An exploration of co-creating South African city brands to revive the tourism industry post a global pandemic



Media & Communications Design


  • branding, co-creation, tourism


City branding involves establishing unique identities for cities using branding principles. While Johannesburg and Cape Town are among Africa's best-branded cities, their branding strategies were largely top-down, lacking collaborative stakeholder engagement. In the wake of the global pandemic that severely impacted tourism, there is an urgent need to revise these strategies through a co-creative approach.

In South Africa, city branding activities can benefit the local tourism sector, which was severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with strict lockdown measures leading to a standstill in tourism activities throughout 2020 and 2021. As restrictions eased and businesses in the sector aimed to revive tourism, innovative approaches became necessary.

This paper focuses on co-creating specific South African cities post-pandemic. Two online co-creation workshops were conducted with stakeholders to explore their perceptions and ideas about city branding. Our results underscore the critical role of stakeholder engagement in crafting city branding strategies that not only resonate with residents but also effectively revive the tourism industry post-pandemic. Engaging stakeholders also fosters a deeper connection between the city brand and its people, which in turn might inspire unity. The study emphasises the need to revisit the city brands of Johannesburg and Cape Town and highlights the value of co-creation workshops as a methodological tool for designers and design students. It also provides a foundation for future research on city branding and reviving other industries, which may be relevant in other contexts, such as post-war Ukraine.

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