KASHMIR TOURISM: CRAVING FOR BRAND IDENTITY

Organizations share clarity of vision concerning what they are, and what it is they want to achieve. It’s a question of focus. And they say Focus is the Key.

Recently a still photo laden CD was released to highlight Kashmir tourist destinations by some local private organization. Putting together some pictures, with text though, is at least a good effort and can make a part of the total communications effort. However, it is only part of the picture.

One off initiatives like making a calendar, an odd flyer or some poorly conceived films with heaps of Kashmir landscape, hardly helps.

Thus far as a tourist destination we have not taken the time to precisely figure out what we have to offer and taken steps to define it to the world, that is why it is left to others to define Kashmir valley. For many years Kashmir sold itself through its famous legacy of “Agar Firous Bar Roa-e- Zameen Ast, Hamein Asto. Hamein Asto  Hamein Ast.” Even this brand of Heaven on Earth was never professionally branded, it just happened.   This “paradise on earth” brand  survives singularly theCOMPETITIVE world without a clear, positive and effective brand identity. We are harping on the intangible Kashmir of the folkloric past. But how long can a destination like Kashmir keep saying, look we are heaven on earth?

There is not a single destination today without very careful attention to brand identity. Perception becomes reality. There are many good, bad and sometimes ugly perceptions around word Kashmir, none of these are controlled. Kashmir is a brand craving for a desired position.

Media centric publicity approach or advertising that too limited to Kashmir itself, is not branding of our much hyped tourism product and service. That would be like defining building a house as a saw and hammer. They are tools of the trade, nothing more.

There is a need to take an objective view of the Kashmir Tourism brand and the perceptions around it. It is also necessary to figure out what we can realistically project Kashmir valley to be. A systematic investment in brand building could mean handsome gains by way of influx of attention.

Brands have been described as `the infinite asset’. So, clearly they have values, which is even common to places, which take the initiative of branding themselves distinctively. So, branding Kashmir can and will make a difference.

Kashmir brand is name, term, sign, symbol or design or combination of them intended to identify our product, differentiating it from those ofCOMPETITIONS . The determining issue in Kashmir as a unique destination brand will be, how effectively the brand will be designed. Does the brand fit with its environment? What is the relationship of the brand to other place brands in the area, country, or continent? And how will the brand attributes be perpetuated through time and from generation to generation?

Need of the hour is to working on strategies to spruce up our different brand images for instance Kashmir as a destination and heaven of exquisite traditional products. In spite of the challenges, Kashmir has a bright future forPLACE OF ORIGIN branding. We can enter into partnership with the private sector to materialize Kashmir’s new tourism strategy but it has to surely be an apolitical way.

Nonetheless, we can tag Kashmir tourism with “an experience of a lifetime”. What kind of an experience depends on a tourist’s personality type.

The author can be reached at tariq@associatedmedia.org

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