Date of Award

2007

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Business Honours

School

School of Marketing, Tourism and Leisure

Faculty

Faculty of Business and Law

First Advisor

Ross Dowling

Second Advisor

Lynnaire Sheridan

Abstract

The development of a destination brand for Sabah has been dominated by numerous reports that emphasise the need to develop global awareness of Sabah, but the objectives set to achieve this goal are often idealistic in nature and offer no real solution to problems identified. The challenge, here, is to unify key messages into a consistent, clear and realistic brand and to ensure content in promotional tools accentuates the activities, experiences and key benefits of visiting "Destination Sabah". This study will begin to address these challenges by undertaking the processes that underpin destination branding through comparison to a relational network devised by Hankinson

(2004). The public and private sector agencies inform this study, and were chosen because they significantly influence both the political and economic environments of the destination; they also have a large impact on the tourism industry at the global, national and local level. This study focuses on the public and private sectors' as stakeholders of the tourism industry, and as part of a relational network. To inform this study, information of a qualitative nature was considered the most appropriate for understanding the "consumer relationships" identified by Hankinson. In consideration of the need to build on an initial idea, and effectively gather information and opinions on building a strong destination brand, an inductive approach and exploratory research design was used to uncover the purpose of this study (Jennings, 2001). The results, which are study specific, of interviews conducted with 37 public and private sector representatives' of Sabah's tourism industry, emphasised the alignment and misalignment in perceptions conveyed. This led to a range of opinions on how to best brand the tourism product, and gave insight into the challenges faced by key stakeholders in their effort to create a unified branding vision for "Destination Sabah". Overall, there is a good understanding of branding theory in Sabah, however, branding is poorly applied in practice. There is no clear future brand and, at the same time, considerable potential for breaking brand promise and causing customer dissatisfaction. The gaps identified between an ideal branding scenario (Hankinson's model) and "Destination Sabah" specifically were; conflict in identifying a preferred target market (Ecotourism versus Nature-based tourism), lack of integrated destination management (pollution and development in conflict with a Nature-based product), lack of community involvement and controlling, rather than, an involving style of management from the top. It is recommended that "Destination Sabah" re-assess its direction against its tourism resources, to identify those assets which appeal to clearly defined, well researched, target markets. Furthermore, that key tourism industry stakeholders should help develop and nurture community tourism education in order to achieve a sustainable tourism industry. All stakeholder meetings should be adequately facilitated to manage responsibility and ensure that each stakeholder group is represented. Finally, "Destination Sabah" has to be well-managed (not controlled) and all efforts must be tied in with professional marketing expertise based on extensive market research.

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