The International Place Branding Association Conference (IPBA 2017) in Swansea, Wales

The International Place Branding Association Conference (IPBA 2017) in Swansea, Wales

On December 4th, the line of research based on Place Branding of the CAS group, will embark on a trip to Swansea, UK, place of the IPBA congress (International Place Branding Assosiation). 4 people, 4 presentations, 3 days and many kilometers traveled still reap their fruits. Here's a the hole story by Jasmin Sera. Don't miss it.





The International Place Branding Association Conference (IPBA 2017)

in Swansea, Wales


Conference Review

Jasmin Séra


From December 5th to 7th 2017 the city of Swansea, Wales was the venue for the Second Conference of the International Place Branding Association (IPBA) organised at the Swansea Marriott Hotel and the Swansea University Bay Campus.

Swansea as a location seems an interesting subject of research on its own. Bilingual with a confused identity, Welsh, but with an English influence as some might say. Derived from the official Wales brand, the leading slogan of the conference was “This is Wales”. Throughout the conference days many small details recalled this phrase. Reading the conference folder written in both official languages of Wales, Welsh and English or listening to the opening speeches which included a Welsh greeting left no doubts about this special place for the attendees. This feeling was strengthened at the first day of the conference, when the delegates travelled to the newly built Swansea University Bay campus for the official introduction of the conference. Within the environment of live harp music played by a local music teacher the attendees could experience a very warm Welsh welcome by the chairman of the conference Nigel Morgan.


The region of Wales had just recently received more attention from the UK Government towards a stronger development of visibility in areas such as tourism or regional branding. Within this interest in promoting the Wales of today, the ‘Swansea Bay City Deal’ was one of the projects highlighted in this context. In the future, Wales wants to foster global attention to its renewable and sustainable energy sources and wants to establish itself on a global market by promoting and demonstrating its excellence in innovation, investment and business opportunities. An example for improved future health services was presented by the Swansea School of Management in which a health and wellness village is developed to reduce illnesses by maintaining people healthy before they even get ill.


As naturally given by the subject of place branding the audience of the conference showed great internationality. Participants who had come not only from all over Europe such as the UK, the Netherlands, Greece, Spain, Germany, etc., but also from the Middle East, Asia, Oceania and the Americas were present. The first day of the conference was dedicated to the Doctoral Colloquium. During the second and the third day of the actual conference a great diversity of topics, places and methods all united by the same interest in place branding could be observed.


On December 5th, 2017 PhD students from different universities and in different stages of their research work presented their projects to the critical audience. Among others, the relationship between the transparency of a country and its attractiveness was questioned by a project presented by Vincent Mabillard and Renaud Vuignier from Lausanne University, Switzerland. Lorena de Ferrari from the Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona investigated the logos of city brands on visual identities and applied storytelling. Also from the Pompeu Fabra University Jasmin Séra, freshly arrived from her fieldwork in New Zealand, spoke about appropriate ways of presenting (cultural-) identity within nation branding using the example of the Maori in New Zealand. Cátia F. Cerqueira Rebelo from Cardiff University showed video sessions from her fieldwork in a small town in Portugal calling for a more participatory approach in place branding. Kimberly Fender from the University of the West Indies, Jamaica, issued the impact of the Jamaican Diasporic Community in the New York Metropolitan Area on the brand Jamaica.

The presentations of the PhD students caused many emotions among the audience. The discussions and the submissions by the place branding experts such as Magdalena Florek, Robert Govers, Martin Boisen, Sebastian Zenker or Mihalis Kavaratzis induced some of the students to rethink their approach and create new ideas for future research. Especially questions such as “what is the aim of the research” or “what is the research for” were repeated in the discussions with the expert audience.


On December 6th and 7th, 2017 four keynote speakers were invited: Mari Stevens, Director of Marketing Wales Business and Tourism, Geerte Udo, Associate Director of Marketing Strategy from Amsterdam Marketing, Manolis Psarros, Managing Director of Toposophy and Don Dioko, Professor and Director at the International Tourism Research Center of Macau at the Institute for Tourism Studies. Mari Stevens displayed the “Visit Wales” branding campaign and gave detailed examples of how the entire brand was created. Geerte Udo who just escaped from the volcanic eruption in Bali and works for “I Amsterdam” talked about the importance of emotions when creating a city brand. According to her, the soul of a city  consists of its residents, the visitors and the business people coming to the city. In the case of “I Amsterdam” an attempt is made to make ‘Amsterdamers’ want to explore their own city and not to attract more visitors from abroad. Manolis Psarros presented his investigation on AirbnB and how it has changed the way accommodation is planned. This very recent development affects the entire tourism industry, not only as a competition for hotels and accommodation in general, but also through gentrification of the place and the tax problems it might create. Don Dioko from the Department of Tourism Studies in Macau presented his work on the use of colors in nation branding.


Apart from the four keynote speakers, international academics and experts from this field presented their recent projects in which topics related to identity, culture and expression of national identity caused constant discussion. Among others, Hong Fan, professor from Tsinghua University, presented her research on branding cities through cultural heritage in China. In her research she investigates how place identity is expressed in local and cultural festivals.
Carl Cater and Robert Bowen from Aberystwyth University presented their work on destination slogans. They investigate how the messages embedded in these slogans are related to the destination and groupe slogans into categories such as authenticity, uniqueness, etc.  José Fernández-Cavia and Sara Vinyals-Mirabent, both from Pompeu Fabra University, presented the “Itourist” project in which a group of researchers analyses data on internet searches from the four most numerous visitor nationalities in Spain. Heather Skinner, from Manchester Metropolitan University, made the creation of nation brands by tourists an issue and Fabiana Mariutti from the University of Chester, issued how citizens in Brazil perceive the country’s reputation.


Another highlight of the IPBA Conference 2017 in Swansea was a newly invented art gallery, where participants could present their artworks such as poems, songs, paintings, even jewelry etc. related to place branding. This offered a completely new approach to expressing places and was perceived in a very positive way by the audience.


The International Place Branding Association Conference 2017 in Swansea gave place for attendees to discuss topics, questions and to actually grow together. The environment of Swansea, the hospitality of the Welsh, the openness of participants and the very good atmosphere paved the way for future collaboration and projects.