Business Tourists’ Perceptions of Nation Brands and Capital City Brands: A comparison between Dublin, Republic of Ireland and Cardiff, Wales

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Business tourists are estimated to account for around 14% of all international travel. It is surprising that research into travel and tourism, and also research into places as destination brands, tends to focus on leisure rather than on business tourism. Business tourism is of great relevance to places seeking to act competitively in global markets.

In a new study, in the Journal of Marketing Management, Dr Heather skinner has investigated issues from a comparison of two European capital city MICE (MICE is the acronym used for the highly lucrative Meetings, Incentives, Conferences/Conventions and Events/Exhibitions market,) destinations;  Dublin (Republich of Ireland) and Cardiff (Wales).  Dublin the capital of the Republic of Ireland; and Cardiff, the capital of Wales. Both national capitals have good air, rail, and bus transport links, both are located on major rivers, and are located on their nation’s coast. Both cities are the locations of many of the nations’ cultural attractions. The Republic of Ireland shares a border with Northern Ireland, Wales shares a border with England, thus affording relative ease of travel between neighbouring nations. The Republic of Ireland’s population at over 4.5 million people is greater than that of Wales whose population is around 3 million people, as is its size, over 70,000 km2 compared with the under 21,000 km2 geographic are of Wales. Both cities host MICE events, although in terms of the number of meetings taking place per city, on a worldwide basis the ICCA ranks Cardiff at #276 while Dublin ranks at #18. In comparison with other European cities, Cardiff is ranked at 139, whereas Dublin is ranked in 14th place. Their relative size may account to at least some extent for the difference in these rankings.

Findings were analysed from the results of questionnaires that asked delegates at two major international conferences about the following issues:

  • The extent to which the conference destination city / country is of concern to potential delegates in making a decision to attend an international conference;
  • Which particular aspects of the conference destination city / country concern delegates most in making this decision;
  • Were delegates more or less influenced by the conference location in the nation or its location in the capital city;
  • Did delegates’ perceptions of the capital city as a conference destination differ significantly from their perceptions of the nation, and, if so, on what basis of;
  • What characteristics did delegates feel distinguished nation or its capital city as an international conference destination; and
  • Whether delegates spent additional time in the capital city or country for further business tourism or leisure purposes.

Unsurprisingly, after the theme of the event itself, a conference destination is indeed one of the significant influences in a business tourist’s decision to attend an event, and can also be a deciding factor to not attend, especially if the destination is perceived as difficult to get to, expensive, and if the destination image is unattractive, with little cultural appeal, and is perceived as unsafe. However, one interesting finding concerns the attraction of novelty, a place a business tourist may not have visited previously and may indeed never have decided to visit had it not been that a business event was taking place.

The novelty of a destination that may not be so highly ranked in terms of number of events held can be a positive attribute on which to promote and encourage attendance at an event. There also appears to be a need for better co-ordination between the promotion of business tourism capital city and host nation by Destination Marketing Organisations (DMOs) to positively affect the cross-over between business and leisure tourism during the same visit.

Particularly in countries less frequently used for hosting MICE tourism, DMOs should better co-ordinate the promotion of a capital city and host nation, and diversity of the destination as a whole, and encourage event planners to organise more trips and delegate activities further afield, away from the main conference venue, even if facilities outside of the city are not highly developed. Delegates do recognise that while a destination capital city may be more lively, entertaining and cosmopolitan, they also recognise the charm associated with a wider host nation’s rural and scenic landscape, and they also perceive these broader destination image attributes positively.

The full citation for the article is Skinner, H., 2017. ‘Business Tourists’ Perceptions of Nation and Capital City Brands: A comparison between Dublin / Republic of Ireland, and Cardiff / Wales, Journal of Marketing Management, 33(9/10), pp. 817-834.

Member biographies:

Heather Skinner is a Senior Fellow of the Institute of Place Management. She is chair of the IPM’s Responsible Tourism SIG, co-chair of the Academy of Marketing’s Place Marketing & Branding SIG, and chair of the annual Corfu Symposium on Managing & Marketing Places. She researches and publishes on matters related to various aspects of place marketing, management, branding, and tourism, and is particularly interested in issues of place identity, representation, and perception.