The Association between the image created by product packaging and travel destinations

by Alex Cosper on November 18, 2022

How does a product shape or reflect consumer perceptions of a travel destination? The tourism industry has found that images created on the product packaging of souvenirs play a significant role in associating with a vacation experience. Here's a look at the theoretical and management implications of product packaging influencing traveler perceptions of destinations.

Learning from Tourism Research

Tourism businesses are deeply connected with local culture, famous landmarks, and notable hotels. In many ways a tourism organization can serve as a guide for tourists and even create experiences for them. One way to do that is to offer souvenir products that capture the spirit of the region. The product packaging becomes an essential factor in providing stimuli that can trigger a positive emotional response and a sale.

Studies have confirmed that when many people develop an emotional association with a certain product and its country of origin - such as a TV made in Japan - it can dramatically affect their perception of the country. In some cases, people's positive perceptions of other nations based on product associations can generate enough interest for the individual to make the country a travel destination.

Designers of packaging for travel products should understand this dynamic and focus on matching images of travel destinations with common perceptions. This approach allows a company to create a collectible that mirrors existing traveler thoughts about famous cities and landmarks. It invites them to learn more about the destination to develop a deeper connection with it.

Packaging that Triggers Travel Associations

People who have never been to Iceland can still imagine being there by studying visual imagery from TV, videos, film, photos and product packaging. The image outsiders develop in their minds of Iceland's landscapes can create enough curiosity for them to plan a visit someday. People with existing perceptions of a country even without experiences of it are more likely to travel there than those who have no mental image of it.

Tourism behavior can be shaped by attitudes that product packaging communicates through image associations. It's important to remember, though, that vacations are typically infrequent and involve plenty of planning within a budget. So in order for a souvenir product with the right packaging to sell, it must tap into a market of tourists who already have certain attitudes about the destination.

A packaging designer must understand that travelers expect a certain level of product-country congruency. In other words, their perceptions of the country need to match the image on the package that represents a certain destination. Is the consumer aware of what the country exports to other countries? If so, does the consumer make mental associations with these products that are relevant to travel?

Emphasizing a Country on Packaging

Export products make good vehicles for promoting a country's travel destinations. Once people make positive associations between products and the countries in which they originate, it creates new opportunities for the travel industry. When a label such as "Made in Japan" or "Made in Australia" is perceived as high quality by consumers, there are plenty of ways to make these items part of travel packages.

When the country of origin is prominently displayed on product packaging, it makes a strong statement that the product is part of the country's culture. One of the top behaviors of travelers to foreign countries is they want to let locals know they fit in with the culture. It's possible to communicate this understanding through products that associate with cultural values.

A strong reason to associate a country with tourism products is that it reinforces positive perceptions about the country. Exporters who collaborate with the tourism industry gain a competitive edge. This concept applies to states and cities as well as countries. California, for example, is a state known globally for its wine and agricultural exports. Wine makers collaborate with hotels and rail services to promote their wineries to international visitors.

Tea from Kenya regularly attracts global tourists to visit the African nation. Every nation, state or province and city or town can promote itself as a travel destination based on something notable in the area. Idaho is a U.S. state appreciated for potatoes while Florida is loved for its oranges.


When an image of a vacation destination associates with positive attitudes and emotions, the halo effect can sell associated travel souvenirs. Packaging designers need to visualize positive elements about the destination and convey similar ideas and feelings via the package imagery. Keeping the package consistent with common consumer associations about the destination sets up the framework for a personal story about a life-changing travel adventure.


Topics: Metal Packaging, Packaging Design

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