What is a Destination Story-Telling Framework?

Posted on July 29, 2014

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The development and utilization of a story-telling theme and framework can assist a destination to develop a regional brand, support product and experience development, training, and marketing activities.

“Stories are an important part of (a communities’) culture due to their ability to transmit cultural values” (Nickson, 2013).  Story-telling can be a critical catalyst to engage community stakeholders to identify key tourism attributes. As an integral component of a training/education strategy, story-telling can create the foundation for training development with the intention of sharing the heritage, culture, and attractions of a community to the world. By creating story-telling frameworks, overriding themes can be identified which provide guidelines for tourism stakeholders to follow.  A framework ensures that the core theme or messaging is consistent for operators and across communities, while conversely allowing individuals and businesses to share their own stories, leveraged from an over-riding theme.

Themeing and What Visitors are Seeking in their Travel Experiences

Themeing an experience drives all design elements and staged events of the experience toward a unified story line that wholly captivates the customer.  The principles of effective themeing focus on opportunities that alter one’s sense of reality, offer authenticity, and engage the customer on an emotional level (Barlow, 2000).  “What captivates us now is special stuff, stuff that only a few of us can get, stuff that stands for something or symbolizes something.  And, more compelling than stuff, are experiences – events, trips, places, sounds, tastes that are out of the ordinary, memorable in their own right, precious in their uniqueness and fulfilling in a way that seems to make us more than we were…Some describe this phenomenon as ‘the experience economy‘” (Pine & Gilmore, 1998).

Marketing Elements and Analysis 

The key elements of a story-telling framework are based on the need for clustered stakeholders to create a tangible identity to use as the foundation for the sharing of stories from their communities.  The creation of an identity or brand will assist “the development of a service and marketing mix to occupy a specific place in the minds of customers within target markets” (Morrison, 2010, p. 208).  Furthermore, the creation of a positioning identity or brand would provide a theme to integrate into product and experience development, training and education (including entrepreneurial training), and marketing/promotional activities.  Ultimately, this theme would become a “story-telling” framework to be used as a map for planning, development, and delivery purposes.  Essentially, this road-map would be designed to assist in keeping everyone headed in the same direction while leveraging the individual and unique stories of stakeholders, operators, communities, and visitors.

The piece that ties all the regional tourism experiences together is a collaborative branding and marketing strategy.  The visitor experience starts at home during the initial planning stages of the trip.  Providing a clear and accessible brand that is reflective of the experience will help visitors find the experiences they are looking for in the region.  The branding strategy should comprise an overall story-telling theme that resonates with the tourism stakeholders and visitors. This approach could effectively speak to the emotional aspects of marketing in order to capture visitors’ attention and move them through the trip purchase cycle towards planning a trip to the region.  The development of this strategy would be most effectively achieved with support from branding, marketing, and digital strategy partners in concert with the destination story-telling framework.


Barlow, R. (2000, April 17). The Net upends tenets of loyaly marketing. Advertising Age.

Morrison, A. M. (2010).  Hospitality & travel marketing (4th ed., International ed.). Clifton Park, NY:  Delmar Cengage Learning.

Nickson, D. (2013), Human Resource Management for the Hospitality and Tourism Industries, Second Edition, Routledge

Pine, I., & Gilmore, J. (1998). Welcome to the Experience Economy. Harvard Business Review, 76(4), 97-105. http://hbr.org/1998/07/welcome-to-the-experience-economy/