UNESCO’s labels (World Heritage, Biosphere Reserves, Creative Cities, Global Geoparks) have been created, amongst other reasons, to ensure the sustainable development of areas with special characteristics. Each label has specific objectives, be it conservation or protection, education, or networking of these areas.
The site selection processes, the setting and monitoring of objectives at these sites, along with their reputation, make these international labels similar to commercial labels, whose methods aim at distinguishing and guaranteeing the qualities of these recognized “products”.
The labeled sites must, of course, respect the objectives of the programs, but their labeling also serves to increase their tourist attractiveness. While these labels have not been designed to contribute to the commercialization of tourism, many destinations enjoy the prestige, reputation, and guarantee of quality or exceptionality associated with these labels to attract visitors, residents, and investors. Some site managers also use these labels to educate residents and visitors about their specific characteristics.
The use of these international labels in a marketing context therefore poses a large number of challenges, both from practical and theoretical points of view.