Rethymno Guide Blog
Rethymno - Brand Revitalisation
Rethymno is a smart choice for visitors all year round! We know that today, visitors seek out the authenticity in each tourism destination and wish to have enjoyable experiences through more meaningful connections with locals and a greater understanding of the local culture. We believe that our cultural production in every aspect is an indispensable tool for sustainable development and the base for Rethymno branding.
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands. The largest city and the island's capital is Heraklio. The island is currently the most popular destination in Greece in terms of international visitation.
The city of Rethymno constitutes a crossroads of civilizations and continents with a long history, natural beauty, unique architecture, and rich tradition while it can be divided into two parts: the old town and the modern city which is the larger one. The old town is situated under the Fortress next to the old harbor and is the matrix around which the whole urban area was developed.
With regards to its economy, the prefecture's main products in the primary sector (agriculture - livestock), are olive oil, citrus, wine, vegetables, cheese, honey, and bakery products. In recent years, a great interest has developed in the organic - biological cultivation and standardization of such products. In the secondary sector (industry - crafts), economic activity concentrates on the food and meat processing industry and construction industry.
The tertiary sector (services) employs the majority of the population. This sector mainly deals with the hotel and tourism services as well as the trade of goods. Rethymno does not lag behind in modern infrastructure, as it is home to the University of Crete and many other educational establishments as well as Mediterranean Institution and serves the entire prefecture and Western Crete.
THE tourism sector plays a critical role in the economic transformation of the country and is one of the fastest ways of generating jobs
Several preparatory meetings are held in Rethymno Tourism Committee, and all the initiatives are forwarded to the Rethymno City Council, the main purpose of which is to direct and initiate support actions for tourists and locals, for the best possible organization of the sector throughout the year.
Tourism infrastructure in Rethymno
It is clear that tourism is the most important financial resource for Rethymno. Over the past 15 years, there has been a major increase in investments in the tourism industry of the region. In percentage room capacity terms, 15,4% of hotels in Rethymno are 5* Deluxe, 29,4% are 4* hotels, 24,9% are 3* hotels and 27,2% are 2* hotels. There are also 40 Boutique Hotels located in Rethymno’s Old Town. According to the official data of Hellenic Statistics Authority (ELSTAT), in 2017 there were about 530.000 arrivals at hotels of Rethymno City and a total number of about 3.040.000 overnight stays, which relates to an average number of 5,75 overnights per person. In comparison with 2010, there was an increase of 42% in arrivals and 25% in overnight stays.
The Luxurious hotel units along with some of the most seductive beaches, the impressive landscape with its hospitable people and its world-famous cuisine offer to the visitor a unique and truly unforgettable experience.
The average age of visitors in 2014 was 46 years
94.3% of visitors traveled with an escort. 17% accompanied minors, and 6 out of 10 were aged 35 to 54.
54% of visitors stayed 8 to 14 days in the destination. Germans (12.1 days) and Russians (11.6 days) had the highest average length of stay, while the Dutch (6.4 days) and the French (7.4 days) had the lowest.
35.7 visitors visited the destination again. On average, repeat visitors had visited Rethymnon 6.6 times.
2.395 € average per capita annual vacation expenses of visitors. Vacation spending per year for 37.3% of visitors ranged between € 1,000 and € 2,000.
Our main marketing channels
Many channels have helped to put Rethymno on the map. Big hotel chains like Grecotel, Aquila, Sentido, and many others, several local product cultural events and many private stakeholders have played a crucial role in the promotion of Rethymno, working hard to create the destination branding. Each one of them is a specialist to its own field but they all contributed to the creation of Rethymno brand and its placement on the map.
Traditional media also played a big role. A great part of the publicity we generated over the last 15 years was based on the promotion of our main cultural events through international and national Press articles that attract visitors and make tourists excited to visit our Region. Celebrities that are coming to Rethymno and above all those repeaters, and all the people that have chosen Rethymno as their second home, different nationalities living in total harmony side by side, have also helped boost tourism.
Ways to attract tourists to the region
All these require a long, promotional advertising strategy that will effectively influence the decision-making process. It is due to the merit of our strategy and complex advertising that recognition of our city and region is increasing in our target countries. Our potential visitors are being informed about our region by participating in exhibitions & through the big tour operators and their channels. Long, a promotional advertising strategy that will effectively influence the decision-making process.
We take control of our future
Traditional media served its purpose to a certain point. Going forward, digital has come into the forefront of helping people decide their next destination. Internet, Social media is the main source of information and the most important means of communication with the world. Visitors can start communicating and sharing their experience and perspective of Rethymno with the world. We obviously need to make sure that the traditions are not ignored, but that we also quickly capitalize on the new trends that are arising.
Rethymno is also a destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Visitors, as well as locals, love to explore the incredible wilderness of Rethymno, by walking through the trails and the wild and scenic routes that are spread all over the broader area of the city. In addition, the inland of Rethymno, reveals an almost raw wealth: imposing canyons, beautiful caves, rare species of fauna and flora, authentic mountain villages, unique walking and cycling routes. Tourism routes and products are under development in the broader area of Rethymno, where tourists are being offered new directions each year. Overall, up to 15 tourist routes for walking or cycling are marked with an important % increase in the number of tourists using them last year.
The Tourism Committee of Rethymno set new approaches promoting Rethymno focused on the endogenous nature of Rethymno creating a brand not based on external opportunities but based on internal assets. Therefore, it is very important for all members of the committee to pay attention to “creativity” in the development of means of promotion as well as innovative advertising networks to introduce this internal potential. Always based on a limited budget and human resources needed.
We’ve identified pillars that we need to communicate about Rethymno. Gastronomy, the beach and adventure side of that, a strong arts heritage and culture, the outdoor experience, the unique architecture are only some of them.
How do you communicate all that to potential visitors?
By leveraging the people who live here and the people visiting Rethymno. In everything that we communicate about Rethymno now, we make sure to leverage as many relevant pillars as possible and throw in one or two that could be an eye-opener. We need to be creative in the way that we approach things.
In the era of digitalization, the structure and functioning of tourism systems have been revolutionized hand in hand with the development of Information Communication Technologies. ICTs played a key role in changing attitudes and refining tourists’ purchasing behavior, as well as working as a tool for tourism managers and leisure enterprises in managing and enhancing own business.
Beyond 90% of tourists plan their holiday by themselves using ICTs. Before choosing a specific destination, potential travelers, irrespective of their willingness (or not) to buy tourism packages online, search for general information about the geographical area of interest and its attractions on the Internet, weighing up the open reviews of previous tourists.
A number of websites and Internet search engines, for instance, provide free confrontations among holiday packages, hotels, and accommodation, different transports, also integrating them into travel solutions and/or summarizing offers posted and promoted on other websites. Tripadvisor and Trivago’s algorithms are only two examples of this complex set of functions, which exponentially enrich the role of information in the travel organization, and simultaneously extend the boundaries of the competitive stage for the tourism operators. ICTs have a certain impact even in the travel experience and in the post-travel evaluation. The large diffusion of social networks, supported by the more and more extensive distribution of enabling technologies and digital infrastructures, allows tourists to share their impressions, perceptions, and feelings in real-time, contributing to co-create the tourism experience and to build, ex-post, a visual/virtual imaginary about the tourist destination.
We all know that technological advances and the rise of the empowered visitors suggest that in the future the most successful destinations will be those that abandon the traditional top-down approach in favor of bottom-up and co-created branding strategies. Therefore, a simple visitor is an active creator of the destination brand.
We just launched the website www.rethymno.guide last year, so we’re still developing and enhancing it so that it becomes a kind of tour guide for an individual visitor.
Visitors, of all ages, increasingly use it to search, explore, interact, plan, and ultimately share their travel experiences.
We’re filling the calendar with events and festivals, trying to nurture cultural and athletic events creating an active scene that is now digital demonstrative.
We’re also creating content for the events that are very attractive and have high visitation according to Google analytics.
Such types of events are an additional motivation and means of having fun for our guests who know in advance that during their stay here, except for traveling they can enjoy interesting entertainment and cultural events to get the best possible positive emotions and impressions. Travelers are always searching for information about what they can do while traveling to the desired destination. Being able to get complex tourist services, active tourism products, and cultural-entertainment events, will increase their likelihood of traveling to Rethymno.
Moreover, travelers are now socially connected during the entire traveling spectrum (wifi in Rethymno).
The impact of word of mouth on visitors’ decision-making process is uncertain and needs to be investigated through new methods. In addition, digital communities and visitor-generated content are creating great opportunities to unobtrusively obtain data to investigate the realms of visitors’ experiences and sentiments.
Through Events, we have the possibility to quickly generate content regarding their travel and vacation experiences and spread it in the blink of an eye.
Linked to www.rethymno.guide, social media platforms are the optimal platforms to spread a narrative, a story, and a message.
Visitors become co-creators of information, generating opportunities for them to conveniently share content despite their socio-cultural differences and geographical distances.
The conceptual layer of place branding phenomenon is a result of interactions among identity, image, and the specific value of place brand.
The core component of the branding process is a brand identity which is the goal of all the strategies and plans of our place.
Formulating this identity and trying to set it up requires the participation of all stakeholders as well as a collective agreement. This identity, which has a dynamic and changing nature, forms the brand image via brand experience. This image is indeed the character of place brand and can be of enormous value if it leaves a positive impact on our visitors.
It is widely accepted that digital destination branding has become more complex and challenging.
In today’s competitive environment, in which visitors can only be attracted by unique places, it is a challenge to improve destination’s features, attributes, and unique elements to become an attractive place to visit.
Innovation, decentralization, engagement, involvement and having a unique voice are the keywords for successful destination branding. In addition, destination brands to survive in a savvy environment, where visitors are literate individuals, branding strategies should fit their desires.
Tourism planners and destination managers now have the opportunity to connect with customers at many more communications and experience touchpoints than ever before to influence visitor satisfaction, loyalty and word of mouth (e.g. by social media). The digital world is truly interconnected, interlocked and interpersonal. It allows disparate items – ads, articles, and social experiments – to converge on one page as if they were magic. A destination brand can be defined as the sum of all narratives and experiences.
Digital channels provide forums for travelers to discuss the places they have visited, write about travel experiences and upload photos and videos. The travel experience starts with a dream. Potential visitors will use the Internet to plan and book their vacation. Afterward, they will share their thoughts and feelings by using online means. The new luxury in tourism is not related to wealth but the use of time, simplicity and richness of experience that create long-lasting memories.
There is an extensive array of online channels available to use for this purpose (e.g. blogs, weblogs, virtual communities, and social networking sites). These channels, together with the shift towards traveler empowerment, are demanding new strategies in destination branding initiatives. The impact of word of mouth on visitors’ decision-making process is uncertain and needs to be investigated through new methods. In addition, digital communities and visitor-generated content are creating great opportunities to unobtrusively obtain data to investigate the realms of visitors’ experiences and sentiments.
Those who interact with tourist destinations, have the possibility to quickly generate content regarding their travel and vacation experiences and spread it in the blink of an eye.
The Internet and social media platforms are the optimal platforms to spread a narrative, a story, and a message.
Among a range of social media platforms, travel blogs are becoming a more important mechanism for exchanging information among tourists and for destinations and businesses to learn about the attitudes of their markets. Accessing these freely written libraries of content, therefore, represents an occasion for strategic tourism planners to look at the tourist/traveler in his/her natural mental environment and to explore their experiences.
To realize this core concept, we need to adopt strategies. In more recent approaches to place branding, these strategies emphasize not only physical and tangible but also non-physical and abstract dimensions of place. These achieve the main themes of a place brand.
Strategies related to:
- place brand architecture
- expression of place brand
- advertising, marketing, and communications
- continuous assessment of place brand
- Ongoing revision fits into the strategic layer of place branding.
An important feature of modern approaches to place branding is spotlighting contextual conditions. In general, the highest level of place identity is the identity which is based on the inner values of the place, and it highlights the importance of addressing the context of the place. Among the factors that affect the adopted strategies are economic, social and cultural conditions which govern a place, its historical context, the structure of political and managerial power, characteristics of environmental functions, natural and built features of the environment, and sense of belonging as well as a sense of place among internal and external audience groups.
As mentioned earlier, branding is a context-oriented approach which may vary from one place or scale to another. However, some of the Prerequisites can be considered as general elements for place branding.
These requirements include high-quality public services to enhance environmental comfort, taking advantage of a unique design language based on the characteristics of the local context, special attention to easy access to the place especially through the varied possibilities of high-quality public transport, creating an integrated place management structure to accelerate the realization of place brand objectives, focusing on special and unique events in the place, taking into account specific functions in the space, and defining unique logos, slogans, and narratives for the place.
The major implications of place branding in this approach include increasing place prestige, added value, increasing investment in the place, the attraction of creative social classes, economic, social, and cultural privileges for the inhabitants as a result of their involvement in the process of place branding, and enhancement of environmental qualities as well as functional refinement of the place. All these factors will somehow increase the quality of life. The consequences can be summarized into two general categories, namely, placemaking and place regeneration.
Thus, this model represents the different dimensions that should be considered in the branding process so that it can be used as a new approach to urban planning and management.
Digital evolutions, revolutions, and destination branding
In practice, a digital strategy should integrate visitor-generated content into the destination branding process and thinking in advance the right tools to engage with it. Destination branding experts could work in an integrative way with social media and electronic tourism experts in a coherent way, maintaining communities of interest, collecting content, displaying photos and videos, emphasizing local events, and encouraging electronic word of mouth (eWOM) recommendations.
Communication of the brand image consistently and coherently with the strategy is fundamental to maintain and improve the brand reputation and give visibility to the destination
Organizations in charge of a destination brand are recommended to monitor all the information created or generated by visitors. Researching with effective methodology and understanding how the destination is perceived and communicated will provide compelling, timely and relevant paths to a successful destination branding strategy.
Content analysis with reference to Rethymno. Content analysis on relevant articles published which involves the counting, identification of issues and interpretation of the content of a text, which is assumed to be significant. The content analysis calls for the categorization of the various elements or components to help researchers explain trends.
Overall, the content generated by average/non-professional travelers, professional traveler bloggers and travel journalists who post comments and share information in social media channels is the biggest digital challenge posed to the branding process of destinations.
Therefore, tourism organizations can build their online presence through social media where they are invited to present themselves to an audience without costs.
The ultimate goal is to meet visitors’ expectations (i.e. before, during and after the visit), visitors’ experiences, including experiences from expert visitors (e.g. travel bloggers and travel journalists) and the content/narratives they have generated. Efficient destination branding depends upon strong, visionary leadership, a brand-oriented organizational culture, compatible partnerships, departmental coordination, and process alignment. Coherent communication with destination stakeholders is vital.
Pre- and after-trip interactions enrich tourists’ virtual experience, enhance their destination image through the strong virtual presence and cultivate their loyalty toward the destination. This is where Rethymno’s department of tourism plays a more active role in designing, facilitating and monitoring experiences across destination participants and touchpoints.
Create a Destination Brand “all year round”
- providing cultural events with quality and consistency
- better introduced to new markets that look for responsible and
- monitoring and impact measurement
- increase Rethymno’s attractiveness
- design a dynamic brand communication strategy
- Our ultimate aim is to prolong the tourist season to attract tourists in non-peak season months. We need to open up new markets and promote thematic forms of tourism.
- Create tourism experiences. Tourists are increasingly seeking out authentic experiences. This will provide us with a new type of visitor, one who is an active participant in the experience and is seeking more than a packaged tour.
The branding process of a destination requires a strong vision, focus, and commitment of time. In addition, it also requires qualified human resources, engagement with stakeholders, financial resources and changes in decision making, culture, and mindset.