Brand Nepal

Prabal Gurung sent out a couple of tweets on New Year’s Day of this year. Some read:

2011 is Nepal Tourism Year. Lookin 4a vacation spot, an adventure or 2 find urself? Will u pls consder visiting Nepal? U cud make a diff.PLS RT.

Nepal Facts: Nepal has 8 of the world’s 10 highest mountain peaks including Mt. Everest 8,848m (29,000 ft). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nepal

Prabal Gurung is a New York based fashion designer who was born in Singapore and raised in Kathmandu, Nepal. He also has 23,396 Twitter followers. Nepal, a country of about 30 million people in Southeast Asia is currently promoting Visit Nepal 2011. Tourism is a major source of revenue for the landlocked country which is most popularly known for Mount Everest. In 2009, out of 509,956 tourists, 32,403 were from the United States.

In my opinion, Prabal could be the best brand ambassador for promoting Nepal in the Western world. He is widely recognized in the Western fashion industry having dressed the likes of Michelle Obama, Demi Moore and Oprah. Prabal’s tweets have definitely given visibility to Nepal’s tourism campaign if not already encouraged his followers to book tickets to Nepal.

Since Nepal is promoting tourism this year, I wanted to understand Nepal as a brand and find out how the country was positioned in regards to its Visit Nepal 2011 campaign. Upon visiting the official site of Visit Nepal 2011, I noticed the tagline that the tourism board was using to advance the campaign. It was

Naturally Nepal

In its website, there were also quotes from renowned news sources:

“One of the best countries for adventure destination in the world” – National Geographic Adventure Magazine

“One of the 50 Places to see before you die” – BBC Holiday

The official website gives visitors a glimpse of what Nepal has to offer: from trekking, mountaineering to rafting, festivals just to name a few. Nepal has unique offerings such as its majestic natural beauty of mountains, rivers and lakes and a very traditional culture with numerous festivals and languages. Place branding has been around for a long time and Simon Anholt, a British branding expert states “in today’s globalized, networked world, every place has to compete with every other place for its share of the world’s consumers, tourists, businesses, investment, capital, respect and attention.” As the CEOs for Cities website explains although the most common reason for a place to have a brand strategy is to stimulate economic growth; a strong brand can create a common vision for the future of the community and its potential, provide a consistent representation of a place or enhance its local, regional and/or global awareness and position etc.

Nepal has outlined 5 major objectives for the tourism year. They are: (1) Establish Nepal as a choice of premier holiday destination with a definite brand image, (2) Improve and extend tourism related infrastructures in existing and new tourism sites (3) Enhance the capacity of service providers (4) Build community capacity in the new areas to cater the need of the tourists (5) Promote domestic tourism for sustainability of industry.

I find nation branding to be very intriguing. As a native of Nepal, I am thrilled to see how many people visit Nepal this year. When a country is promoting tourism, it’s the best time to see country branding taking place. It’s great to have brand ambassadors and Prabal’s celebrity outside of Nepal will truly make people interested to visit Nepal in the near future. In this digital age, I strongly believe that a short tweet can go a long way.

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