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Competitive advantage for tourist destinations

Competitive advantage for tourist destinations

This detailed article explores the idea of competitive advantage for tourist destinations. There is no doubt that every tourist destination strives to stand out from the crowd and attract visitors. However, what sets apart the successful ones? How do they manage to unlock the key to success? The answer lies in understanding and harnessing the power of competitive advantage.


Understanding competitive advantage in the tourism industry

The term ‘competitive advantage’ has been popularized by Professor Michael Porter. It is defined as the strategic advantage one business entity has over its rival entities within its competitive industry (BPP Learning Media, 2010).


According to David (2002) competitive advantage is anything that a firm does especially well compared to rival firms. It is an advantage over competitors gained by offering consumers greater value, either by means of lower prices or by providing greater benefits and service that justifies higher prices.


For a tourist destination to thrive in today’s competitive market, it needs to possess a unique set of attributes and resources that differentiate it from its competitors and make it more appealing to visitors. These advantages can be based on a variety of factors, such as natural beauty, cultural heritage, infrastructure, accessibility, or even the quality of services and amenities offered.


Examples of tourist destinations having competitive advantages

McCarthy and Hood (2022) compiled a list of the 51 best tourist attractions in the world. All these destinations have their unique features. Some of those destinations are outlined below:


Great Pyramid of Giza (Egypt)

Great Pyramid of Giza is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It draws huge numbers of tourists every year for its history and ancient architectural excellence.


Mount Fuji (Japan)

Mount Fuji is often capped with snow. It is the tallest mountain in Japan. It has been a pilgrimage site for centuries, and indeed the 3rd sacred mountain in the country.


Tower of London (England)

This fortress is about 1000-year old. It is famous for its history of playing different roles such as a royal palace, prison, armory, execution chamber, and treasury.



Burj Khalifa (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)

Burj Khalifa is the tallest tower in the world. Its design is derived from Islamic architecture. It is one of the top visitor attractions in Dubai.


Times Square (New York, USA)

Times Square attracts over 50 million visitors annually. It is famous for many things, such as a major commercial junction, tourist destination, and entertainment hub.


Identifying the unique selling points of tourist destinations

One of the first steps in unlocking the key to success for a tourist destination is identifying its unique selling points. By conducting market research and understanding the needs and preferences of potential visitors, destinations can identify the aspects that make them stand out.


For example, a beach destination might have pristine sandy beaches, crystal-clear water, and a vibrant marine ecosystem, offering a paradise-like experience to beach lovers. On the other hand, a cultural destination might boast a rich history, architectural marvels, and a thriving arts scene, providing visitors with a deep cultural immersion.


According to Tripadvosr (2023) Some of the best sea beaches in the world are Baia Do Sanco (Brazil), Eagle Beach (Aruba), Cable Beach (Australia), Reynisfjara Beach (Iceland), Grace Bay Beach (Turks & Caicos), Praia da Falésia (Portugal), and Radhanagar Beach (India). Each of these destinations has their unique selling points which convince visitors to make a purchase decision positively.


Importance of branding for tourist destinations

Branding plays a pivotal role in creating a competitive advantage for tourist destinations. It is through branding that destinations can establish a distinct identity and communicate their unique selling points to the target audience. A strong and cohesive brand image helps in building trust, creating emotional connections, and shaping the perception of the destination in the minds of potential visitors.


To create a successful brand, tourist destinations need to align their brand messaging with their unique selling points. This involves developing a compelling brand story that captures the essence of the destination and resonates with the desires and aspirations of the target audience. The brand story should be reflected in all aspects of the destination’s marketing materials, from the logo and website design to the content and communication strategies.


Leveraging cultural heritage as a competitive advantage

One of the most potent sources of competitive advantage for tourist destinations lies in their cultural heritage. Cultural heritage encompasses the traditions, customs, arts, cuisine, and historical landmarks that define a community or a region.


Destinations with a rich cultural heritage can organise cultural festivals, heritage walks, and interactive workshops to showcase their traditions and engage visitors. By doing so, they can differentiate themselves from others and attract tourists who are seeking a deeper connection with the local culture.


Fes (Morocco), Athens (Greece), Jaipur (India), Seville (Spain), Ancient Kyoto (Japan), Lalibela (Ethiopia), Troy (Turkey), Petra (Jordan), Caral-Supe (Peru), and Abu Simbel (Egypt) are some of the examples of destinations with great cultural heritage.


Innovations in tourist destination marketing

In today’s digital age, traditional marketing strategies alone are no longer sufficient to gain a competitive advantage. Tourist destinations need to embrace innovations in marketing techniques and leverage the power of technology to reach and engage with their target audience effectively.


The use of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies should be considered in this regard. These technologies allow destinations to create immersive and interactive experiences for potential visitors, giving them a taste of what the destination has to offer. For example, a VR tour of a national park can transport viewers to the heart of the wilderness, showcasing its breathtaking landscapes and wildlife.


Sustainability as a competitive advantage for tourist destinations

In recent years, sustainability has emerged as a crucial factor in gaining a competitive advantage in the tourism industry. Travelers are becoming increasingly conscious of their environmental and social impact and are actively seeking destinations that align with their values.


Reducing carbon emissions, conserving natural resources, supporting local communities, and preserving cultural heritage are some good sustainable practices. By positioning themselves as sustainable destinations, destinations can attract eco-conscious travelers who are willing to pay a premium for experiences that have a positive impact on the environment and society.


Collaborative partnerships in tourism for competitive advantage

In the highly interconnected world of tourism, collaboration is key to unlocking the key to success for tourist destinations. Collaborative partnerships between destinations, local businesses, tourism boards, and other stakeholders can create a synergistic effect that benefits everyone involved.


For example, a beach destination can collaborate with local hotels, restaurants, and water sports operators to offer attractive vacation packages that include accommodation, dining, and adventure activities. By bundling these services together, destinations can provide a seamless and convenient experience for visitors while also boosting the revenue of local businesses.


Digital marketing strategies for tourist destinations

Tourist destinations need to embrace technology and implement digital marketing strategies to reach and engage with their target audience effectively. This could involve optimising their websites for search engines, using targeted online advertising, and leveraging social media platforms to create brand awareness and engage with potential visitors.


Destination-specific mobile apps can also enhance the visitor experience by providing personalised recommendations, interactive maps, and real-time updates on events and attractions. By staying at the forefront of technological advancements, destinations can stay relevant and offer innovative solutions that set them apart from others.


Another effective marketing technique is the use of social media influencers and user-generated content. By partnering with influential individuals who have a strong presence on platforms like Instagram and YouTube, destinations can tap into their vast follower base and reach a broader audience.


Encouraging visitors to share their experiences through hashtags and social media contests also helps in generating user-generated content, which serves as authentic testimonials and promotional material for the destinations.


Conclusion: Competitive advantage for tourist destinations

To thrive in the competitive landscape of the tourism industry, destinations must continuously adapt, innovate, and strive for excellence. By offering visitors experiences that are unique, authentic, and memorable, they can carve a niche for themselves and establish a competitive advantage that sets them apart from the rest.


Unlocking the key to success is an ongoing journey that requires dedication, vision, and a deep understanding of the target audience. With the right strategies and a commitment to excellence, tourist destinations can unlock their full potential and become beacons of success in the global tourism industry.


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Last updated: 17 December 2023


BPP Learning Media (2010) Marketing Principles, BPP Learning Media Ltd

David, R. (2002) Strategic Management: Concept and Cases, 13th edition, London: Pearson Education

McCarthy, K. and Hood, R. (2022), The world’s 51 best tourist attractions, available at: (accessed 16 December 2023)

Porter, M. (1985) Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance, London: Collier Macmillan Publishers

Tripadvisor (2023) Best of the best beaches, available at: (accessed 15 December 2023)

Author: M Rahman

M Rahman writes extensively online and offline with an emphasis on business management, marketing, and tourism. He is a lecturer in Management and Marketing. He holds an MSc in Tourism & Hospitality from the University of Sunderland. Also, graduated from Leeds Metropolitan University with a BA in Business & Management Studies and completed a DTLLS (Diploma in Teaching in the Life-Long Learning Sector) from London South Bank University.

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