Destinations - as a product - are bought or selected before even being 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 having visited it or having been exposed to any related information. The management of this representation is therefore of great significance for the destination's marketers; to the point that the destination's image must be considered as a strategic management tool to attract tourists. Furthermore, the management of a destination's image becomes even more important in cases where the destination has undergone a decay or urban decline.
Cities seeking to enhance a differentiation strategy must have a clear view of their market positioning. This is to create a perception or image - to establish 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 has been established it becomes very stable and so, changing from a negative image to a positive one can take a long time. However, autonomous change agents can change the image of a destination faster or even immediately. Organic or autonomous images (as opposed to those induced by official, induced messages) can be very effective when attempting to re-image a city.
An interesting and effective technique to achieve a destination's re-imaging consists in recuring 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 staging 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.