Can association methods reveal the effects of internal branding on tourism destination stakeholders?
Purpose ‐ The purpose of this study is to employ the collage technique, an unstructured qualitative association instrument, with respect to place branding initiatives and to uncover internal stakeholders' perceptions of the region or destination. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The first part presents a general framework of brand and destination branding in the field of tourism research. The empirical study was carried out in selected Alpine tourism destinations. In the first stage the authors identified the main representatives of stakeholders in two Austrian tourism destinations. In the second, the collage technique was used to obtain stakeholders' perceptions of the tourism destination brand. Findings ‐ The findings reveal that different internal stakeholders trace different perceptions of tourism places and illustrate the importance of using the collage as a technique to explore the various identities of a place. Research limitations/implications ‐ It is argued that internal destination stakeholders do not share the same brand perception of the destination brand and they do not share a common identity, which is communicated through the destination management organisations (DMOs). However, more research is needed to support these findings as the study is limited by its sample size and focus on the Alpine region of Tyrol, Austria. Practical implications ‐ The results suggest that DMOs should establish better identities within their destination. In particular, they must consider that the collage is a very important technique in communicating the desired brand identity to internal destination stakeholders. Originality/value ‐ This paper seeks to clarify the effectiveness of the collage method as a tool to measure stakeholders' identities of selected tourism destinations. The paper demonstrates the importance of employing different association methods (word or picture) in recognizing stakeholders' knowledge and opinions of destinations as a primary step in analyzing stakeholders' brand identity perception.