Today the winners of the tourism promotion category at the first Country Brand Awards were announced. The awards, in their first year, recognise the construction of Country Brand in these times of global turmoil.

Dubai was the best rated in the world (with an average score of 7.75 out of 10). Its communication work with its “Ready when you are” campaign combined with the country’s strict health protocols during the pandemic, as recognised by the WTTC, were vital to this award recognition. It is followed by Australia (7.5) and Portugal (7.37), which take second and third place in the tourism promotion category. Spain, however, was left off the podium, with a score of 7 out of 10.

The Country Brand Awards are decided by a strict selection process and a weighted voting system, in which countries are assessed on three criteria including an independent study on how a Country Brand is built.

How do you build a Country Brand?

A Country Brand is built on three axes: The first axis is the capacity to generate an economic brand that includes attracting investment and talent, as well as the promotion of exports. The second axis is the construction of the tourism brand, conditioned by the capacity to attract tourists and generate economic movement. In recent times, intangible concepts of the Country Brand have been added to these axes, such as the influence of emblematic companies and brands, their inhabitants, their culture and the influence of political and legal considerations.

Finally, 2020 has marked the emergence of a new axis of brand construction or deterioration: the management of the COVID-19 crisis. It is the era of Soft Values, where the way in which countries and brands safeguard individuals’ health has taken on greater importance.

Recognition in the category of tourism promotion is granted as a result of an exhaustive analysis of the best tourism promotion campaigns of the last three years, and how the current health crisis has been managed on the ground. The jury’s assessment was carried out during September and October, taking into account the tourism promotion campaigns of the last three years and the country’s health management of COVID-19 during the first wave.

This jury is made up of professionals from the world of communication and is chaired by Country Branding expert Didier Lagae, author of the book “Marca País, Un País como Marca” (A Country Brand, a Branded Country) and founder and CEO of MARCO.

The jury included Gema Barón, Academic Director of Marketing at the University of Nebrija; John Harrington and Arvind Hickman, Editor-in-Chief and Editor of PRWeek UK respectively; Paul Holmes, Chairman of Provoke, Holmes Report and the SABRE Awards; Miguel López Quesada, Chairman of Dircom; Rodrigo Villamizar-Alvargonzález, Ambassador and former Minister of Energy of Colombia; and Fathallah Sijilmassi, Ambassador of Morocco, former Secretary-General of the Moroccan Investment Development Agency (AMDIE) and former Secretary-General of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM).

As reflected by Lagae in his book “Marca País, Un País como Marca” (Country Brand, a Branded Country, whose English and French editions have just been published, the capacity of countries to promote tourism, as well as to attract talent and boost exports and foreign investment, are key elements in the construction of a country brand. Other factors, such as governance or the management of the pandemic caused by COVID-19 have had a high impact on the reputation of these countries.

In terms of the results by continent, the jury gave an average of over 10: Portugal (7.37) was the country awarded first place in Europe, followed by France (7.25) and Italy (7.12). In Asia, the Middle East and Oceania, Dubai (7.75) was also in the lead, ahead of Australia (7.5) and New Zealand (7.25). In Africa, Kenya (6.37) has been the winner on the African continent, while Morocco (6.25) and Egypt (5.62) are in second and third place respectively. Finally, on the American continent, Canada (5.75) was awarded first place, followed by Colombia (5.5), Chile (5.37) and Argentina (5.37), who tied for third place.

Gemma Barón, Academic Director of Marketing at the University of Nebrija, points out: “The country brand is a strategic self-presentation to the rest of the world. In this sense, tourism contributes the most experiential part of the global positioning and countries must be proactive in their management of tourism, in order to avoid old stereotypes that can cannibalise current assets.

Arvind Hickman, Deputy Editor of PR Week, also states: “I welcome initiatives like these new Country Brand Awards, driven by an agency like MARCO, who has credentials in this matter. [The awards] clearly demonstrate that how to best promote destinations has changed, and maybe for the first time in recent history, educational PR overtakes the need for glamorous advertisement.

Didier Lagae, President of the Jury, and recently appointed European PR and Global PR Professional of the Year, as well as CEO and Founder of MARCO, comments: “The current crisis caused by COVID-19 forces us to communicate more than ever. Tourism promotion must focus on what really concerns tourists at the moment: health safety. In other words, what do destinations do to ensure that tourists can travel without getting infected, and how do they project this to the public?

The other two categories of the Country Brand Awards and their winners will be announced during the month of December.

Last modified: 9 December, 2020

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