Metonymies, market diversification & tourism destination re-imaging.
Destinations – as a product – are bought or selected before they have even been tried or experienced. Therefore, their image and reputation is vital for competitiveness.
Some destinations have the chance of "being famous for being famous", and so have a defined stronger image (positive or negative) among tourists. Every person can have an image of a destination, even without visiting it or being exposed to any related information. The management of this representation is, therefore, of great significance for the destination's marketers; to the point that this image must be considered as a strategic management tool to attract tourists. Furthermore, the management of a destination's image becomes even more important when the destination has gone into urban decline and decayed.
Cities seeking to enhance a differentiation strategy must have a clear view of their market position. This is to create a perception or image – that establishes a position – in the targeted visitor's mind. Competitive destinations must understand this position (image) as being a dynamic construct that needs to be managed over time and according to the destination's life cycle.
Once an image is established it becomes very stable and so it can take a long time to change from a negative image to a positive one. However, autonomous change agents can change the image of a destination faster or even alter it immediately. Organic or autonomous images (as opposed to those induced by official messages) can be very effective when a city is being re-imaged.
An interesting and effective technique to achieve a destination's re-imaging consists of recurring to simplified representations that encapsulate the whole destination. These representations are made up of synecdoches (a part-of-the-whole metonymy) and their attached connotations. Synecdoches refer to cognitive elements while connotations appeal to affective constructs. Metonymy and connotation are deemed to be the two most important mechanisms for image change.
The most effective of these subtle metonymic techniques are the staging of events or constructing iconic buildings. The powerful image-changing characteristics of these two techniques can convey autonomous messages among potential tourists, leading them to seemingly form their own opinions. This can have a far greater impact and a much more positive effect on shaping a destination's image than any induced message would.
Building architectural marvels and hosting halmark events do not represent the same level of investment, though.