Festivals and events are seen as a tool for raising awareness and as a catalyst in promoting a favourable destination image to potential tourists (Lertputtarak, 2012). The image of a destination can be enhanced by the success of an event (Baloglu & McCleary, 1999). In the words of “Lawson & Baud Bovy (1977), the concept of destination image is defined as the expression of all objective knowledge, prejudices, imagination and emotional thoughts of an individual or group about a particular location” (Dominique & Lopes, 2011, p. 07). Additionally, “other authors define the image as the sum of all beliefs, ideas and impressions that people associate with a destination (Crompton, 1979; Kotler, Haider & Rein, 1993)” (Dominique & Lopes, 2011, p. 307). This paper discusses the impact of events on destination image enhancement. Destination image is formed from several sources of information. Event information sources are the forces which influence the forming of perceptions and evaluations of a region’s characteristics.
It will be argued, using the specific example of the ‘Exit’ event staged in 2000, that public exposure through extensive media coverage and word of mouth communications are the main elements that contribute to a positive destination image. Furthermore, it will be demonstrated how hosting events present an opportunity for marketers, as part of their strategy, to help position their destination and enhance their global image. As illustrated by the ‘Mardi Gras’ event staged in Sydney, Australia.
By their size and scale, events can attract significant media coverage. Thus, extensive attention has been given to the image-enhancement potential of events and their media coverage (Getz, 2008, p. 417). Past research across fields has established that events yield an extraordinarily high level of media coverage, which influences the forming of a positive destination perception in the tourism marketplace and enhances attitudes to visitations (Getz, 2008).
When the media coverage of the host city or the country is favourable, which is true in most cases, the worldwide publicity translates into a higher level of awareness of the region, resulting in a renewed, stronger and better image of the host city or the country (Getz, 2008). For example, the 2000 ‘Exit’ Festival staged in Novi Sad Serbia, witnessed significant tourism during and after the event. The festival generated significant media coverage worldwide, which had a considerable beneficial impact on tourism for the city through improved awareness and perceptions of
Novi Sad as a visitor destination (Armenski, Gomezelj, Djurdjev, Deri & Aleksandra, 2011). Furthermore, it was revealed that an additional 50 thousand euros, donated by government funding, was spent in the region during and after the event (Armenski et al. , 2011). In addition, the now annual festival, acted as a stimulant for the expansion of hospitality facilities in Novi Sad and the city centre now has a greater capacity to host additional events (Armenski et al. , 2011). The success of the ‘Exit’ festival through media coverage has raised the profile, image and awareness of Novi Sad as a regenerated attractive tourist destination.
Among informational sources, word of mouth communication is considered to be a dominant force and effective means with regard to destination image promotion (Beerli & Martin, 2004, pp. 661-663). Word of mouth communication is a self-generating medium of informal advertising. Word of mouth is one of the key channels by which people absorb information about a destination because it provides the inquirer with an indirect experience about the destination’s event through the experiences of friends and relatives. This factor allows for any person to build an image of the destination in their minds, without ever having been there.
The word of mouth communications stemming from visitor satisfaction are essential for the long-term international tourism impact of the event and attitudes to visitation (Beerli & Martin, 2004, pp. 661-663). In support, Baloglu and McCleary (1999) empirical results found that only word of mouth communication positively influences the destination image and tourist attitude. There has been a growing awareness of the potentially significant impact that hosting events such as World’s Fairs or Olympic Games, to staging traditional cultural events can have on their host city’s destination image (Richards & Wilson, 2004, p. 931). Recent studies of destination marketing and tourism management have pointed to the increasing use of events as a means to market places as tourist destinations. This phenomenon can be linked to a general increase in competition between cities for the attention of important stakeholders, including investors and increased visitor numbers (Richards & Wilson, 2004, pp. 1933-1935). Destinations therefore need to find new ways of distinguishing themselves from their competitors and events are used as a platform for creating and maintaining a desirable image, as in the case of the Sydney ‘Mari Gras’ estival for the gay and lesbian community (Markwell, 2002). The capital of New South Wales is the largest city in Australia and amongst other cities is world-famous for its Mardi Gras celebration held each year at the end of February (Markwell, 2002). The construction of the Mardi Gras event and the tourism associated with it have played a crucial role in the establishment of Sydney’s image as an international world-class gay and lesbian capital that appears to openly embrace and promote gay and lesbian cultures.
This example demonstrates how such a hallmark event has played a major role in the international and national formation of a given destination (Markwell, 2002). Sydney has provided a host city and an event that has resulted in widespread recognition and awareness in the minds of consumers. Sydney’s Marti Gras success on uniqueness has generated tourism revenue, economic benefits and has strengthened the destinations overall image (Markwell, 2002).
The body of literature established that information sources which individuals are exposed to influence the forming of destination perceptions. In an events context, word of mouth communication and media coverage have a considerable influence on destination image and destination choice intention. These information sources vastly contribute to destination image enhancement. Moreover, this paper illustrated how enhancement of consumer awareness of a destination is a common reason that regions seek to host events, as it reflects the destination in a positive manner (Lertputtarak, 2012).