Managing participatory destination branding: Insights from the Aarhus resident ambassador program

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Purpose – The purpose of this paper addresses the contemporary interest in participatory destination branding. Because of a lack of empirical and evaluative studies on this form of branding, the current case study examines a volunteer resident ambassador program, which began as part of Aarhus, Denmark’s year as a European City of Culture in 2017, and has become permanent because of its success.
Design/methodology/approach – The case study is based on official document analyses, participant observations of program activities, and interviews with volunteer program managers and volunteers who greet cruise ship tourists.
Findings – Findings indicate that while the two managers and the volunteers all report on three volunteer roles – personal hosts, place promoters and providers of information – they prioritize and understand the roles differently. Similarly, the volunteer’s encounters with visitors are all unique, and this inevitably results in the
conveyance of unruly and incidental destination images.
Practical implications – This unruliness is not necessarily problematic: despite the wide-spread interest in the management of participative branding initiatives, it is seen to be the lack of explicit brand-centered management that fosters the program’s positive outcomes, including authentic and pleasant interactions between volunteers and tourists, which, in turn, result in positive attitudes amongst tourists toward their
Originality/value – This study discovers that positive participatory destination branding outcomes depend on managers respecting the ambassadors’ coveted autonomy, and letting go of control of a destination brand. Because of the growing hostility toward mass tourism in cities internationally, it is also noted that a
resident ambassador program’s success is expected to depend on residents’ positive attitudes toward tourists.
TidsskriftJournal of Place Management and Development
Sider (fra-til)241-253
Antal sider13
StatusUdgivet - 2020


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