This essay discusses the creation of destination images in an international context. As target group orientation is essential to good market communication, it is important for tourism destinations to consider the frame of reference within which their promotional efforts are interpreted. A central part of this is cultural images. These are images which exist in the target group in relation to a given culture outside and are principle to the tourism advertising for the given destination.
The debate on globalisation versus localisation of marketing parameters has intensified over the last few decades with positions ranging from beliefs in the homogenisation of consumer demands to the idea that markets remain culturally diverse despite the increasing interconnectedness of the world.
Relating the globalisation approach to a tourism context, it is, however, doubtful whether tourism destination promotion would benefit from total standardisation. This very much rests with the fact that tourism destinations exist outside the context of tourism consumption. The political, economic and cultural existence of places outside the tourism context means that tourism destinations have a more comprehensive meaning potential than most other consumer products, and meanings which are closely tied up with the present and historical relations between the country of origin of the tourist and that of the destination. This argues for locally adapted features in international promotion of tourism destinations. .
A central part of the localisation argument is, then, that culture plays a role in the consumption and decoding of products and their promotion. Looking at the decoding and eventually consumption process from the point of view of the consumer, acknowledges that what appears to the producer is not necessarily the same as what appears to the consumer - in other words, a standardised advertisement may be read in different ways in different cultures and hence not in accordance with the intentions of the producer.