Tourism destination image has been studied extensively (e.g. Baloglu, 1999; Baloglu and Brinberg, 1997; Driscoll et al, 1994; Echtner and Ritchie, 1993; Gartner, 1989; Goodrich 1978; Hunt, 1975; Leisen, 2001; O’Leary and Deegan, 2003; Ryan, 1994; Walmsley and Young, 1998). In continuation, increasingly tourism researchers, academicians, and practitioners adopt the works of branding scholars in order to build and/or manage destination image. As such, tou rism research is one of those research areas that have actively expanded the branding concept beyond the range of phenomena, for which it was intended originally. However, for a branding scholar it seems that the concept of bran-
ding has become so popular that it is adopted by and applied to a host of research areas, for which applicability of the concept is questionable. Especially, such applicability seems questionable due to the fact that (some) ”new”phe-
nomena may be fundamentally different from the substantive domain, in rela tion to which branding as a concept has evolved.
A critical, although often under-appreciated (or even neglected), question to be addressed when adopting concepts originating from other disciplines and/or research areas (e.g. branding concepts) is whether the concepts are applicable to the focal research area (e.g. tourism destinations) or if the origins of such concepts are so fundamentally different from the ”adopting”substantive area that applicability is questionable and hence, that adoption requires alteration of extant concepts. The purpose of this paper is to address the analytical question on
whether the concepts of branding (i.e. brand, brand management, branding, and brand equity) can contribute to the subject area ”destination image”. Further, the aim is to discuss the (more or less) taken-for-granted assumption that it is possible to build and manage destination image and thus, destination brands.
In order to discuss the applicability of branding/brand management concepts and theory to destination image management, the main body of the paper is divided into 5 sections. First, the origins and contents of brand concepts are pre sented in order to explicate the underlying premises and assumptions, upon which these concepts draw. Thus, the purpose of this part of the paper is (1) to account for the products, for management of which these concepts were intended originally as well as (2) to account for the characteristics of such products in order to assess the scope and boundaries inherent in brand concepts. The next task to be conducted is to determine whether fundamental differences exist between the products qualifying as the origins of brand concepts and ”destination
products”. Obviously, the first part of this task is conducted by means of review of research on tourism destination image (i.e. in section 3 of the paper). In continuation, section 4 of the paper discusses ”severeness” of such differences and thus, it discusses whether such differences affect applicability of branding concepts. As a conclusion of this part of the paper is that differences between origins and destinations may hamper applicability of branding, the next section (section 5) offers examples of ”hampering differences”. Afterwards, the last section of the paper discusses what branding/brand management can do for destination image (research) and especially, what this stream of theory cannot do.