development process created by Robert Kwortnik, associate professor at the School of Hotel Administration. The process is explained in a new report from the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research  (CHR), "Positioning a Place: How to Develop a Compelling Destination Brand," written by Kwortnik and Ethan Hawkes, who now holds an M.B.A. from Cornell. The report is available at no charge from the CHR at

As described in the report, the six-step "Process Framework for Strategic Brand Development" begins with creating a promise of benefits, based on a clear understanding of what consumers desire from the destination. Using data from potential visitors to the country, the team first identified the motivational factors for Zambia tourism. They next evaluated the nation's value proposition and assessed its competitive brand position, as compared to the nearby African nations that constitute its competitive set. Their next step was to develop core brand elements, based on the traveler motivations. With the brand elements in place, the group identified brand promises, which they tested with key suppliers, sponsors, and potential customers.
"Our final step was to create a list of the 'touch points' for Zambia, based on our study of consumers' travel motivations," said Kwortnik. "Those touch points include Victoria Falls, safaris, and the nation's culture in village tours. We presented our concepts and findings to Zambia's tourism officials, but as of now, no final decision has been made. What our team found in Zambia was a welcoming nation that offered a remarkable travel experience, but that is little known. By recommending the best ways to strategically explore marketing Zambia as a tourism destination and strategic destination brand, we hope to put the country on the map and to drive tourists—and their travel spending—to this beautiful, but impoverished country."

Meet and interact with Professor Kwortnik, an active member of the executive education faculty, at the School of Hotel Administration, when he presents sessions in the Professional Development Program:

Thanks to the support of the CHR partners listed below, all publications posted on the center's website are available free of charge, at

About The Center for Hospitality Research
A unit of the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, The Center for Hospitality Research (CHR) sponsors research designed to improve practices in the hospitality industry. Under the lead of the center's 81 corporate affiliates, experienced scholars work closely with business executives to discover new insights into strategic, managerial and operating practices. The center also publishes the award-winning hospitality journal, the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly. To learn more about the center and its projects, visit

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