BANGKOK: Private sector operators in travel and tourism should work together to market distinct regional identities and not rely completely on the work of national bodies an industry figure has said.

David Keen, CEO of hospitality branding agency QUO, held up New Zealand as an example of what could be achieved, with cities such as Wellington, Queenstown and Auckland having successfully differentiated their offerings from those of other regions.

Speaking at the Thailand Tourism Forum, reported by Travel Daily News Asia-Pacific, he said that the same approach could work for regional Thai markets.

The public perception of locations such as Hua Hin, Chiang Mai and Pattaya, he argued, fell short of the reality and if local businesses were to speak as one they would be able to put across a much more positive image in the media.

"Our friends at TAT [Tourism Authority of Thailand] are doing a great job, but why are we relying on one brand to tell our story?" he asked.

The national Amazing Thailand campaign worked well, but did not reflect all the diverse cultures, landscapes and assets found in the different parts of the country.

"A destination without a brand has no substance," he declared. "We have to differentiate.

"We need to understand our customers, their motivations and desires, and create a brand with true vision that communicates who we are and what makes us unique. We can't leave our destiny to chance."

Warc's own database of case studies would seem to bear out Keen's assertion. This shows that regional destination campaigns, from Chendgu to Newfoundland, have frequently been among the best examples of work designed to achieve various aims, including increasing sales, gaining customers, repositioning and gaining share.

Many tourism authorities have successfully turned to local residents to extol the virtues of a destination. The winner of the 2013 Warc Prize for Asian Strategy – It's more fun in the Philippines – took this approach, capturing the idea that the Filipino people enhanced the experience of any tourist.

Data sourced from Travel Daily News; additional content by Warc staff