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Macedonia 2025 > Tourism as a contribution for building a stronger nation

20 March 2015 | Team Attract | News

5 questions to Philippe Mugnier at “Macedonia Economic Summit” – Nov. 20th 2015

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  1. Philippe Mugnier, when you say “Macedonia” in France right now, what type of association does it bring up regarding tourism?

 

French citizen would spontaneously associate the word “Macedonia” with a creamy and vegetable salad they had all eaten at school canteen during their childhood… The most cultivated persons would associate the country with the Alexander the Great saga and some very few others would have a knowledge about Ohrid. The capital city of Skopje has today low notoriety and no image yet. Good point is that Macedonia had till recently globally no image and possible bad prejudice associated – we can consequently build it our way – this is a wonderful and rare opportunity! Also, before Kumanovo events and migrants issues which were massively broadcasted on French TV, most of the French were not been able to precisely put the country on a map and for some were even not aware that an independent country with such a name was existing. Curiously, recent drama accelerated the process of revealing the existence of the country and putting it precisely on a map of Europe…and as every country in the world – France included – is facing various dramas…bad recent images would rapidly disappear in French people’s mind, new notoriety of the country will remain. We must build from that situation.

 

  1. The government has invested significantly in promoting Macedonia as a tourism destination abroad. How far has it gone in making it a tourism brand?

 

Clearly, Macedonia as a possible destination did not exist in French people’s mind before our first promotional activities that started in 2014. It is true that significant marketing efforts have been made these recent years to introduce Macedonia in the international competition playground. But these significant investments have to be put into perspective with competitive destinations that are already proactively and massively present in international markets since years if not many decades. In some markets like France where over 150 countries are competing with strong promotion budgets, Macedonia counts among new comers and latest arrived. Building a position in new markets requires time but the fact to be a brand new destination can be a key asset to go faster and more efficiently in building awareness in consumers’mind. French travelers are in real search of new destinations that are less 3 hours flight from their home. The situation around the Mediterranean where traditional destinations for the French are collapsing is strengthening their immediate need for alternative countries of vacation for 2016

 

  1. How do you think that Macedonia needs to develop as a brand name internationally?

 

Branding is not the essential – products and services adapted to each international different clienteles are the first keys to consider. Also, the quick emergence of a new destination requires service orientated and creative incoming industry with a fine knowledge of their international competitors and clienteles expectations, strong political ambitions for tourism, accurate strategy adapted to each market, adequate public/private financial investment and commitment in promotion, highly skilled promoters, strong branding policy, permanent and proactive marketing presence in outgoing markets. International competition in tourism has never been so tough. Do not believe that Macedonia competitors are Albania, Bulgaria, Serbia…On some segments of clienteles and products, our competitors in France can be Peru, Scotland, Georgia…and France itself!

 

  1. You are a partner of “Macedonia Agency for Promotion & Support of Tourism”. What are the results of the partnership so far and what lays ahead?

 

Our efficient collaboration that started one year ago allowed in this short time to convince through various media trips more than 30 key selected and influent French opinion leaders to discover the country assets and write about them. As a result, we already got more than 50 Print, web, radio and TV very positive tourism reportages with a cumulated audience of over 30 million people. This free press coverage represents an advertising equivalent value of over 1 million € ! We succeeded with relatively modest means to start building an image and tell the French why to consider Macedonia for their future vacations. This proactive PR approach that grows the consumer demand as well with our first presence ever on trade travel show Top Resa in Paris this September has already convinced new tour-operators to introduce the destination in their brochures. This first year of activities has proven the high potential of the French market for Macedonia, the interest of opinion leaders and travel industry decision makers for the destination and the adequacy of some Macedonia product and services to meet French clientele requirements. Now comes the time for being more aggressive and ambitious in market to capture all this potential for the direct benefit of Macedonian stakeholders (hotels, restaurants…). Today, all key ingredients for the success of Macedonia are in place. A new area can open to cook the good recipe before savor our efforts.

 

  1. You are one of the key speakers of this year’s Macedonia 2025 Economic Summit. What messages will you be delivering and what kind of discussion are you hoping to create?

 

One of my key message will be “Now is the time!”. Because Macedonia is ready – the outgoing markets are in need for new destinations and products – and some of our competitors are declining. There is a strong strategic opportunity to consider for 2016. My invitation will be also to pay a higher attention to best practice of competitors and a finest approach in the knowledge of potential clienteles needs. This made, there is no reason for not building a real success story of Macedonia internationally.