The online branding of tourism destinations as sustainable: a cross-national analysis

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Sustainable tourism is gaining popularity among tourists and practitioners alike, and is now seen as one of the most critical aspects within the tourism industry. DMOs have also recognized the potential of using sustainability in their branding strategies to become or remain a competitive destination. However, it remains difficult to get all stakeholders to communicate the same identity of the destination. This study has aimed to provide more insight into the online sustainability destination branding of both DMOs and tour operators. A cross-national analysis was conducted to be able to compare the online sustainable destination branding of Costa Rica and Slovenia on websites. From the analysis can be concluded that both countries use sustainability as an attribute of their destination identity, although Slovenia seems to have put a greater emphasis on this than Costa Rica. Both focus mainly on the environmental dimension of sustainable tourism, whilst they differ in the way they substantiate this. The challenge of getting all stakeholders to contribute to the same desired image resulted to be present, especially for Slovenia. The difference between the official and nonofficial tourism websites with regards to the sustainability messages seemed to be substantial, specifically between the Slovenian DMO website and the Slovenian tour operator. For Costa Rica, this was less so the case. Future research will have to confirm whether such differences in the online sustainable destination branding also exist for other tourism destinations and for tour operators from different countries.
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