A debate over ASEAN tourism brand differentiation.

OK, everyone knows brands should differentiate themselves from each other to carve out their own space and, hopefully, compete favorably with their competitors. Except that assumes they will compete on characteristics they can “own” and that will attract their customers.

HOWEVER, in a recent Khmer Times article a respected Cambodian tourism industry insider has criticized ongoing efforts to define separate “brand identities” for countries in the region, as officials try to work together to distinguish the different benefits of visiting ASEAN countries.

Thourn Sinan, chairman of the Pacific Area Travel Association (PATA) Cambodia Chapter, said he disagreed with the typecasting of different countries, arguing that tourism could not be reduced to a series of consumer products.

Here’s how Thourn Sinan sees the individual countries’ “typecasting”:

  1. Cambodia is being promoted as the leading country for heritage tourism;
  2. Myanmar as the place to have the best local encounters;
  3. Laos as a country where you can take part in adventures by road;
  4. Vietnam as the home of luxury cruises;
  5. Thailand as the place to have a lively metropolitan and food experience.

Mr. Sinan said officials are free to define brand identities for each country in the region if they want, but claimed the majority of travelers are interested in understanding more than one aspect of each country, from the local people, to politics, the economy and wider traditions, outside of the obvious culture and heritage attractions.

“We cannot divide up countries like this or give tourists the option of purchasing a particular tourism product. Tourists want to see how developed a country is, what the living standards of the people are like, and also how they relate to the host country’s culture, customs, politics and economy,” Mr Sinan said.

And here is an alternative view from Lor Thoura, Director of the Marketing and Promotion Department at the Ministry of Cambodia Tourism:

He said the attempt to define brand identities is intended to play on the strengths of each country in the region.

Cambodia is famous for its cultural heritage, so the brand is “Kingdom of Wonders”, which will attract travelers who are interested in culture, he said.

“Those travelers who like culture and heritage will come to Cambodia,” Mr Thoura said.

He added that Thailand, for example, is branded “Amazing Thailand”, because of its recreation services available to tourists.

“We cannot separate tourism into brand identities,” Mr Sinan said. “It is not possible because tourism is not a consumer product. Tourism is about feeling and imagination.”

Chhay Sivlin, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, argued that brand identities were just a way of grabbing the attention of tourists.

“Regional tourism authorities agree that Cambodia is rich in historical and cultural sites compared to other countries in the region, so that’s why we branded Cambodia as a cultural and historical country,” Ms. Sivlin said.

“That doesn’t mean we don’t also have other tourism products to offer, such as our rivers, coastal areas and other natural resources.”

            So just where does this debate take us? 

I don’t know what the right answer is, but it does seem that the parties involved could use a little better information (via effective market  research?) to select what really makes their countries DIFFERENT  from their neighbors and ATTRACTIVE  to tourists. Other than that, if Mr. Sinan’s view of Vietnam’s and Laos’ branding is correct (as focused on”luxury cruises” and “adventures by road”), those countries might want to get some new thinking to guide their tourism marketing efforts.

To see the original article, just follow this link : http://www.khmertimeskh.com/news/39538/tourism-branding–falls-short-/

Thinking about a start up or entering a new market?

Don’t dive in without doing at  least “some” market research.

OK, you’ve got a great idea for a new business or maybe just a new market    for a business you already have. Remember, all new ideas are good ideas, mainly because YOU came up with them.

However, the bad news is all new ideas are not equal. Some are great, some just so so and, unfortunately, some are downright bad and could end up costing you a lot of money.

So, what is a hopeful, optimistic entrepreneur to do?

Invest some of your time, and not necessarily a lot of your money,  getting some information about your brainchild of an idea. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time. It doesn’t have to cost a lot. But doing the minimum before you jump in will provide you two things:

  1. It  just may save you from making a big mistake. There are no guarantees and a bad idea may still “look” good until it meets the realities of the real world, but SOME information is better than NO information when evaluating an investment.
  2. However, if the idea continues to “look” good, even after you have gained just a little information, gathering that information can help you begin the marketing planning you will need to launch and grow a new business.

Your Basic (Quick & Short) Checklist

1. Target Audience: How big is it? How are your competitors reaching it? How will you reach it (and for how much)?

2. Who are your competitors? Are there many of them? Does your idea offer something they don’t?

3. What do you think can be your USP (Unique Selling Proposition)? Aim for more than just a lower price, more              product options or longer credit/faster delivery. Those are just “things” that a competitor can ultimately offer.             Try  to discover what will make your idea different AND  better in the customer’s eyes.

Basic (and Free) Market Research

  1.  Shop/observe your competitors. Go to their stores. Talk to their employees.  Check out their advertising and social media activities. If they are good marketers, this will tell you a lot about how they see the market and how they approach it. It doesn’t matter if they are B2B or B2C businesses. All of this is information helps you understand where are the obstacles and opportunities for your idea.
  2.  Check out the local Chamber of Commerce and trade associations/organizations and see who are their members in the space you plan to enter. Here in Phnom Penh, the American Chamber of Commerce has a special SME/Start Up Committee you can join. You can join join or just visit other local non-governmental organizations like the Young Entrepreneurs Association of Cambodia. These can be good sources for networking and sharing information.
  3. If there is a trade association related to your business idea in your area, contact them for all formation they have. Such organizations are eager to promote their specific industries and companies. Also, make sure you review the free information in the Yellow Pages, on-line articles and relevant websites via the search engines.

No matter what your idea and the limited “research” you do to evaluate it, at some point you will want better, more complete information to fully analyze the market and form the most effective marketing plan you can. Make sure you choose a research provider that helps you ask the right questions and get the most effective answers. We can do that for you.  Leverage Research Solutions.

Political stability keeps Cambodian economy positive, promising for business growth.

Cambodia’s business environment retained a positive outlook during the commune elections held yesterday, with several experts saying they expected the Kingdom’s economy to benefit from continued political stability.

This is good news, as a stable economy and business situation means growth for both existing businesses and an encouraging environment for new or start up companies.

Though in the past, economic uncertainty increased dramatically during the electoral process, the outlook now for investments and business remained relatively unchanged according to members of Cambodia’s business community.

Ngeth Chou, senior consultant at Emerging Markets Consulting (EMC), a firm advising foreign companies on doing business in Cambodia, said that long-term investors showed few concerns regarding the commune election. Many firms continued to conduct feasibility studies in Cambodia and expected to expand their businesses in the Kingdom, he said.

“Investors believe that whoever wins the election, they will treat the private sector well,” he said. “They believe that the government acknowledges that the private sector is the main tax payer to boost government revenue and reduce dependency from foreign aid.

Ngoun Meng Tech, director general of the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce said the situation surrounding the election was not as agitated compared to during previous election cycles. He said he had no concerns regarding the country’s future economic growth. “Our economic situation is stable and growth is positive currently, so the election result will not be a concern or a risk to the process of economic growth,” he said.

Overall, the elections are past and the economy is looking stable, so Cambodia’s business situation remains promising. Now it will be important for companies making future business decisions to get the best information they can to guide them.

Leverage Research Solutions is an ideal market research partner for doing just that.

Link to article in Phnom Phen Post.