Change is a part of life…

Change is a part of life…
Flags over Edinburgh Castle
Flags over Edinburgh Castle during the Military Tattoo

It’s been nine long years since I was last in Scotland. Eleven years since I’ve lived here. Time continues and I grow older. I have always known that age is a great leveler in life, changes the playing field, and the participants. Life changes you, changes your point of view on the world and the type of perspective in which you wish to view it.

I can mark the change.  I can’t always articulate the moments, the passages of time, but I am more aware of them now.  I have some understanding.  I experience grief and uncertainty.  The whispers are different.  The voices have changed, and the language even more complex.

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Contemplation

Time affects us all and change is hard to accept, even fathom.  Scotland has changed.  I have changed.  The dynamic nature of life is in constant flux just as in tourism.  Our reasons, our motivations shift and morph with the progression of time.  Innately, the passion I once held for this place has transformed, no tempered.  It is not as mystical as it was nineteen years ago.

So, what does this mean?  What sense of this landscape do I now possess?  What sense of belonging?

The world outside my window has changed.
The world outside my window has changed.

I was an explorer twenty-five years ago to this place, this Scotland. Prior to stepping on its shores, I knew it only from literature, film and TV shows. It held a mystique.  My passion was shrouded in truths and half-truths.  I had a child-like curiosity and consumption.

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Time passes for us all

Seven years of planning, of working hard, and dreaming, my reality changed.  I returned and had the privilege of living in Scotland for seven years.  During that tenure, the world changed drastically.  It continues to change drastically for us all.  Relationships were altered.

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Pondering life on Isle of Lewis

Sometimes, I wonder what I am trying to grasp when I try to piece together the visceral and cerebral.  To understand about this change within my heart and soul.  Do I belong here?  Can I identify with this landscape, this place?  Where on the barometer of life has my sense of self migrated?  Innately, the fields of home have a stronger pull for me, than lands farther away.  I haven’t been the only one that has changed, others have too.  I am pushed to consider others now more than myself.  I am sometimes in limbo, overwhelmed with that responsibility.  Those promises inherent with our relationships have a louder call.  I have reached another milestone, another moment of truth that can’t be ignored.  More of the complex layers have been uncovered, exposed, and choices must consider a new reality.

I never did like change.  Sometimes, it has a hidden, nasty smell.  Something you want to ignore and leave alone.  Let the world go past, without acknowledgement.  Brutal honesty, we all have those moments.  Scotland was that wonderment that I could call my own.  That luxury I could escape to and find myself, find that grounding of strength that seems elusive during questionable moments.  Scotland always made me happy.  Scotland has changed.  It is different.  I’m different.  That is good.

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New boots, new journey

Good in that I can search. The journey is about moving and embracing change, understanding fear, and looking. It’s okay to look, to search out, and find. I may not find exactly what I am looking for or the answers at this moment. Life and travel, tourism is all about experiences.  It is a circle of experiences, just like life.  And change is a part of that circle, and finding yourself during each of those moments.  Another layer of who you are.

New boots, new journey.  More me.

Defining Tourism

Defining Tourism
Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle in Edinburgh Scotland during the Fringe and Military Tattoo

Next week I start my first module here in Scotland, Principles of Tourism. It is an introductory course about the industry. The purpose is to gain an understanding of the scope and breadth of tourism, what it means to be a tourist, to travel, to be an active participant in the process, and the impact it has on so many lives.

One of our first activities and assignments will be to develop a definition of tourism. After completing the mechanics of the course, I will have the students sit and ponder their lives, who they are, what they like, dislike, what they want–basically, develop a short bio. Then we will progress into what it meant to travel with their families or friends, or by themselves. Again, asking a host of questions to get to the heart of how they envision travel, view the world, and tourism.

They will develop their own definition and then we will compare them in class with others, to tease out a formal definition. Then the fun begins. Well, I think it is fun. We will acquire the official definition and do some more analyzing to see how close they came or if they can argue for a better definition. Considering the official definition was designed a few decades ago, are there any generational differences or does the official definition stand up to scrutiny?

On the train to St. Andrews
On the train to St. Andrews

The inevitable question that is posed to me, and has been in the past, is what I think since I’m the professor. This is good. This is a start to asking for other viewpoints, opening your mind up to different perspectives. This opens a door. And I tell them, look, I’m just another viewpoint, consider all and then find more. Don’t just end the investigation with me. I may be one authority, but I’m certainly not the only person. Go further, and farther in that research. So back to my point. We are on the path to reflective practice. Something very valuable for my students.

At the end of the first day, we should have several concepts hashed out. Then I want them to get out there and observe, go see the concepts in actions. I want them to be creative, use the tools at their disposable to record and gain understanding. Can they see the elements of the definition in action, and how they change our actions? How our decisions are affected and effected by our choices? Can they make the connections between the definition and everyday decision-making? So many questions to ask and answered, which then leads to even more questions.

And that will be just the first day!

 

Reflection Poem.

Reflection Poem.
Dad studying
Dad studying

So, I was working on my page today for the students, and of course, my mind is running amok with other ideas while I manipulate code and try to create what I need. WordPress doesn’t really give great help for what I wanted, so it took awhile.

Now my mind focuses on the upcoming week of new classes. But let me backtrack a bit and explain. I am in Scotland with Wisconsin in Scotland Program this fall, and we teach on a modular system. I have fourteen days to squeeze and cram sixteen weeks of information. Not an easy task by a long shot. It can, and is overwhelming.

My first class is a 100 level course, jam-packed with a host of information. I will have to focus on the most influential concepts while expecting the students to be highly reflective and rigorous with the info. So, I contemplated how to explain reflection best. I thought a poem. It’s a brainstorm in five minutes, thinking about being in a coffee shop and focusing on the process. Apologies.

I sit and think, understand
Watch and observe
Listen and hear, more than words
I dip and dabble, postulate
Wondering the connections
The pathways explored
Past, present and yet, to be
I soar on ambiguity
Coast on reality
Dribble without syntax or grammar
Various viewpoints, arguments, my own
I write gaining speed, opening doors
Organize and snip apart
Structure
Rebuild, reconstruct
New, even old
Gaining ground and more
Clarity
And questions
Always questions
Left in my wake, before me
Tangents and diversions
Yes, even frustrations
And extrapolations
Reflections
Inward, outward
Lost on the Journey.

That’s five minutes.

Back Home, Again

Back Home, Again
Dalkeith Country Park, Scotland
One of the trails in Dalkeith Country Park, Scotland

All of us like or love to travel. Whether our footsteps take us about the pebbles of our own backyard or farther afield to unfamiliar landscapes, the want and need is innate in each of us to explore. Perhaps visceral, traveling has its roots in both necessity and hedonistic want.  Where will that journey take you?  What place whispers to your heart?

Scotland always whispers to me.

I have been here before, but do not know all of its paths.

I am still exploring, search the different paths.

I am back home again.  Back to my second home.

And yes, it is different.

How do we judge attractions successful?

How do we judge attractions successful?
The Magic Kingdom, 1977
The Magic Kingdom, 1977

We are passed the mid-way point through the semester. Students should be digging deep now to start on their projects to have them finished in the time allowed.  Their mid-term paper will be focused on developing two of their five criteria to evaluate their chosen attractions.  The criteria are based on several sources, notably from International Tourism Studies–“Best Destinations: The Gold Standards: Proposed Best Destinations Evaluation Criteria and Standards.”

Criteria are developed from their ten identifiers:

The 10 As of Successful Tourism Destinations (Morrison, 2013)

o Awareness: Related to tourists’ level of knowledge about the destination and is influenced by the amount and nature of the information they receive.
o Attractiveness: Number and geographic scope of appeal of the destination’s attractions comprise this attribute.
o Availability: Determined by the ease with which bookings and reservations can be made for the destination, and the number of booking and reservation channels available.
o Access: Convenience of getting to and from the destination, as well as moving around within the destination.
o Appearance: Measures the impressions that the destination makes on tourists, both when they first arrive and then throughout their stays in the destination.
o Activities: Extent of the array of activities available to tourists within the destination.
o Assurance: The safety and security of the destination for tourists.
o Appreciation: The feeling of the levels of welcome and hospitality.
o Action: The availability of a long-term tourism plan and a marketing plan for tourism are some of the required actions.
o Accountability: The evaluation of performance by the destination management organization (DMO).

They need to identify their criteria, state the definition by Morrison, and then interpret what that means.  Then derive variables, statements or questions from their research information about that criteria.  For instance, Attractiveness stipulates an appeal.  Appeal means you like something.  You found something agreeable.  We settled on a definition and interpretation.  And so I posed several questions.  Why do tourist like a destination or attraction?  We worked through this criteria in class as an example and utilized Disney.  Since most had visited Disney World in Florida, I asked them, as tourist, what did you like about Disney?  We gained a lot of different answers–location, climate, nice employees, variety of attractions, etc.  I asked what didn’t you like about Disney?  A few more questions were asked, and we teased out a host of verbs and adjectives.

Those verbs and adjectives become the variables that describe the criteria.  One student came after class to discuss it further and I rather liked how she constructed statements and questions surrounding those variables.  One that stood out was: “Does this attraction leave a lasting impression?”  As part of the project they need to articulate these variables, and what they mean from their point of view.  I don’t have insight into their thoughts without it.  My crystal ball is broken and I can’t read their minds.  I asked her what do you mean by impression.  Fifteen minutes later she had a good handle on what she meant.  And we were able to find more information for her to digest, namely visitor surveys and other statistical information already published about the attraction.

Within tourism, people travel to destinations because there is something to see or do.  Therefore, success hinges on the developing worthwhile attractions.  Something that will attract tourist time and time again.  Hence, why Disney is so successful.  They are constantly changing, updating to trends and taste, to their movies and interests.

Bogged Down

Bogged Down
Airfest

The semester is coming to a close soon, and I can’t believe summer is almost here.  And that means everyone is chomping at the bit to escape the north of center.  I can’t escape just yet as there is so much to do.  Grading, making plans for teaching abroad, organizing courses in our LMS, and research.  My mind is cluttered and even to-do list aren’t helping.  How do you weave through the obstacles and not get bogged down?

The only saving grace is the upcoming travel.  Just the thought of it alleviates the anxiety for a precious few seconds.  And then that nasty gremlin lurking in my mind, sitting on my shoulder vociferous reminds me to stop skipping along the slip stream and come back down to earth.  The softer, sensible side counters, “Five minutes more.”  Snooze button engaged. Ignore ugly procrastination monster.

However did my grandparents, parents, and other ancestors, think on the importance of travel?  Pico Iyer discussed the necessity of travel in a Time Magazine (Iyer, P. (2002). The necessity of travel. Time, 159(21), 82.).  It isn’t a new thought.  MacCannell in his seminal work, The Tourist (2013), argues for escapism.  We need it.  We need it to recharge and refresh.  To learn about the wonders of our global community.

Frankly, the monster of need creeps up on me, and I grab it’s spiky ear, lead it to a box and stuff it inside, ignoring its grumblings.  I have for more than a few years now.  Routine has settled around my shoulders like a vice.  A never-ending loop.  I don’t mind though.  I enjoy seeing family, but I need new and shiny, even if new and shiny is a medallion hidden in my box.  Bring it out, shine it up and wear it again.  Everything old can become new again.

Scotland always lingers in my side-view mirror.  Always whispers.

Isle of Skye, Scotland
Isle of Skye, near Neist Point

And finally, I get to return to my second home after a long absence.  Home sounds good right now.

Breathe deep, savor the sweet smell of the Highlands.  The unpretentious landscape.  Will I find it as I left it?  Will it be the same genuine atmosphere as before?  God, I hope so.

 

Can you plan for every contingency in event planning?

Can you plan for every contingency in event planning?

Can you plan for every contingency in event planning?  Yes, and no.  Last week, I gave out most if not all of the information to my groups in HT 351 for their scenarios.  They should now have all the information they need to complete the project for the most part.  The only aspect left is for them to visit with me, which is required, to hash out any finer details.  Details.  That is important in event planning.

It is all about project management.  As I have said before, it is about managing time.

Yet, those fresh, young faces before me, cringe when I discuss ‘curve balls’.  They dread having to deal with potential problems.  But they will have to deal with it.  Deal with potential realities.

What do I say to them?  They are looking for me to guide them on how to tackle this part of the project.

Innate in all of us is the ability to plan.   Don’t forget that.  We just have to get it down on paper what we need to do and execute the steps.

Yes, hard.  Focus, drive and discipline will see those action steps to fruition.  Not every one of us has that focus or drive or discipline.

I can raise my hand to that effect.  I have earned that tee-shirt more than once.  I’m stuck in a rut right now, my focus wavering from professional and personal projects.  It’s hard, but life isn’t about easy.  Life is about challenges.

I’m letting life challenge me at the moment.  Whereas I should be challenging life.

So, what do I say to motivate them to address their curve balls.  Where to begin?  Since there are more than one curve ball, tackling more than one at a time, can be frustrating, stressful and tiring.  Especially, if you have never been in this position before.  Now, there are moments in a professional career where you will have to decide off the ‘cuff’ what will need to be done.  You will be put in a position where a decision will have to be made at that precise point in time.  And I will address this after, I guide you through planning for those curve balls.

Yes, planning is coming back into the picture.

To prepare yourself for any event or scenario, you have to think about your job.  You have to think about all the contact points where potential problems can occur.  Map them out, and get into the habit of walking around your property, your place of employment and look at it from the vantage point of problems.  Don’t wait for the signs, envision them.  Use your imagination and ‘see’.  Ask your self of plethora of questions. As a writer who likes to develop stories, I utilize the “What if” exercise.  What if this happens here?  What could happen here?  What if this happened during an event?  What would I do?  Every time I see or read about an incident on TV, like Las Vegas, my mind goes into scenario mode.  I visualize what is happening at that time.  I ask myself a host of questions, and run through the gambit of potential.  I ask myself, “What if I was the event planner at this event?  What would I have done?  What should be in place already to aid me in this event?”

No, you don’t know how you would react.  No, you don’t know what you would do sometimes during panic situations.  But the preparation for the likely event comes with training and training the mind to think this way.  And then running mock drills on you, your employees, and even now, including guest in that equation.  I can remember when we used guests in our scenarios at one hotel I worked at.  We asked if they would be a part of our preparation training.  We sent out a message to the community that we were having training and asked if any person would like to role play victims.  Is this wrong?  Why?  Why not?  Shouldn’t we all be prepared?  Shouldn’t we all help each other in times of need?  The more you know as a manager, as a guest, the better you are all prepared for scenarios.

NBC-Emergency
NBC-Emergency
Visit to Disney World, 1977
From left to right, Mom, sister, me and brother at Walt Disney World, 1977

I know this to be true because I have lived through it.  I have lived through training situations and real life situations.  Growing up we had some great shows on TV.  I can vaguely remember Adam 12.  The one show I do remember from my early teens was Emergency!.  It was about the organization of the first ever EMTs in LA.  It had me consider at one time being one.  Taking up the profession of firefighter and EMT.  At school, both high school and college, I took and read about advanced first aid procedures.  I took advance first aid and life saving at Penn State for my Health Ed course.  I can recall playing the victim in a faux car accident and the other students extracting me from that car on a cold autumn day.  I loved the water module in the pool.  When I was out industry, I volunteered to be on first aid responder teams at the hotels.  I obtained and renewed my CPR certification.  I guess I obtained that information from my Mom.  She taught the Red Cross classes in high school.  She was always willing to help.  Heck, in my family we are known to be teachers, police officers or doctors.  I guess its in the DNA.  But I digress.

Back on point.

So, where to begin.  This year was different after a failure from last fall.  I had to approach teaching this aspect of management development from a different perspective.  Some how connections were not being made.  I forgot that research has shown that this generation may or may not have the imaginative skills my generation has.  They grew up with computers and technology.   Some if not all, might not have been outside playing as we did as kids.  Being pirates for a day out in the woods, creating our own little worlds.  Yes, that play time set up my generation for problem solving.  We saw something we wanted to do and figure out a way to accomplish it. The students in my class may have been immersed in a computer generated world that didn’t stretch the mind enough.  That didn’t place them in hair-raising situation where you had to think.  (Laughing at the image now in my mind.  Cue back to that pirate scenario on a lazy summer’s day.  I would give you more, but I don’t want to put any ideas into young heads.  Mother just patched me up.  I’m still here.)  Let’s just say there is a host of divergence between my generation and today’s young students in terms of critical thinking skills.

So, given what happened, I realized this year, I needed to not only reinforce the visualization technique I have done since I was a young adult, but also guide them on how to make connections.  I had to explain how to accomplish this goal and get in the habit of visualization.  So this year, I told the students to draw from all of their classes on customer service and operations management.  To utilize their own personal experience to aid them in understanding the curve ball.  Write down the curve ball on a 4 x 6 index card and then as a group, brainstorm.  Ask yourself those exact questions.  What is happening here?  What is going on?  How are people reacting?  Why are they reacting?  Where has it happened?  When did it happen?  What should we do?  What could happen if we don’t do something?  What could happen?  A host of questions and then brainstorm answers.  Research.  Google.  This is always about customer service.  No, it isn’t all about the bottom line, not always.  It is how we get to that bottom line and back up that counts.

Curve ball scenario
Curve ball scenario

This was one of my curve balls from one of my scenarios.  An executive board meeting was taking place in St. Louis, MO.  The members were leaders of a Fortune 500 company.  They were the elite of the elite.  One activity that they were participating in outside of their normal duties was a visit to the local Budweiser Clydesdale farm.  On the return, one of the members has left their wallet on the bus.  Needless to say I wasn’t happy with the results of the group planning in terms of this curve ball.  Two possibilities could have occurred.  One, they had only one group member handle curve balls and that group member was tired by the time they got to this incident.  Or two, they waited till the last-minute to address these scenarios.  It very well could have been something different.  But in the end it was poor project planning.

They forgot to utilize their experience as customer.  How would you react as a customer if this happened to you?  What would be your priority if this personally happened to you?  What are you panicking about?  Who is this person?  They forgot who their target market was and is.  What is in that wallet?  What help are they looking for?  Part of event planning is to know your target audience.  If you know them, then you can best address their needs and wants.  Our industry is all about customer service and we need to don that hat  more than once to understand reaction.  We need to walk a mile in their shoes to know how this impacts their lives and the lives of others that this would affect.

They forgot their roles and responsibility as event planners.  What they need to do to aid the customer?  What they need to do to make this a memorable experience?  How do they help and aid their clients?  They didn’t tease out the situation.  They didn’t map out the cause and effect.  The action-reaction-results loop.  If this one incident happened in real life, consequences of not doing something can be detrimental not only to your customer but to your reputation and your business.  Even our industry.

So, why do I give them curve balls. Because this is reality.  This is what happens out there when they are in real life situations.  Accomplishing this exercise, helps develop a proactive mindset.  That they can almost see things happen before they do, and act.  If this little kernel of information is in their minds, then they could plan a to do list for themselves during each event to cover any contingency.

More to attractions than meets the eye…

More to attractions than meets the eye…
Gettysburg Civil War Monument
Mom on her honeymoon at Gettysburg Civil War National Park

Attractions have a lot of complicated parts, both intangible and tangible. They have a wider impact that many realize.  A whole mess of questions in a complicated world.

Attractions evolve from the three environments:  socio-cultural, economic, and physical (natural and man-made).  They take many forms and trying to define them can be a delicate journey.  They are a composite of activities that the tourist can partake in and use. Attractions can ‘attract’ a host of visitors, but more than likely it is not homogeneous.  Something that can’t be generalized across all markets.  More than likely, a niche market will be their primary source of revenues.

Motivation is tricky to decipher and study.  The reasons drawing, pushing and pulling tourist to a site is as particular to one person as another.  Case in point my mother and our annual trips to historic sites.  Deep down I don’t think she liked visiting Williamsburg or Gettysburg or other historical site.  I don’t know.  She’s never been a fan of hot weather, preferring spring and fall for travel.  The beach to the oppressive heat and humidity of the countryside.  Maybe I don’t know what she likes.  And therein lies the conundrum of tourist researchers.  Do we know who our visitors are, and what they like?  Do we really know what attractions to build or create for tourists?

Mom at Atlantic City
Mom at Atlantic City

Attractions have many purposes.  They are a composite of a host of activities and services that cater to a varied population of tourists.  Take away any resource within that matrix of services and the system fragments.  That fragmentation can be induced by tourist as well as the industry itself.  Attractions are part of a greater value chain.

Take away one and suffering occurs.  Take away the primary reason for tourist to visit, and the whole system suffers.  The impacts are far-reaching.  The multiplier effect drops in function and revenues do not circulate through the many layers.

Once an attraction changes, matures, stagnates or declines, tourist motivations will shift and change.  They will choose something else.  And then the area in which it is embedded spirals downward and declines.  And unless this erosion is stopped, halted, the host community will continue to suffer.  There will be no reason to go to the area.  Thus, schools can’t be built or remodeled, hospitals will close, services will pull out of the area leaving a shell of a community.

I’ve seen it first hand.  My hometown in Pennsylvania suffers from the decline and closure of industry.  Relying on tourism for most of its dollars.

Johnstown, PA
View from the Incline Plane of Johnstown, PA

Johnstown, PA is an old town, settled in 1770.  The only reason people would have a reason to visit there now is because of a natural disaster back in 1889.  The Great Flood was the largest man-made disaster up until 9/11. The event killed 2200+ people and leveled the prosperous steel town.  Now, since steel has pulled out, the city is a shell of its former self.  Still a beautiful place to live, but survival hinges on the National Monument to the Flood as well as several key events throughout the year.

Thunder in the Valley is a motorcycle rally that happens every June.  Last year, 2016 was one of the best turnouts because of the beautiful weather and increase in services available.  As reported in the Tribune:

When the weather cooperates, the four-day event has drawn as many as 200,000 people to the area – and this weekend was likely no exception, said Lisa Rager, executive director of the Greater Johnstown/Cambria County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Motorcylces line Johnstown, PA streets during Thunder in the Valley
Motorcycles line Johnstown, PA streets during Thunder in the Valley

That is a lot of people traveling to a small town in southwestern Pennsylvania for three or more days.  To a town that has limited resources to host 200,000 people over three days.  Maybe it does.  Maybe I don’t know the exact carrying capacity of the area or the extent of services.  Yet, think of the revenues generated from a host of sources.  How many jobs are created just for that weekend?  How much revenue is generated from event sales?  And then that revenue is circulated through the community.

Budweiser Clydesdales
Budweiser Clydesdale at Thunder in the Valley

Therefore, attractions are classified as something that generates some form of revenue.  They sell an entrance fee or cluster a host of services around it to generate revenue.  Take it away and revenues are lost.  Some people do not understand that concept.  What the community loses.

And sometimes that happens when motivations shift over time and choice is directed elsewhere.

Sometimes we lose attractions through other means.  How will the Caribbean rebuild after the devastating hurricanes?  How much will the islands alone lose from the loss of cruise ship revenues?  A host of questions.

A loss of revenue for the catchment area means a loss of revenues to circulate through the system.  A loss of future development.  Attractions can be the reason some businesses are drawn to the area.  This past summer I was at home during the annual Thunder.  One of my favorite motorcycle companies had heard about Thunder and was making its first appearance.

Ducati Logo
Ducati Logo ©Ducati

Ducati had come to town.  I would have loved to have visited the Rally but personal plans got in the way.  Yet, with such a famous brand drawn to this event, others followed.  The weather dampened the festival for the first day, but more than made up for it the last two, giving Ducati and others the chance to showcase their products.  I’m sure Harley Davidson enjoyed the friendly competition.  Throughout the 19 years this event has been held in Johnstown, it has evolved to what it is today.  An attraction that is just not for bikers.  It caters to a host of different types of tourists.  And that is important if the event is to continue.

I try not to be political in class or here.  But I can’t go without addressing certain issues effecting tourism today.  The destruction of certain attractions must be discussed if we are having an honest conversation about tourism.  The recent destruction of Civil War Monuments and the potential for more changes in that landscape.  Try to see and envision all sides.  Try to understand the impacts of all points of reality.  The total effect this has on the host community.

Dad at the Alabamians Memorial at Gettysburg during honeymoon.
Dad at the Alabamians Memorial at Gettysburg during honeymoon.

Tourism has a history.  Tourism exist in time and space.  The reasons for attractions and construction of attractions is particular to each stakeholder given that time and space.  The reasons for travel have varied through the generations that have engaged in the activity.  It has its positive and negative connotations. Good and bad.  The tourism landscape has countless stories to tell to explain the history of civilization.  Tourism is an action and behavior.  Tourists engage with a variety of landscapes.  Host communities rely on tourists for revenues.  If the main reason for travel is gone, people will shift their actions and behaviors.  They will go elsewhere.

We are all stewards of this landscape.  This landscape needs all sides to understand the implications to all three environments and participants.  All voices must be heard and considered.

A host of questions must be asked before action is taken.  We must be sympathetic and empathetic to the multiplier effect.  And the multiplier effect is not just revenues any more.  It is more.  Again, I stress that all voices must be heard and considered.

Attractions aren’t just pretty…

Attractions aren’t just pretty…
Visit to Jamestown, VA
Family vacation to Jamestown, VA, 1968

Attractions aren’t just pretty places.

For the most part they are the reasons why most people travel to a destination.  There is a whole list of different types.  Natural or man-made.  National parks to amusement parks to museums.

Even restaurants and hotels can be attractions in and of themselves.

So an attraction has a broad definition and can take many forms.

Something that draws people to travel–a reason for travel.

Something to see and experience.

Something that educates and informs.

They are a product stemming from the development and use of resources.  They are catering to the various needs of society.  They offer up interpretations of that society.  From a business standpoint, we are selling a product, and that product can manufactured in various forms and bought by all stakeholders.  Attractions can host and be an event itself as can be conference and other activities.  They can merge a host of attributes and actions.

Figure 1.1 Classification of visitor attractions
Figure 1.1 Classification of visitor attractions from (p.4) (Fyall, A., Garrod, B., Leask, Anna, & Garrod, Brian. ed (2003)1).

Ownership can be public or private.  It’s status can be a charity as well as voluntary.  Governance can be at the local, regional, national and international level.  But at the core, the focus of attraction is on a product moving people to that attraction.

So we have variety.

But what makes some attractions successful over others?

This begs the question about reasons for travel…

Footnotes

1. Fyall, A., Garrod, B., Leask, Anna, & Garrod, Brian. (2003). Managing visitor attractions : New directions / edited by Alan Fyall, Brian Garrod and Anna Leask.

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More on defining Organizational Culture…(PPC and more)

More on defining Organizational Culture…(PPC and more)

We have a host of authors within our book by Kersten and La Venture  1 that exposes the various definitions of organizational culture. There is a theme that emerges based on shared core values, beliefs, and principles.  This hints at behavior and how that behavior is communicated to a greater audience (p. 2-3).  That behavior exists within and outwit the company.  It governs the day-to-day operations and the lives that work within that community.  Yes, a community.  Marriott views their associates as a greater family.

Core Values
Core Values of the School of Hospitality Leadership
Yet, as I decipher these words, I am left with one thought, one word.  Service.  Servant leadership is a common phrase we hear about the university, and incorporate it in our culture.

The definitions of organizational culture are incomplete without the inclusion of servant leadership or service.

You may be thinking:  But it is all apart of that definition, when you argue for that commonality of themes within organizational culture.

Yes, and no.

Service is inter-woven and stands alone.  Why?  Maybe it should be the overriding concept?  See still in a heated debate.

Maybe if we address behavior.  Behavior is action.  Behavior is developed with immersion with in a unique place.  That place has three environments–physical landscape (natural/man-made environment), economic and socio-cultural.  Everyone is a product of their own three environments.  A host of variables will define those environments and shape how your beliefs are formed from the roots of those variables.  Core values remain, but the breadth and depth of those values shifts and adapts, matures and grows over time.  Some of those core values will stick with you and others you will shed with maturity, personal growth and reflection.

Life happens.

You bring these dynamics into any company.

Each individual of a society makes up the culture.  I am getting away from service and need to bring it back.  We will get to culture shortly.

Warning, service has a broad definition.  For this argument, service is the want to do something for someone else.  Not just because we have to, but because we want to.  It is the right thing to do.  We have within our hearts the want to help.  And that does have its hang ups.  We are after all human and considerably flawed.

Some have this ability to help more than others.  They have this innate compassion to such a degree that it is second nature.  No questions are asked.  Deep down we all do, but we are stymied by our own fears.

That is why I want to call it a service heart.  Some would label it as the heart of service.  But several colleagues and I have been gnashing on changing that.  I’m sure that phrase has been around for a bit.  And anyone can develop a service heart.

We have come to that conclusion that that phrase incorporates those core values.  In tourism, we have a lot of choice in products.  Some similar, some different.  What creates competitive advantage now and in the future will be the service. The human element.  People will want to return because of the people helping them fulfill their expectations.  Because we want them to return ‘home’ to us again and again.  Thus, our behavior is paramount to fulfilling the expectations of our stakeholders.  All of them.

So, at the heart of organization is a culture.  We should hold commonality, without the lost of identity.  That is something that isn’t really articulated within our first readings.  Identity.  We each bring our own sense of self to the work environment.  I have posed this question before.  How do we retain our own sense of self in a workplace that may or may not have the same common values as our own.  Today, we are seeing disparity in our society.  Not all of us possess the same beliefs.  We have our own unique cultural attributes that we bring into a workplace.  How do we mesh this divergence?  Some are not always the same.  Should we or should we not ask people to change that culture to conform (shudder) to that workplace culture?  Do the mission and vision of a company posses the flexibility to handle various cultural nuances?

Acculturation exists in tourism.  Simply defined, it is the moment when two or more cultures meet and something happens.  You can either have assimilation of one culture with another.  Yes, there may or may not be dominance of one over another.  The second may be nothing happens.  Or friction.  There is too much difference that problems occur.  Could we now extend this concept into the workplace because of the diverse backgrounds of our employees.

So, maybe I should hint at diversity.  Diversity, in its simplest terms, is about the difference in a workplace.  It identifies that difference and should be embraced. We can all contribute to our workplace. Yet, the definition is limiting to us in trying to understand that difference and how to handle it.  It doesn’t get to the heart of everything.  It doesn’t offer strategies.  Laws aren’t strategies.  There is still some mysticism with diversity.  If we extend diversity and marry it with the concept of cultural intelligence, especially when working in a global world, we can develop strategies and broader, better behaviors to handle that diversity.  Remember these are my interpretations of my own readings and research.  Don’t take it as face value.  What kind of Socratic professor would I be, if I didn’t ask you to think for yourself.  Read, digest, understand and reflect.

Culture today is so much greater, broader in definition than what some might think.

This is when I tell you that I hate definitions.  I think they are limiting.  I don’t think they encompass the expanse of variety that exists.  Yes, we need a foundation on which to start.  But how many of us stop and do not explore the many layers, the breadth and depth of those definitions. Culture is one of those definitions.  That is why later on in the semester we will be examining Cultural Intelligence.

The discussion continues…

Footnotes

1. Kersten, J., La Venture, Kelly, Lui, Katherine E. Welch, & Cervenka, Debbie. (2015). The human factor to profitability : Building a people-centered culture for long-term success / Jeanette Kersten, EdD, SPHR, and Kelly La Venture, EdD ; with a foreword by Kat Lui, PhD, and Debbie Cervenka. (First ed.).

“What Now?” Moment…

“What Now?” Moment…
Time
Don’t let time be the enemy

As I have explained in the post Developing Managers, meeting planning is all about project management.  It doesn’t matter how the sales lead is generated, how you come by the business, it comes down to managing time.  It can be your breaking point. Therefore, preparation is vital.  Success hinges on lining up those ducks in their right positions, and having enough flexibility for problems.

Today, marks the middle of the second week of classes, and for the next six weeks my students will be given information about their scenarios.  I enjoy this time, creating this reality of challenges.  This journey isn’t easy.  Life isn’t always a bed of roses.  They will have to think, use their respective brain power to sort out the twists and bumps.  And this morning, I barked a laugh at my latest creation.  One group will not be happy.  Welcome, to real life.  I hope they have listened to me over the course of their time here.  I hope they remember that I just don’t sit in my office during office hours and at other times for nothing.  I hope they have that epiphany.

[Knocks on the glass] “Hello, anyone out there!  Any of my students?  Hello?”  Questions.  It comes down to asking questions.  Don’t assume anything.  One lesson you must learn as an event planner is don’t assume you know what the clients want.  You don’t.  You may think you do, but in all reality, you don’t!

Get off your respective posterior and come and talk to me.  One requirement of my meeting planning class is they have to meet with me eight times over the course of the sixteen weeks to discuss their projects.  Everyone has to be there unless their team leader and I approve the excuse.

Hopefully, by now they have identified their roles and responsibilities.  There has to be a team leader, one that will be responsible for getting the job done–the broader goal.  The others will be accomplishing the objectives or individual tasks to get to that broader goal.

How they start is up to them.  Have they researched the craft of meetings?  Have they cruised around their books, the Internet or other sources to understand the process?  Are they waiting to be told?  I hope not.

Floppy Disks
Floppy Disks

My time in event planning and sales was during an era when paper ruled the desktop.  I started out as a sales coordinator.  A glorified personal assistant to the other sales managers and ran an office.  Thank the good Lord, I have been a gadget girl all my life. Old school floppy disks! I worked part-time at an office supply store to supplement and pay for my schooling. I sold the first renditions of IBM and Dell computers. On my desk at the hotel was a 286 processor with probably 50 k of memory. Five and quarter-inch flimsy disks were my life saver.  The convention calendar was this behemoth book that had its own desk.  For a small hotel, we had two or three major file cabinets full of client files.  Some as thick as the city phone book (four inches or more).

Personal planners crammed full of written notes.  Notebooks full of third-party information.  Day-to-day was all about pushing paper and making phone calls, pounding the pavement and finding leads as well as execution of various events or tour group arrivals.  Forget cell phones.  Landlines with a complex web of office numbers and only ten speed dial buttons (if that).  Back-up wasn’t an option.  Lose your personal planner–deep, heart stopping, whole-body anxiety attack until you found it.  Total disappearance meant frantic hours of combing through all that paper to recreate your day-to-day work life.  And if you didn’t keep meticulous notes, (I just laughed), you were on a bar stool later that night crying into your drink, casting curses and prayers simultaneously to the air and powers that be that you did what you had to do or your other associates had your back (another little snicker).  What did I say about life being fair, it isn’t.

Cue JoePa:

The will to win is important, but the will to prepare is vital.

Time management has various dimensions.  One of those critical dimensions is communication which is basically the sharing of information.  An exchange process.  If you aren’t prepared for the encounter, it will show.  If you don’t value other points of reality, a host will lose value.  The process is stymied by the narrow-mindedness of others.  Basically, don’t be myopic.  Try to see the whole picture.  See beyond that picture.  Your developed skill level and capabilities at this point in time may not be as developed as others.  Do not discount experience, even those with just an ounce.  You do not know the complete picture.  You don’t know what that experience was and the depth of impact or how they handled it.  Get that through your mind.  Open your mind, open your heart, open your soul to receive.  The only way you can work together, and that doesn’t mean you can’t lead, but the only way you will all succeed is if you listen and contemplate.

So I guess that comes full circle to that leadership role.

But before we get into that, I wanted to over up a reminder.

I believe that there are four points to successful meeting planning from a customer standpoint:

  • Know your client–that means asking open-ended questions, and some closed ended questions
  • Know the product you sell–and it is more than you really think it is…
  • Know the community in which you are embedded and operate
  • Know yourself

Recall you are selling to the right person, the right product at the right time, for the right price, for the right location, having the right promotion, and employing the right people utilizing effective and efficient processes, and truthful, physical evidence, that is the right stories or testimonials to engage with the right customer.

What will the leader of these projects do?  What do event planners do out in the real world?

I can tell you a fraction of what you should or shouldn’t do from my own experience.  To learn more about leadership, you need to study.  Study those that are successful in a variety of fields.  Read trade magazines and look for case studies.  Visualize the problem and look for plausible solutions.

  1.  Be receptive to ideas.
  2. Don’t over hash things that nothing gets done.  Make a decision.  You can revisit it, but it shouldn’t rule your lives.
  3. Listen to your gut.  Know the difference between right and wrong.
  4. Know standard operating procedures.  If there aren’t any, create them.
  5. Events means experience.  Someone has their heart on having a wonderful experience.  Own it for them.  Make it happen.
  6. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
  7. More than one person is affected/effected by the choices you make, especially financial ones.
  8. Time means one thing to you, and something different to another.
  9. Be inquisitive.  Study from experts.  Find a mentor.  Ask questions.
  10. Research the craft.
  11. Keep a reflective journal
  12. Be respectful, responsible, accountable.  Take responsibility for your actions.  Respect yourself and others.  Doesn’t mean you have to like them, but respect means more than what you think.
  13. Listen, just shut up and listen.  And listen with your mind and heart.
  14. Demonstrate empathy, sympathy.  But don’t let anyone run you over.  There is an art to negotiations, learn it.  Compromise is key.
  15. I know I’m going to get in trouble for this.  The customer may not always be right in every situation.  Sometimes you have to take the lead and help them realize reality.  You don’t always want to be their friend.
  16. At the end of the day, there are a host of people counting on you.  Some for a pay check.
  17. Tough decisions are painful, but manageable.  Tough love is the hardest.
  18. Be proactive rather than reactive.  Damn tough sometimes to recover in service execution.  (And if my PPC students are reading this, service is a broad term.)
  19. Study ethics.  Again, every single person is governed by a set of core values and not.  Some don’t have core values.

    Core Values
    Core Values

But what do they mean?  Do you understand them?

20.  Be cognizant of your environment.  Don’t live in a vacuum.  Be aware.  Be open to change.  Change is hard.  Embrace it.  Look for it.

So those are just twenty odd observations to consider, digest and reflect upon.

A good leader knows when to lead, knows when to walk beside and help, and sometimes remain behind and let you on your own.

Defining People Process Culture ~ Organizational Culture.

Defining People Process Culture ~ Organizational Culture.
Organizational Culture by dessinauteur at Flickr
https://flic.kr/p/p2KrM7

Perhaps, our discussion on PPC should begin with trying to define the concept of organizational culture. Heck, we could use this for all of my classes as well, because inherent within each course should be an understanding of organizations, culture, leadership and so forth.

After reading and researching about PPC in preparation for my interview for the Chair position, I found common threads of thought in one big giant quilt.  It’s complicated and intricate.  One step at a time.

With every body of knowledge, there is a history.  A host of people contributing to a greater whole.  No one has the cornerstone on that history.  Each company, industry, person has an experience, and what emerges from that history are common practices and theories.  The line of thought, if you research your own companies as I have asked, may have shades of PPC within it already.  If you want to be an effective leader, you need to research other companies within and outwit your own career aspirations.  You need to study people and processes.  Become a avid reader!

Over the course of history, organizations have viewed work in various forms.  I’m not going to rehash that history, but know that owners, leaders, supervisors, companies, etc, have all viewed organizational culture from different vantage points.  Different points of reality.  Good and bad.

A company can be broken down into two aspects.  Tangible and intangible.  Products and people.

Organizational culture is about studying the dynamics of the people within an organization.  How they get things down.  How they deliver on promises.  How they work together to achieve objectives for a broader goal.

How do organizations value their people and those that complete tasks.  What is rewards?  How do people value each other and the job they do.  Value takes on a whole new meaning.

Lui and Cervenka in Kersten and La Venture (2015, p. vii)1 lend credit to the argument that all people, employees, and associates have an ‘intrinsic value’.  Simply put, what Bob Cervenka, as reported in Kersten and Laventure, stipulated that success hinges on the people of any organization.  It’s true.  Walt Disney knew back in 1950s that his vision of an amusement park wouldn’t be a success without the ‘cast’ members doing their part to create the illusion.  He wouldn’t be able to develop cutting edge rides without pushing the imagineers to do their best.  Even when such processes hadn’t been invented (think animatronics).  Yet, Epcot in Disney World, the last project that Walt helped to design, almost didn’t get built because of Disney’s untimely death.  He had a certain vision and shared most of that vision with his employees. It wasn’t enough just to share that information.

Lui and Cervenka stress that information is a key variable that must be shared.  Thus, the root of success is about communication. But is that the complete picture?

Information has two sides.  Tangible and intangible.  Seen and not. Information is one of the drivers of the tourism industry, besides money and promises.  At any time during the process, the dynamic function that is tourism, information can be accessed and used by any and all stakeholders.  It is something that is always being created, and utilized to create or do something.  Communication is a constant action, but not always part of the process.  Yes, information can be assumed.  Misdirection can occur.

Yet, what about innovation and creativity.  It isn’t just about information sharing, well-being,  and communication (p. viii).  Disney had a creative mindset.  He fostered creativity and innovation.  Innovation is dynamic.  Organizations must be adaptable to internal and external stimuli.  Organizations are organic, active entities, constantly churning and thinking.  If they don’t, they will stagnate.  If they do not step out of that stagnation moment, reinvent, rejuvenate in some form, they will die within the product life cycle.

Disney did have one flaw.  The total communication of his ideas.  Much was left unsaid at the end.  His unique energy died with him.  Many have said he was the driving force behind the concepts, the force to get projects down.  He saw beyond the walls, beyond the confines of a theme park and married a host of threads together.  Not many can do what he did.  Steve Jobs couldn’t.  Bill Gates can’t.

Once Disney was gone, uncertainty set in and the value of the Disney brand suffered.  Disney created a competitive advantage above other similar products because of his unique, innovative methods of park management.  The energy fizzled out for a time being, and they realized that they couldn’t really execute Epcot as Walt desired. They had to go back to the drawing board because of the dynamic nature of creation.  Therefore, there has to be some legacy of that vision.  Yet, a mainstay for Disney as well as other companies has been well established core values.  A mission and vision to set a foundation.

So, it is not just an investment in a product but the people behind that product.  It is an investment of time in developing relationships with all stakeholders as well as their creative abilities (yes, even customers).  Everyone can contribute.  Just look at the Ritz Carlton brand.  They empower their employees to make decision that will affect customer service by giving them a monetary stipend to handle guest complaints.  Managers and other senior leaders hope it never gets to that complaint level with the idea of training ‘ladies and gentlemen’ to serve ‘ladies and gentlemen’.  I argue then that I want all of my employees to take an active part in helping my customers and all my stakeholders craft their experience.  So a host of variables must be articulated and identified in order to have well function culture.

Functions of Management
Functions of Management

The aforementioned authors discuss trust.  Any relationship is built on trust.  In tourism, we call these “moments of truth”.  And not just from a customer standpoint.  Moments of truth are built on promises, articulated and not.  We are making a ‘contract’ with our stakeholders.  We promise to give them something for a return on that promise.  More than just information.  More than just money in a paycheck.  We are establish physical, psychological and social dynamic exchange.  Competition to hire and retain talent has been the bane of most industries, especially in tourism.  Bloome, Van Rheede and Tromp (2013) highlight the hardships within the hospitality sector of the tourism industry in the retention of ideal employees.  Psychological contracts are just as important as other forms.  Expectations before, during and after hiring have to be addressed 2.  How do we set a value on our employees?  How do we know how much their worth?  Lui and Cervenka hint at this established with compensation.  Yet, they fail to recognize the factor that value happens well before hiring that employee that Bloome, Van Rheede and Tromp conclude.  Companies need to take an active participation in the education of potential employees.  The people process culture is an extension beyond the confines of a firm, but to the society in which it operates.  Not after the fact, before.  Proactive, not reactive.  Not result focus entirely, but before that point.

Do not limit the power of benefit.  So, this may be an argument for the power of potentiality.  How do we put a value on potential?

Action-Reaction-Result Loop
Action-Reaction-Result Loop

Too long we have looked for a means to an end.  We are waiting for something to happen.  We have to look before that point.  We have to recognize the action-reaction-result loop.  That for every action there is a reaction that leads to a result.  Those actions happen at any time.  A proactive stance in business in all of its processes may or may not aid you in developing a strong, organic structure.

So we must understand all of our stakeholders at any time in the given dynamic world that is our organization.

Culture is yet to be defined and that is for next time.

 

 

 

 

 

Footnotes

1. Kersten, J., La Venture, Kelly, Lui, Katherine E. Welch, & Cervenka, Debbie. (2015). The human factor to profitability : Building a people-centered culture for long-term success / Jeanette Kersten, EdD, SPHR, and Kelly La Venture, EdD ; with a foreword by Kat Lui, PhD, and Debbie Cervenka. (First ed.).
2. Blomme, R., Van Rheede, A., & Tromp, D. (2009). The hospitality industry: an attractive employer? An exploration of students’ and industry workers’ perceptions of hospitality as a career field. Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Education, 21(2), 6-14. doi:10.1080/10963758.2009.10696939

Location, Location, Location…

Location, Location, Location…
Ford's Theatre
Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC

I have lived in a host of different cities, states and one country.  The depth of knowledge about those locations various with experience.  I love to get out and talk to people, and I’ve met some interesting people along the way.  I love to explore and more than likely will get lost.  I always find my way back.  Every experiences brings a whole new set of learning.

Another year is upon us here at Stout, and I’m teaching Development of Tourism Attractions, Convention Meeting Planning and People Process Culture.  The former course expands and expounds on concepts learned in the Principles of Tourism, extending it into the heart of the three environments–socio-cultural, economic and natural/man-made as well motivation, and planning.

It peels back the layers of tourism.  Tourism is an act of doing something and depends on the viewpoint in which you view it or peel back the layers.  There are tangible and intangible elements that are part of this dynamic process, and we need to know why some destinations and their attractions are more successful than others.  As leaders or managers of the future, we will be part of that success and/or failure.  What we do, when we do it, could be a defining moment.  (For those of you in tourism, remember the mantra.)

At the heart of any attraction is a motivation.

Echoes of those reasons why people travel to a destination and its attractions, percolates through my mind, and I’m sure others.

“Something I always wanted to see.”

“It is on my bucket list.”

But that is from a customer point of view.  What about the others?

Why did Disney decide to buy up a large mass of swamp land and orange groves in the middle of Florida to create Disney World?

Why place it there?  Why create something in the middle of no where, and hope that people come?

Begs the question posed in A Field of Dreams:  “If you build it, will them come?”

The process of building attractions is long and arduous.  It takes time to build attractions from concept of the idea to opening.  Disney World was conceived as a supplement to Disneyland in 1955 and opened in 1971.  During that time of development, Walt Disney died unexpectantly in 1966.  Disney World and especially Epcot could have died right there on the table.  But it didn’t, and more on that later.  Yet, that is a long time for an attraction to be built.  Some rise in less time, and close just as fast.  The Internet is peppered with a host of attractions that opened and closed quickly because they couldn’t sustain numbers or creativity.  Walt Disney World has several areas that have been closed and abandoned because they weren’t as popular as they once were.

Visit to Disney World, 1977
From left to right, Mom, sister, me and brother at Walt Disney World, 1977

So, this hints at one aspect of motivation and decision-making.

Even leadership (Waves at my PPC group, bringing them into the conversation).

Your stakeholder’s needs change over time.  All of them.

But who are your stakeholders you ask, besides customers.

  1. Customers
  2. Employees (all levels)
  3. Governments
  4. Financial
  5. Host Community
  6. Others (that arm-chair traveler that hasn’t even made a decision yet, but is bombarded with a mountains of information both by word of mouth, and through other distribution channels and has an interest)

Their needs and wants will change over time as their lives change.  It can be short or long-term.

Disney World’s Epcot Center is now going through a major renovation.  The original vision of Epcot is a far cry than what Walt had in mind.  That vision was transformed because he wasn’t there and those that came after, nixed it in the butt.  Roy Disney, his brother, wasn’t the creative genius that Walt was and deferred to others.  If you read any books about Walt’s life and his company, his creative style and visions were a prime directive for the company.  To lose someone so young in their mid-60s, without a concrete succession plan, will have far reaching effects on the company.  And it did.

An attraction is just a structure.  An idea.

People make it come to life.

Caspar_David_Friedrich_-_Wanderer_above_the_sea_of_fog
Caspar_David_Friedrich_-_Wanderer_above_the_sea_of_fog

People are the resource that propel it into the future.

Even destinations and their success depends on the people who manage it, work within the boundaries, and even visit.

So, this then suggest a management/educational journey down two different paths.

At times these paths, one of tangible origins and one of intangible, coalesce and merge.  At other times, they run parallel.  And during times of stress, anxiety, and erosion, diverge.

So, we are at the precipice.  On top of the mountain and have a vista to explore.  We can see the concrete but the human element is clouded in degrees of mystery.

Let’s begin…

 

Scenario based learning

Scenario based learning
Sense of Identity
Sense of Identity

Learning a new process, concept, or theory isn’t easy. People learn in different ways. I can remember 6th grade with vivid detail, especially math class. I have always been good with numbers. A few weeks ago I was sitting with my Mom and we were going over some of her accounting. She was astounded that I could rattle off sequences of numbers or amounts without looking at my notes. I don’t know why. I just can ‘see’ them.  But word problems at that time, stumped my young brain.  Until, I drew out what was being asked on paper into a cartoon.  I wasn’t approaching the problem correctly for my brain.  I wasn’t asking myself the question:  What is the problem asking me to do?  I was looking for the numbers to crunch.  I was fixated on the numbers.  I knew I had to calculate something, but there was more to the puzzle.  I know that now.  I had to visualize what was being asked.

I’m a visual thinker.

Research has shown that we are all visual thinkers (Buzan)

Therefore, grasping knowledge and acquiring understanding, is best ‘seeing’ the process, visualizing the process and actually immersing yourself in the process.

Hence, why I love projects.

And scenario based projects are one way of accomplishing that goal.

 

Student Project Notebook
Student Project Notebook

This semester all of my classes have a form of project, and I will be posting helpful hints here, and in our learning management system to aid them in completion.

  1. The success to any project is not to wait till the last-minute and know that you are the one that needs to complete it.
  2. You are either accomplishing this as an individual or as a group. What does that mean?
  3. Each has a dynamic element.  Know your role and research it.
  4. Thoroughly read over the requirements.  Clarity begins by asking questions.  Don’t assume anything.
  5. There is a formula for the process–the action of completion, but each journey is unique.
  6. Organize!
  7. Budget time.  Don’t wait till the last-minute. I’ve said it twice and that means something.
  8. It is quality, not quantity.
  9. Research to gain factual data.
  10. Examples are great, but this is your original work!
  11. Don’t go in with the attitude that you just have to get it done.  If you put in 50%, more than likely it will be reflected in the work delivered.
  12. This could be used for the future.  Think of it as a tool to demonstrate to potential employers your capabilities and skill level.
  13. Do not let dysfunction ruin working relationships.  I am a mediator and here to help negotiate, navigate the waters.
  14. Keep backup copies in three different places.  Back up often.
  15. Others are counting on you, don’t let them down.

 

 

People Process Culture (PPC): What it is and why study…

People Process Culture (PPC): What it is and why study…

So, this year I’ve taken on the duties of the People Process Culture Endowed Chair here at Stout.  I am looking forward to delivering on previous contributions to organizational behavior as well as some aspects that are pertinent in today’s global society.  Basically, developing the ‘service heart’ concept.  So, what is PPC and why study a concept?  It isn’t new the idea of addressing the needs of all your stakeholders.  The concept has been around in my industry of tourism and hospitality since man traveled afar to find food.  Pretty old.  We just haven’t address solid nomenclature till the 20th century.

The first real historical incidence in my industry of this concept that I can find to date is Delmonico’s of NYC.  My first encounter with this type of philosophy in a practical sense was with Marriott.  The first time it is part of the core values of the company and written down was when the founders of the company, Bill and Alice Marriott, opened their root beer stand in 1927 in Washington, DC.

Yet, the simplicity of the concept, the beauty of it, is breaking down that beauty to its complexity and reconstructing it to understand that brilliance.  It might not always be the same as the original because relationships have these nuances, but there must be core values that are consistently apparent.  What is that quotation from The Last Samuri at the end of the movie:

Katsumoto: The perfect blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted life. [With his dying breath] Perfect… They are all… perfect..

A rose
A rose…

What is Katsumoto trying to convey?  Perfection doesn’t really exist because everything holds perfection.  There is a sense of perfection.  Now don’t jump to conclusions.  Perfections have flaws and are really never perfect because everything is inherently flawed.  That is the beauty of life.  Embrace that perfection/imperfection, that flaw in all of us and see it for what it is.  Be open and receiving.  Okay, coming down from my higher position, down the stairs and taking a seat (think Socrates here).

Organizational theory, PPC is important to study because business is about managing not just the tangibles, but the intangibles.  The human element.  All stakeholders and that interaction.  It is dynamic, ever-changing, and always in flux.

I have always loved puzzles.  Why am I bringing this up?  Well, understanding about the interplay of interactions between individuals is a unique puzzle.

Let me explain this illustration.  Bear with me.

You go to the store to buy a puzzle.  If I don’t know anything about this puzzle or its degree of complexity, I examine the box more closely.  I look at the number of pieces, the intricacy of the picture and try to make a decision.  Maybe, I buy it on aesthetics alone.  I am really into cool castles at the moment, so maybe I’m looking for something towards my interests.   I want to find one that I desire.  One that tugs at the hedonistic value.  The outside of the box presents a really pleasing picture of a place I want to visit or be a part of.

Cue Forrest Gump:

“Life is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you are going to get.”

Now lets tie that into organizations and perhaps, searching for that best employer.  Working for that right firm.  On the outside everything that is presented to you is a very pleasing picture.  All bright and shiny.  You’ve heard great things about this company.  You’ve done some research and examined some public documents.  Yet, you are on the outside looking in…not until you delve further into that company will you understand the depth of complexity.  The tangible and intangible.  The products, the processes, and the human factor.

You open the box.

Are there instructions to understand the complexity?  Sure on the front.  You have a picture of how it is supposed to be. But there is nothing on how to start or how to navigate the waters.  Everything you view is from your own vantage point, your point of reference, your point of view.  That point of reality has been shaped, morphed, changed, or reshaped with experience.  Don’t discount your experience.  Life is an experience, good and bad.  It is how you use that experience that is also important.  Learn from it, strive to overcome challenges.

Cue my own mantra:

“Challenge life, don’t let life challenge you.”

In real live, you have submitted a resume and gained an interview.  You run the hurdles and are offered a job.  You accept, and everything is right in the world.  That day has come, you pack your lunch, and hit the bricks. Open the door and walk in. And faced with a new environment. Somewhat daunting and scary.  Change always comes with fear and joy.  You’ve left the ordinary world you knew, and crossed a threshold into another realm.  Embrace it.

The pile of pieces of the puzzle.
The pile of pieces of the puzzle.an interview.

The goal of the box is to reconstruct the pieces into some sense of organization to recreate the picture.  The objectives are the plan of attack to reach that goal.  Facing a mountain of uncertainty, the pile of pieces is the first challenge.  Where to start?  Every puzzle is different. Yet, more importantly, at this point, what questions do I ask in order to understand how to approach this project before me.

The first day is introduction into your new reality.  This isn’t university anymore Toto.  It sinks in possibly as you are indoctrinated into this new social system, this new community that you might just have a limited awareness.

Set aside now the tangible, the products.  As stated before, there are two avenues to follow, one readily apparent with some degree of mysticism (the production process of tangibles), and the other that has more of mysterious element–the human interplay.  A host of personalities to decipher and understand.  How do I make sense of this complexity?  For some, this reality comes with a greater sense of diversity that they have ever encountered before.

Whoa, hold on.  This isn’t diversity.  Not even close.  This is so much more.  Wait, be patient students, we’ll get to this in a bit.

As a professor and researcher, I am aware of the craft of my job.  I study it.  I pick it apart to gain knowledge.  I had an epiphany in my early thirties that I had a limited awareness about life, both personal and professional.  I had to set aside what I thought and deconstruct my known puzzle.  Those pieces weren’t enough.  It never is…

Look for that Obi-Wan among the multitude of faces and become his or her apprentice.  Ask someone who is successful in that job that may have been hired in the last two years and find out who that person is, because you will need a guide.  Sometimes you have to go it alone with just your gut and intuition.  (How do I know what is right and wrong?)

Game of Thrones, Oathbreaker, 2016
Game of Thrones, Oathbreaker, 2016

Cue Game of Thrones, Ser Davos conversing with Jon Snow after he awakens from the dead:

Davos Seaworth: You clean up as much of the shit as you can.
Jon Snow: I don’t know how to do that. I thought I did, but… I failed.
Davos Seaworth: Good. Now go fail again.

Life and work doesn’t always come with instructions.  Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and try.  Some approach the puzzle and just start, uncovering the patterns along the way.  Others, before even starting, study and look for patterns.  I have always adhered to visualization techniques and using my imagination to envision different scenarios.  I am a big fan of using scenarios when teaching.  Hence, why I like to do projects.

Is there a right way or a wrong way?

When faced with developing the light bulb, Edison didn’t get it the first try.  It took him more than 500+ to get to the finished product.  What did he learn, what was his saying and someone else…”I found 500+ ways how not to invent a light bulb.”

Sometimes you jump right in with great enthusiasm and you get stuck at a point.  A curse slips past your lips as you realize you need to start again.  That this road is not the one you should have taken.  Hopefully, it isn’t too bad that you can’t recover, because in any industry, especially my own recovery from disgruntled stakeholders could mean the ability to capture or not, revenue, today or in the future.  And in tourism, hospitality, compared to other industries revenue isn’t like manufacturing, cars, construction, etc.  We have a 24 hour perishability.  If we don’t capture revenues within a 24 hour period, it is permanently lost.  We can’t gain it back.

We want repeat business and loyalty.  And not just for revenues.  Want want to create a family.

That disgruntled stakeholder might be your employee.  How do we create longevity?  How do we create a working environment where people love to come to work and want to be there?

So, for some this process, this exchange, this dynamic interplay of people is highly important.  Be prepared for anything.  As I tell my students, you have to be prepared for anyone that walks through that door.  You can’t think for a moment that everyone is the same.  Therefore, you have to ask questions of your employees, your peers, your mentors, your managers, your CEOs, and yourself what you should or shouldn’t do.  That is how you develop intuition.  Always asking questions.

Then you can find a path to put the puzzle together.  Not everyone will accomplish this goal the same, so you have to be prepared for everyone’s point of reality.  You all have goals and objectives, even common ones to get to the end result.   It is wondrous to see how this happens.  It is fantastic to learn how this happens. 

The more knowledge you gain from studying PPC, organizational behavior and from your experience, the stronger leader and manager you will become.  The finished product will be fantastic and everyone will love to be in the same place.

I finish this post with two quotes from two football coaches I greatly admire.  Vince Lombardi and Joe Paterno.

“Leadership is not just one quality, but rather a blend of many qualities; and while no one individual possesses all of the needed talents that go into leadership, each man can develop a combination to make him a leader.” ~ Vince Lombardi

“The will to win is important, but the will to prepare is vital.” ~ Joe Paterno
Meld them together and you have one of the answers to that epiphany I had in my thirties.  It was always about me up to that point in my life, and I wasn’t progressing as my peers.  I was unhappy in my daily life.  I looked for rewards before the end of that current journey.  I wanted something concrete before I had even created it.  I wasn’t a true leader.  I’m not even one now.  I still don’t have all of the skills or talents and probably never will.  But preparation is vital for me, for anyone to be better.  And studying this process as well as others is that preparation.  It will help you attain that combination to be a leader or even just a member of a group that is trying to achieve something.
Enjoy the semester!

Everything in life is negotiable…

Everything in life is negotiable…

Everything in life is negotiable…

Not necessarily.

Negotiation or the act of negotiation is an art form.  Some would argue that life is nothing but black and white.  I would then ask that person, when was the last time you noticed the range of colors around you.

Colorful pens
I love my pens

Spring break is upon us, and the week will be spending time catching up and reading several new books on event management that just crossed my desk, trying to organize the event management curriculum.  After break, we start in on the financial side of international meeting planning and then, negotiation.

Negotiation starts with research.  You need to know the person, the company, or the destination that you are dealing with.  You can’t go blindly into the negotiation room without understanding all the nuances and laws.  You can’t design an event without knowing all of the stakeholders and their needs, their wants.  Or you need to have the right team behind you to accomplish the goal.

Know yourself and your limitations.  You can’t be an expert at everything.

Construct an extensive profile of your stakeholders, the country in which you will operate in order to ask the right questions.

Do not think that what you did in your home country in terms of negotiation will work in other countries.  Keep an open mind, and do your research into the cultural norms of your host country.

Test those people you hire to aid you in the process.  Don’t blindly trust any liaison and think that they are the right person for the job.  Do background checks.  Ask for past clients to gain testimonials.

Especially overseas.  The legal maze is just as complicated, if not more so than at home.  Again, know thy self and your limitations.

So I am considering bringing ethics into the debate as well as cultural intelligence.

There are ten ethical considerations in hospitality/tourism managers (from Jaszay and Dunk (2006) Ethical Decision Making in the Hospitality Industry, p2-3):

  1. Honesty:  Hospitality managers are honest and truthful.  They do not mislead or deceive others by misrepresentations.
  2. Integrity:  Hospitality managers demonstrate the courage of their convictions by doing what they know is right even when there is pressure to do otherwise
  3. Trustworthiness:  Hospitality managers are trustworthy and candid in applying information and in correcting misapprehensions of fact.  They do not create justifications for escaping their promises and commitments.
  4. Loyalty:  Hospitality managers demonstrate loyalty to their companies in devotion to duty, and loyalty to colleagues by friendship in adversity.  They avoid conflicts of interest; don not use or disclose confidential information; and should they accept other employment they respect the proprietary information of their former employer.
  5. Fairness:  Hospitality managers are fair and equitable in all dealings; they do not arbitrarily abuse power; nor take undue advantage of another’s mistakes or difficulties.  They treat all individuals with equality, with tolerance and acceptance of diversity, and with an open mind.
  6. Concern and respect for others: Hospit­ality managers are concerned, respec­tful, compas­sio­nate, and kind. They are sensitive to the personal concerns of their colleagues and live the Golden Rule. They respect the rights and interests of all those who have a stake in their decisions.
  7. Commitment to Excellence: Hospit­ality managers pursue excellence in performing their duties and are willing to put more into their job than they can get out of it.
  8. Leadership: Hospit­ality managers are conscious of the respon­sib­ility and opport­unities of their position of leader­ship. They realize that the best way to instill ethical principles and ethical awareness in their organi­zations is by example. They walk their talk!
  9. Reputation and Morale: Hospit­ality managers seek to protect and build the company’s reputation and the morale of its employees by engaging in conduct that builds respect. They also take whatever actions are necessary to correct or prevent inappr­opriate conduct of others.
  10. Accountability:  Hospit­ality managers are personally accoun­table for the
    ethical quality of their decisions, as well as those of their subord­inates.

The question is how these 10 principles can be a launching pad for successful negotiations.  Students need a foundation on which to start.  Therefore, they will need an extensive understanding of their own self, and where they stand within these boundaries to effectively work with others.  If there is commitment to these principles, then those students can progress successfully through the negotiation process.

Our department has designed five core values that complement and mirror these ten principles (Dictionary.com)

  • Respect:  a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.
  • Diversity: the state of having people who are different races or who have different cultures in a group or organization
  • Servant Leadership: Caring for people
  • Integrity:  the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness
  • Innovate: the act or process of introducing new ideas, devices, or methods

The last innovate extends those initial principles.  That we must go further and farther in our efforts to understand.  To gain a greater awareness about the whole process, and not just one aspect, one point.  To gain a greater awareness of the world in which we operate in.  You can’t develop a plan of action; be aware of potential problems without opening yourself up to learn, to broaden current skill set.  To ask the right questions.  Don’t make assumptions, especially when working in an international arena.  You’ll fall short.

Excellent article on 6 Steps to a Successful International Meeting

 

Revisiting Value Chain…

Revisiting Value Chain…

Understanding tourism goods and services can be deceiving. We can articulate that they have a tangible and intangible divergence. It is when we get into that thinking on higher and complex terms that it becomes blurred, complex and competitive. One can argue that a tourism’s tangible products cannot be consumed until the prospective tourist evaluates an intangible depiction or representation. No one can argue that more and more people are booking travel and tourism products using mobile technology 1. I am not certain that all tourist see the complex inter-relationships that exist between all sectors of our industry. Or do they even think about it. Yet, what about the students in my classes, those studying tourism. How should we envision this complexity?

cobweb

It is an intricate web of connections. Some strong, some strained, some thin filaments that aren’t as apparent as others. Murky waters indeed. As we have discussed, value is not so easily deciphered, applied or understood. But it is a value chain of products that are aligned and transformed into an experience when packaged together. Validation of the wealth of that package, tangible and intangible value, occurs with use. If we have met and exceeded expectations developed before, during and after the trip and travel process, then we have delivered on each contact point during those moments of truths. And moments of truths profoundly affect the exchange process.  If those connections are strong, those cogs in a wheel working in tandem, the industry will have a strong presence even in a highly competitive environment.  They will stand out and be a first choice among a host of consumers.

Tourism is a communication industry.

We communicate to every stakeholder that has a vested interest in our products and services. (Moment of Epiphany: That moment when something hits you, whispers in your ear of understanding…just happened. More on that later)

Communication is a constant throughout the process, even if it happens behind the scenes or we don’t think it is even occurring. Information is exchanged and processed during those moments.

What we do during those moments of interaction can be vital for capturing interest, converting interest to purchases, and then use.

We need to create linkages among all those involved in the process.

That is a value chain.

 

 


Footnotes

1. 70 travel & tourism statistics to know about in 2016 [Trends Report]by Lucy Fuggle

Revisiting Value…

Revisiting Value…

Value is that odd little derivative that we really can’t pin down adequately enough.  We can skim right close to the edge, but never acquire the true depth.  Value is odd that way.  The old formula stipulates that it is benefits of doing something minus the cost of doing something.  And one of my students in my HT 140 class asked a beauty of a question the other day.  In her entrepreneurial class they speak of perceived value.  Where does that fit in?  (I can’t tell you how my spirit was dancing about when this happened.  I saw the light bulb hovering over her head and becoming brighter).

I told her yes value is a perception.  Everyone in the class, even though you may have commonality among the variables that describe your life, your point of view is uniquely your own.  It is accessing that information and utilizing it to its fullest that allows me to create an experience that will meet your expectations.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

Rewind.

I constantly reiterate that anyone that wants to work in the tourism industry, that works in hospitality, in any facet must be prepared for anyone that walks through our door.  That means being prepared before, during and after decision-making.  Choices are made at different times for different reasons.  Purchases can be made at any time.  Doesn’t mean that those choices will be ultimately acted upon, but you have to be prepared.

Information is critical.

The foundation of value is information.  One of the drivers of our industry.

We are all sales people in our industry.  We are always in that mode and if not, should be.  Anyone can sell a product, even the housekeeper up on the floors of hotel cleaning rooms.  They have to be cognizant of the product they work with, and what that product means.  What are its attributes, and amenities?  What is the brand? What are the core values of the company, and how it defines that brand?  A host of questions.  You might think it too much for our employees, but they have as much stake in our companies as others.  It is after all their job, like ours, on the line.

Never turn away from an opportunity, even if it is clouded in the mist of uncertainty.

Value cannot be realized unless we are in tune with every facet of our business, every function, and every process.  Product and services.  Even the human element has value.  It is afterall the interaction in our industry that makes or breaks a deal.

 

disney-infinity-3-0-star-wars-figures-8-1024x559
Infinity figurines from iheartinfinity.com

 

 

 

 

 

Perceived value is a point of view.  Perceived value is a constant in the nature of our lives.  Children know this.  They can determine value quite readily without even asking.  They know the difference.  It astounds me that my ten-year old nephew can rattle off the advantages and disadvantages of different Infinity Characters for his XBOX game as we shop for figurines to play with.  He hasn’t quite caught the concept of budget yet, but hey he is only ten years old and value has a different meaning.

And that means value to us all changes over time with our lifestyle and progression along our life span.

How do we know the changes?  We ask the right questions.  We have to gain information, exchange it with our customers.  My nephew is constantly scouring YouTube for videos about his favorite games and characters.  I am sure he has heated debates with his friends over the games that each of them plays.  He’s a sponge.  And maybe that is the lesson all of us that strive to work in this industry need to remember.  Seek and find, soak up and digest information.  Analyze and also, just let it be.  Let it incubate, and watch what happens.  Opportunities to act may not be readily apparent, but if we don’t watch and listen, we won’t see it coming.  We won’t have that moment.

And that leads into the concept of ‘Moment of Truth’ in tourism, hospitality.

Over the course of that progression, before, during and after stages of decision-making, we can create and fulfill those moments of truth.  Where perception is validated.  Where the benefits of doing something have diminished the cost to a negligible register that people will act.  We want to convert interest to use.  We want to convert curiosity.  We want people to walk through our doors and eventually return.  We want to create loyalty.

So value is something measurable and not.  We can’t read people’s minds or dive into the heart of their perceptions without asking the right questions.  And we can’t be afraid of asking those questions.  A good manager asks the right questions.  A great manager questions those questions, and takes risks to find better questions.  Sometimes it isn’t about the answers.  It is about those questions that drive deep into the heart of something and opens the all the doors.

 

 

If you build it, will they come?

If you build it, will they come?

Yes and no, and if they do, not always will tourist return.

Tourism, like any other industry, is a complex set of functions, processes, and activities. You can’t develop an attraction without some thought to why you want it in the first place.  A feasibility study should be conducted of the area and thus, an audit of other similar attractions should be included.  The carrying capacity of any destination, big or small, should be analyzed to know the resources you have and lack.

Resources are important, in their raw and refined form.  What are they and how will they sustain your development today and tomorrow?  How much do we need to develop to make an entity a viable point for visitation.  Something just doesn’t grow up over night or decline and close.  Disney started planning for Walt Disney World more than a decade before he even started to build.

Here is a short video about that process.

What if those resources, and tourist are scarce?  What are you going to do?

Tourism by its nature is seasonal and perishable.  There are peaks and valleys of movement.  Our products have a 24-hour use, and if we don’t attract the numbers to our attractions, revenue is lost.

I ask my students to consider their own experience when answering questions in order for them to apply context to the problems I pose.  As I stated before, I sifted through my Dad’s colored slides while I was home over Christmas break.  Our 1967 trip to Montreal included the Upper State New York, and a place called North Pole, NY.  There is a Christmas village aptly named after the North Pole.  The park opened on November 1, 1949 and is still in existence today.  That’s almost 70 years old.

Visiting North Pole, NY and the North Pole
Visiting North Pole, NY and the North Pole
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Visiting North Pole, NY and the North Pole

The place hasn’t changed all that much.

31886570991_1216c90fd4_k
Visiting North Pole, NY and the North Pole

 

But the North Pole isn’t in the bustling mecca of Orlando.  It is nestled in small corner of the Adirondack’s with one way in, and one way out.  If you are going to get there, you are going to have to drive.  Limited accommodation with Lake Placid, NY 12 miles away.  Accessibility, challenging but doable.  But what makes it successful to stay in business for almost 70 years?

Good question.  What variables do we use to judge a successful destination.  That is another post for another time.

Then that begs the question…

Then that begs the question…

In my previous post, I discussed why we study tourism goods and services, and as I sat at home last night, began to wonder, if I should not talk about my other classes, and their purpose.

Why study tourism, development of tourist attractions, and international meeting planning?

Why study the history of tourism as well as its impacts?  Why dive deep into the nuances of our industry?  Because this is a fact of our lives.

Tourism is one of the oldest industries on the planet.  It changes and morphs, evolves with the changes to society.  It even pushes society to change given the innovation of technology.  Even dictating to other industries to innovate for us.  (Think cell phones people.  If it wasn’t for Gene Roddenberry and his idea for a Star Trek communicator, we would have our little SMART devices nor could we make reservations on them.)  So tourism is interwoven into our lives, into our DNA.  We all need and want the process, the action, and the function of tourism, because we want to have a rich and fulfilling lives.

Swissair Motelodge, 1967
The year our family went to the Montreal Expo.

 

Over winter break I returned home to Pennsylvania to see my parents and give Mom a break for taking care of my father.  While home, I dug out Dad’s old cases of slides that he has accumulated from his 86 years on this planet.  I found some early slides of our family vacations.  One I vaguely remember due to my age was the trip we made through Pennsylvania, upper state New York, and over the border to Montreal for the Montreal Expo and World’s Fair.

As I copied the slides, I tried to recall this moment in my life.  The memories are vague shapes and snippets of images.  Visions lost in the mists of my mind’s eye.  I can recall nothing of the drive, nothing of the moments in Fort Ticonderoga, nothing of the beautiful scenery.  I can see a bit of Niagara Falls, because of those darn rain coats we had to wear and the spray from the falling water.  A picnic of Kentucky Fried Chicken on our hotel room floor.  Our family had never encountered that before, and my sister begged for a picnic.  That’s it, nothing more.

But my Dad’s slides were evidence of our family outings in the time span of our lives together.

Time is a variable associated with the definition of tourism.  Questions surrounding time should be asked to understand needs and wants, to design experiences and fulfill expectations.  Time cannot be discounted in the evolution of our industry.

Yes, Swissaire Motelodge still exists, but the Swissaire brand went out of business in the 1980s.  That doesn’t seem like that long ago, but its over 30 some years.  Wow, 1967 to 2017 is a fifty year span, and the motel of my youth is still there.  Still in existence but with a different name.  The Brookside Motor Inn.  The only amenity missing is the above ground pool in the parking lot.

Brookside Motor Inn in Jay, NY
This was the former Swissaire Motelodge of 1967.

So, back to my original reason for this post. Why study these particular subjects?

Tourism is a business and like any other we need to know how it evolved.  We need to examine the footprint in a historical context as well as today.  We need to understand the impact, both positive and negative, to understand what to do now, and in the future.  We need to learn from the past so mistakes can be learned from, and its lessons utilized today and tomorrow.

We need to understand the value in all its varied forms.  The quantifiable and the qualitative essence.  For a better analogy, it is a machine, and if we don’t know how it works, how to take care of it, and sustain it for today and tomorrow, we will perish.  Our product life cycle will come to an end, and the ramifications for all parties are huge.  Loss of revenues for not only the business but the host community.  Loss of jobs, loss of incomes, loss…and that loss will multiply across other industries.  Demonstrating the inter-connectedness that tourism has within the fabric of our lives.

So that is why we study it.

Why Study Tourism Goods and Services…

Why Study Tourism Goods and Services…

One of my students from my online course strolled into my office an hour ago to ask several questions.  This led to a the prompt for today. Why study tourism goods and services?  In my HT 140 classes, I introduce them to the concept of the ‘tourism umbrella‘.  They know that there are various products associated with tourism, and this course dives deeper into understanding the intricate and complex nature of those products (goods) and associated services.

I expose them to the concept of value (value = benefits-costs) of tourism to both business and the tourist.  Yet, in goods and services we try to articulate that value in all of its nuances.  That means dissecting the quantitative and qualitative nature of goods and services.  We can see the bricks and mortar, the physical of the tangible.  We can begin and understand how service is more important in differentiating tourism products.  But how do we really value goods and services?  What does value mean beyond benefits minus the cost of doing something.  How important it is to a local community, regional entity, or government.

That is why we need to study Tourism Goods and Services.

Back to work…

The Field Burger and Tap at Toftrees in State College, PA

Christmas break has wound down and this week it’s back to the classroom. Time to remove my email notification sign, akin to “gone fishing” and open it up for real work. Finish off projects for the semester and organize my educational environment.

I am always grateful for my time off. This year I was able to return to Happy Valley or Penn State and visit with friends.

How much the small town has grown since I departed in 2000.  New buildings spring up every year, and I am amazed at their architecture.  Yet, some old stomping grounds still exist.

The chilled wind of winter still barks across the expanse of dirt from Beaver Stadium down to Shortlidge road, and I wonder how ever I survived the frigid, hibernal winds without my current goose down coat.  Trekking over the landscape takes on new meaning with all the new guide posts.

This semester I’m teaching Tourism Goods and Services and ask the students to pick a city in a state or country, even an event to investigate.  I want them to make the connections between the infrastructure and human element.  To see how everything should work in tangent.  If one point is out of sync, then we fail.

I can’t give too much away too soon, utilizing the blog to aid them in their research.

 

 

Developing managers…

Developing managers…

In my convention and meeting planning class, I have them do a lengthy scenario based project. They are broken into teams, and given a type of meeting or event. Over the course of the 16 weeks, they are given information, and curve balls to develop the scenario.  The purpose of the project is to develop their research, analytical, and problem-solving skills.  It’s 500 points and I’ve had success with the project in the past as well as seen some students not take it seriously.  Former students have commented on the project and agreed that it was a worthwhile exercise. Jenna Blandi-Jurgil was one of my first students in my meeting planning course that I created at Eastern Illinois University.  It was one of the first renditions of the project that has since seen several adjustments.  When asked about the project this past week, when she spoke to my current students, she had this to say:

Jenna Blandi-Jurgil
Jenna Blandi-Jurgil Meeting Planner at American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons

“Everything I did in that notebook, I do now in my real job as an event planner.”  ~Jenna Blandi-Jurgil

Today, I had one of the group leaders in asking questions. She was the only representative from their group for the meeting, and I had an opportunity to talk about their project and what she needs to do as their leader. Over the course of the conversation, I reminded her about the purpose, and talked about the ‘curve balls’ I gave them.  I revisited the process of event planning and roles, responsibilities of an event planner.  Event planning is all about project management from the inception of idea, through the planning and execution of the event or meeting, and finally the post event or meeting stages.  That planning remains a central element of the whole process.

Jenna reinforced several key points that I constantly articulate in class.  That if you are prepared, that your planning is thorough, the attendees won’t ‘see’ the interworking of a meeting or the flaws.  They won’t see any problems.  They can enjoy their experience and network without interference.

I love using examples when I try to explain concepts.  The concept I wanted to talk about because I was aware of some potential difficulty with the group that would need to be addressed was leadership.  I try to use simple visuals that would aid them.  I asked the person if they played any sports.  They told me that they played basketball and volleyball.  Bingo.  I could talk about volleyball.

I played volleyball since I was about four years old because my Mom was a former coach and referee.  She actively took me to games and included me in practices.  My earliest memory is of attending a game at my father’s place of work, his high school, and watching the game, chasing after the volleyballs, and listening to my Mom.  My next memory is of the volleyball players that she coached coming to my hospital room and visiting when I had my adenoids removed.  They brought me orange cream Popsicle to ease my sore throat.  There was a camaraderie about them that I didn’t understand at an early age, but would later on.  Something vital for success.

I really started playing seriously in seventh grade.  I played through high school always earning a spot on the team and playing every match.  I played club ball at Penn State (yes I tried out for the team, but I decided not to continue.  That it wasn’t what I wanted.)  I played Division I in Scotland, but hardly saw playing time due to certain politics and favoritism on the team.  I can’t blame them, those ladies had been playing a long time.  I was a backup but still gave it my heart.  That is another point I stress with any project.  Give 115% and you will succeed.

My brother and I
My brother and I wrestling.  I have my team jersey on from Penn State Club
Lounging in the dorms
Me in Penn State’s West Hall’s Thompson Hall after volleyball practice

I was a back line specialist and setter.  I was in part the quarterback and leader on the court, but also a team member to others that would lead.  I wasn’t the captain, but still had a leadership role.  There has to be a certain cohesion between group members.  There has to be a dialogue on and off the court.  There has to be an ease of conversation in order to achieve a goal.

In high school, we made it to regionals.  Unfortunately, I had injured my ankle and wasn’t able to play.  It was my senior year and played two sports.  Regionals fell during softball season and I was their primary catcher.  During a game, I suffered a high ankle sprain that ended the season for both volleyball and softball.  But I still went to the regional game, and watched us make it through to the final match against our rival.  I supported them from the bench, even begging the coach to tape up my ankle and let me play.  Memories still linger of that year, and I recall the first match of the season against that same rival, and utilized it for explaining leadership.

We are all part of team, don’t get me wrong.  But in such sports, there is more to consider.  That year we were hitting on all cylinders, making a connection that could see us go all the way to State if injuries hadn’t plagued us near the end.  We had this groove, this underlying current that others could recognize.

My high school days playing volleyball
My high school days playing volleyball

Yet, I’m drifting away from my story.  Okay, first match.  Now living in a small town, you know everyone, and more than likely play sports with and against friends from rival schools.  I did.  I had a friend on our rival volleyball team and decided to focus in on her.  I was at service and she was straight down the line from me, with a rather tall hitter in front of her.  I had pretty good accuracy and knew I could place it at her, or on the line.  I waited, watching the other team and how they were lining up.  Watching, observing, examining the other team and your alignment is key to knowing where to place that first shot.  The front line of our opponent had set up to switch hitters, leaving my friend open for attack.  That means all of their hitters were congregated in the center to switch as the ball sailed over the net.  So first service, up and with some power, down the line at my friend.  My friend’s receiving of the ball was off, and it sailed into the stands to her left.  One point to us.

I went back to service and set up again.  Again our opponents lined up to switch hitters, leaving my friend vulnerable.  Second service like the first with even more power.  Let me put it to you this way, and gloating somewhat, but I am aware of what my strength was back then.  My service style was unpredictable.  Hard and fast, or with a soft touch that had people scrambling to get to it.  Yet, I could place it with some deftness at any point.  If I could have utilized a jump serve, and with that accuracy–oh, boy…they would have been even more difficult.  Second service went over the net and right at my friend.  This time, with a slight curve to my palm, I was able to put a curve on it, and she misjudged the line.  As it dropped rapidly, it curved to the left hard, drawing her off her position as well as the girl next to her.  She had remained flat on her feet and stumbled into the other player. The ball ricocheted off her uneven arms, and sailed right into the third person on the back line, bouncing off her thigh onto the floor.

New tactics were called in by our rival coaches and I watched as they made adjustments.  My own team knew me as I knew them.  All along we made subtle adjustments to what I was doing.  They knew what I was up to, my plan of attack.  They knew I would hammer away at one member of the opposing team to get them to shift, to change tactics.  My teammates knew to watch carefully and be prepared, especially our 6’4″ left hitter.  Our opponents stopped shifting players as I served.

Yet, I wasn’t done even with them changing tactics.  I had the confidence to continue my onslaught.  A third time saw the ball skim the back line as an ace.  And then it happened, then I saw what I had been hoping for.  My friend’s teammates started shifting dramatically to help her.  Well dramatically may be overstating the fact, but there was a clear adjustment to aid her.  The front line pulled back to the attack line, abandoning the attempt to shift hitters.  They returned to the classic formation, but with a left leaning.  Moving to shield my friend for another attack.  Beautiful holes opened up, ready to be exploited.

I remember relaxing before stepping to the line.  I remember taking a deep breath, concentrating on what I wanted to do.  I took my time, and focused.  This time with the softest touch, enough to get the ball over the net, I dunked it between the net and their attack line, to the farthest right corner.  I’m sure a collective gasp went up from the opposing teams spectators in the stands as the ball just dropped short, and their girls quickly scrambled to try to get the ball, to keep it in play, but their efforts weren’t enough.  Imagine six players surging forward towards the ball, hungry to get at it, to try to save it, keep it in play, at least to get it back over the net, and failing.  Crash, bam, nada.  One more point.

We lost that match after a furious battle.  Our only loss for the year.  But those moments still resonate with me and helps me to explain leadership.

A leader knows when to direct, when to stand back and trust the people they work with.  Knows when to take the lead and put their foot down to see things accomplished.  Preparation is key not only with you and your team, but also knowing the field of play in which you operate.  If you don’t, you are bound to fail.  I knew my team.  I knew when to take the lead, and direct.  I knew when to pull back and trust the process.  I knew when to be a team player, and let others take the reins.  I didn’t chastise, but encouraged.  I built confidence, not erode it away.  I asked the right questions when they needed to be asked as my teammates did the same.  There was a level of communication that successful teams possess that helps them reap rewards.  Wasn’t always perfect, but no team is.  Expectations were realistic, and goals, objectives obtainable.

And then knowing the field of play in which you operate.  There was some dysfunction on my team, and I won’t go into the politics of it.  We had an uphill battle throughout the year, and yet, we understood our ultimate goal and objectives.  We were on the same page and adaptable to the current climate of play.  We also knew how important it was to know our opponents.  Their strengths, weakness, opportunity and threats.  We knew, even with odds stacked against us, we had a chance.  And we went for it, with the thought that nothing was or is impossible.

I knew those players.  I knew one really well.  I wasn’t intimidated by their presence, their past accomplishments (they were the best team in the state for a host of years and still are) or their ‘rhetoric’ on the court, and by their parents on the sidelines.  I heard them, I listened, and I understood.  I knew their goals and objectives, and what they wanted.  But I had a job to accomplish and would adapt to their desires.  I knew myself and remained true to my convictions.  I read the signs they were projecting and exploited their egos.  Some would argue, since with that loss, I was the one with the ego.  Perhaps.  But I knew I had to ask the questions that needed to be asked.  Those questions were in my service and how I played, how I directed the team, and what I did on the court.  And how I utilized the strengths and weakness of the other team, manipulating them against them.  We beat them the second time around hands down, and earned a spot at regionals.

Joe Paterno
Joe Paterno

As Joe Paterno, who I admire, and not just because I’m a Penn State alum, but more, stated:

“The will to win is important, but the will to prepare is vital.”

Sometimes the best strategy for a leader is to do nothing at all.  Continue with your goal and objectives, and let the opponent fail at their own weaknesses.  This is readily apparent on the field of sports.  Trust yourself.  Trust the process.  You focus on the fundamentals, give 115% heart in their execution, and more than likely will triumph in the end.  You may not succeed at first, and I know, I have been in that position many times and must remember that a dose of failure is also a dose of success.  You learn about yourself and others.  You learn what you need to do for the next opportunity both as a leader and team member.

And so I asked my student, what did you take away from this story.  After teasing them with several questions, because it was probably too early on a Friday morning for the both of us, they came to the point I was trying to make.  Preparation.  Know yourself, know what you are capable of as well as your team members.  Make lists and other aids to help you accomplish your goal.  Know the field of play in which you operate, not just the class, and what the professor wants you to deliver, but also, be cognizant of your functionality as a team–your team, your playing field.  If you are going to lead, set the standard by which you will operate, and stick to those goals.  Be adaptable to the external forces swirling around you, and listen to those voices, observe how things shift, and change with the external forces acting against your desires and all those that are on that field of play.  Try to understand everyone’s internal conflict and make strategies that are both achievable and obtainable for everyone.  It is about moving forward with realistic success.

And remember how to act on that field.  How your actions reverberate around each player.  Act with a sense of morality and civility.  Don’t just assume, but articulate.  Walk the walk, and talk the talk.  Respect isn’t blindly given, it is earned and can be easily squandered away.  Which led in part to a talk about core values.

But that is another post for another day.

Daily Prompt: Underground

Daily Prompt: Underground
Buchanan Street Metro
Buchanan Street Underground in Glasgow, Scotland.

The other day, as I was driving home, I was contemplating all the states and cities I have lived in to this point.  My bags have been packed numerous times, moving between seven different states, their cities, and one country.  The average length of time I have spent in any one city is seven years.  Typical of someone who works in this industry.  We are constantly moving.  The early years of my career–especially one year– I moved nine times.

I didn’t grow up in a city with an underground.  We really couldn’t have one, due to the fact Johnstown was settled on a flood plain and water was a constant threat no matter what time of year.  It was only in the big cities where I encountered an Underground.  But Underground in tourism can mean a host of different things.  Transportation aside, the movement from point A to point B, undergrounds have been known to be tourist attractions unto themselves.  Anyone who loves to people watch, should take a circuit on a metro.  It is a wealth of fodder for writing.

Insecurities

But there is more than people.  When I lived in Boston or Washington, DC or Glasgow, there was always activities going on about these centers.  People would play music, sing, trying to capture loose change from commuters.

Music at the Underground
Music at the Underground. Buchanan Street Metro Stop, Glasgow, Scotland.

The metro is a way station for the movement of people. A stop-gap in everyday life. My first semester in Glasgow, was my first indoctrination into the football (footie) culture and their fans pouring out of the metro on their way to matches. The atmosphere was electric, and I was easily swept up in the excitement. Not unlike our American football games in the states. There is nothing like encountering Red Sox fans on their way to Fenway Park! Love that big, green wall.

Crazy Belgians Belgians Footie fans

The Underground is also full of history.  In tourism, we examine the historical timeline of development.  How we went from walking on two feet in search of food (and yes that is a part of tourism) to the complex infrastructure we have today. The Underground is a historical marker as well as a museum of information, both underground and above.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
St George at St. George’s Cross Underground

They are places to mark the passage of time and illustrate a vibrancy of living and dying.

Urban ExplorerBotanical Gardens Abandon Underground in Glasgow, Scotland

There is such a tourism market segment devoted to abandon places. We slip it into historical and dark tourism. Wanting to find that elusive piece in a complex puzzle to understand how life works.  They are a canvase conveying a sense of identity; a sense of self.  It also begs the question, ‘if you build it will they come?’.

Grand Central Terminal - Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Secret Train 

FDR’s secret underground tunnel and train car

And yet, keeping with tourist themes and life’s reality check, underground doesn’t necessarily mean transportation.  What you see today of Edinburgh was built upon, in some parts, older structures and vaults.  People actually lived there, and they have turned these old parts of the city into tourist attractions.  They represent cultural norms regulated to history.  They are their own landscape.  They represent a journey.  That there is life cycle in everything.

So the underground represents life, represents places to develop and utilize in the tourist space.  They have a history.  They are our own history. They are the current and the past, and represents the movement of time.  They are markers, canvases, and concert halls.

Underground
via Daily Prompt: Underground

Daily Prompt: Promises in tourism

Daily Prompt: Promises in tourism
Moment of Truth
Moment of Truth

When I begin classes, I have to revisit the tourism business environment.  I explain that the drivers of that system are information, money and promises.  Promises are paramount in meeting the expectations and wants of the consumer.

A destination’s marketing organization as well as individuals within the infrastructure, can paint this rosy picture, and beautifully wrap up a package of potential.  They can set the price, design the products, and wait for the phone to ring or chirp of an in-box email with a processed receipt.  They can actively seek out and sell their destination attributes far and wide, especially in today’s global environment.

Working behind the scenes, that may be known and unknown, expressed, or implied, even assumed is the vague and concrete form of promises.  The action is an exchange.  Communication is vital for understanding.  Miscommunication can mean disaster.

And yet there is undefinable aspect of promises and that has to do with expectations–point of view, point of reality of each individual tourist.  Quality and quantity, value mean something different to everyone.  And therefore, it is hard to measure, hard to understand, hard to define value for each individual.

The only concrete is in the written terms to any agreement, and we all know we should read that fine print.  Ask that question to gain knowledge.  But there are unwritten promises executed every day.  Usually this in the interaction between human beings.

What we want in tourism is to have the guest return to our destination.  Promises are made throughout the guest cycle–before, during and after.  If we as host, do not live up to those promises articulated, and implied, the probability of return diminishes with each negative incident.

Therefore, promises are important to create loyalty and competitive advantage.  They are our moment of truth that distinguishes us from others.  We cannot survive without them or the partnerships they create.

via Daily Prompt: Promises

Guest Cycle in Tourism…

Guest Cycle in Tourism…
Guest Cycle in Tourism
Guest Cycle in Tourism

If any of you have visited here before, there are several post devoted to the guest cycle. Most of these post have to deal with a hotel or lodging environment, but I wanted to devote some time to what it means in tourism.

In tourism, the guest cycle is still cyclical in nature, in that it is dynamic and continues in perpetuity for as long as people have a want to travel.  The cycle is two-fold from a management or operations or strategy perspective and a guest or tourist, or end-user point of view.

There are three stages: Before, During and After.

In the Before stage, for the tourist, this is predominately focused on research and decision-making, the actions of making planning before execution of experience.  The tourist is researching when to go, hot to get there, where to go, who is going, how much to spend, and why.  Even making a decision not to go.  They are investigating all the elements of the destination mix or value chain, and ‘packaging’ them for use.  They are purchasing a product.

In contrast, for operations, planners, this before stage is when we are creating goals and objectives to attract tourist to our destination.  We too are researching motivations, reasons for travel, examining and evaluating the success of our destination, and strategizing how to remain competitive during the cycle.  This can go on throughout the three stages for we are constantly evaluating success for customer service delivery and execution. We are communicating to our potential and current guests what we have to offer.  We should be proactive during this stage.

In stage two or during their stay, tourist experience what they have designed.  This is the moment of truth.  Do we live up to what we have communicated?  Do we validate their expectations formed?  Do we deliver on tangibles and intangibles?  During this stage, they can still purchase more products, so communication is an ongoing action.  They may be writing positive and negative messages about their experience.

Aforementioned that this stage is highlighted by our “Moment of Truth”.  We have put our product and services out there, we’ve set a price, a value, through words, and images, through actions, and promises.  Have we lived up to those promises?  Usually during this time we are reactive, and may or may not be proactive.  We are reacting to what is happening within the experience, and hopefully, converting any negative experiences to positive ones.  We are recapturing potential loss that might occur with the unfulfilled aspect of promises.

In the third stage, or after, both sides are processing the event.  Guests are communicating and informing others about their experience.  They are analyzing and evaluating the experience, even writing testimonials to deliver to those interested utilizing word of mouth or electronic word of mouth.  They are demonstrating that they have done something, and that these actions may lead to future decision-making.

In contrast, operations or planner is analyzing, examining to inform, and strategize with stakeholders.  They are being reactive and proactive in this aspect in that they want to create a competitive advantage over others by more than addressing the negative messages.  The goal is to create product or destination that is constantly chosen over another, giving them the competitive advantage over another.

This leads to the concept of action-reaction-result loop.  This is a collective movement towards achieving goals and objectives.  This generations reflection, and helps the destination understand is strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Action-Reaction-Result Loop
Action-Reaction-Result Loop

There is an action undertaken by the client or planner, for that action there is a reaction by the guest albeit make a decision to travel, and operations makes promises, and as a result, the client will purchase products and contracts are delivered by operations.  This then leads to more actions, clients will travel whereas operations deliver on said promises.  There is a reaction on both parts, positive or negative, and there for a result.  Have we validated our promises?  If not, the guest will react, which results in negative comments, and as operators we must address that result.  If we don’t address that result, this could lead to an action by the consumer to pick someone else next time.

Recall that tourism is dynamic, ever-changing, and evolving.  These actions, reactions and results are ongoing as is the guest cycle.  They are looped and people are constantly considering travel.  It is our purpose as operations to convert interest into use.  Have them pick us time and time again, creating loyalty, repeat customers.  If so our entity will continue, and we create not only value for the customer but also the firm.

Recall the mantra:

Recall you are selling the right product {to the right person} at the right time, for the right price, for the right place or location, having the right promotion, engaging the right people, utilizing efficient and effective processes, and using truthful physical evidence, that is stories and testimonials to engage with your customer…

Daily Prompt: Border (s) mean so much in tourism

Daily Prompt: Border (s) mean so much in tourism

The Johnstown Flood Memorial/ St. Michael, PA #SouthForkFishingHuntingClub #SouthForkDam #JohnstownFloodof1889The Johnstown Flood Memorial/ St. Michael, PA #SouthForkFishingHuntingClub #SouthForkDam #JohnstownFloodof1889

Border (s) exist on a map, in different geographic markings, and man-made signs to denote a boundary.  In tourism, boundaries are blurred more today than 100 years ago.  As tourist we are constrained only by the regulations to move from one place to another.  Most countries have some form of visa requirements, and yet, as an educator, I teach that boundaries or borders are not insurmountable.  Anything is possible.

Yet, the question of migration is constant note of debate in today’s society.  That borders should be freely open and allow for that migration.  We try to have a reasonable discourse in my classes.  But more so drill down to the core reasons, the SWOT of migration, of tourism in a greater context.

I have an intercultural competency or as I prefer a cultural intelligence assignment in most of my classes.  I tweak it for the different levels.  In my intro class, I begin to open the windows and doors to the vast global world, allow the students to peer out into the broader spectrum, and start the dialogue.  Most of the students, if not all, have a passport and have utilized it.  Some of have not.  But even with their experience, the question remains how much do they really know about the cultures in which they interact with?

At the beginning of the semester, the first couple of weeks, I try to articulate that they are, for their current position on the life cycle, at a limited awareness of the dynamic and complex relationship of the world.  Tourism fosters a movement from a limited awareness to a greater awareness, even if it is traveling from the middle of no where into a bigger, and broader context like a city.  Diversity of the population is far more substantial in the city than in the middle of no where.  They are exposed to more cultural norms.

So borders aren’t just lines on a map, marking the boundary between countries.  Borders can be, may be that demarcation line of change.  Where we step off into something more, and become something more.  That precipice that requires of leap of faith to overcome the fear of doing something.  Of testing yourself and expanding your understanding.  To shedding the shackles of a myopic viewpoint, and opening up oneself to knowledge.  Ignorance breeds fear.  Knowledge gains an understanding.

Tourism is a vehicle for change.  And yet there is always another side of the argument.  The movement of people has a negative impact on infrastructures.  We can’t have this debate without understanding the implications of acculturation, tourism area life cycle or TALC, carrying capacity, spatial segregation, and cultural homogenization.  Planning is key.

Host communities must question the impact on their local identities and quality of life.  Resources and the sustainability of a destination must be examined in order to maintain a balance.  If those resources diminish beyond what the area can handle, then the destination has reached its carrying capacity.  You will see a negative impact on the three environments – natural/man-made,  economic, and socio-cultural.  Basic needs will not be met, and people will suffer.  The infrastructure will begin to deteriorate and impact will be exponential, until a point has been reach, when movement lessens and an area can begin to recover.  If saturation has been reached, or even exceeded for any length of time, resources will disappear completely.  Movement will stop, economic vitality will diminish and the destination will enter a stagnation or decline on the tourism area life cycle or TALC.

Border (s) have so many meanings in tourism, and I have only hinted on a host of thoughts.  The final comment, if a destination is to continue, hard questions need to be asked.

 

via Daily Prompt: Border

If not now, when…

If not now, when…

If not now, when…words I contemplate every single day.  I want to get real about motivations.  To this day, I still don’t think we truly understand why people do what they do.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2016

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2016
Performer on The Mound at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe on Flickr Edinburgh Fringe, VisitScotland Flickr

It’s that old adage, what comes first, the chicken or the egg?  When is that prompt, that kernel of an idea, that innate want to move originate?  To me its a constant white noise that lingers in my brain, in my ears, in all of my senses, and my soul that stirs the blood, and makes me want to shift into action.  I can sit in my car and just by reading my odometer ignite “the itch”.  I am a fidgeter, unable to sit still.  I have been like that my whole life.  My family, especially my siblings, loathe that part of me.

But why do I constantly have these emotional tugs, these pulls, and pushes to want to travel?  My reasons are a murky, muddy, misty, maleficent (mischief not evil people) to just flip-up my finger on my mundane existence and salute it goodbye.  I wish I had the funds to just take my passport to the airport, walk right up to the counter, and say I want to book a flight to Scotland.  Take me away from here, now, please before my grey matter oozes out of my ears and cascades down over my shoulders.  Before my soul dries up, and my heart bends beyond endurance for the want to see my second home.

My fingers are typing hard upon the keyboard, and my emotions are chaotic.  Questions running amok.  And still one remains. Why?  Why is travel so important?  Why do I want to do it?  Why do I want to escape my mundane life and find something real?  Och, why am I asking that last question.  Why is that perception of travel a point of reality more so than my current existence?

Tay Forest Park, Perthshire

Autumnal view over Taymouth Castle and Strath Tay near Kenmore, towards The Tay Forest Park, Perthshire, Scotland VisitScotland Flickr

Pennsylvania

Johnstown Incline Plane and Johnstown, PA by Lost in Scotland, Flickr.

The textures of the landscape in Scotland is not unlike the natural environments of my home in Pennsylvania.  Perthshire particularly is like the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania.  I have memories built upon my time spent immersed within the landscape.  I can describe the smells, the sounds, the sights, the interactions, and yes, even apply the mystical.  But the cold reality is, traveling and being a tourist centers, and focuses my spirit.  Maybe I’m not meant to understand the emotional need.  Maybe I’m just being too complicated.

The prospect of not being able to move, to travel is something I don’t want to fathom.  I need those moments, even if it is a day trip somewhere.  The reasons for travel are unique to each individual.  My sister and I diverge on genealogy tourism, the want to find our roots, and the places associated with our ancestors.  My sister isn’t in to that type of hobby.  Me, I would love to see where these people lived.  I know the first time I wanted to go to Scotland, back in 1993, genealogy wasn’t on my list.  I have to laugh about this story.

Dad's college grad pic

Dad, Lost in Scotland Flickr.

I was turning 3o and reached a point where I felt that strong pull, that tug for Scotland.  I had read, researched, snatched, and bought all the marketing material I could about the country.  Their words, their stories, their pictures was a great push to get me moving.  I have had this innate feeling since I was a youngster and (ahem) snatched Dad’s copy of National Geographic as it came into the mail.  I can’t tell you the joy I felt when that yellow and white covered magazine showed up in our mailbox.  I would snatch out those maps, those pictures and line my walls.  They were my obsessions as a kid, not the latest rock star.  But at 30, I had an epiphany.  I skirted finally over the edge into an adult mode of thought, and the freedom that came with it.  I made a decision I wanted to go to Scotland.  I went home, sat my parents down, and told them point-blank, “I’m going to Scotland.”

Dad’s reaction, and I love my Dad very much, was you aren’t going.  Remember, Dad grew up in a different era, and has a differing point of view about the fairer sex.  Women, especially young women, didn’t travel alone.  I was all for it.  I was still his baby girl.  That is the big bad ass world out there, and I want you safe.  God I love him.  So he made the promise to me that we would go together, Mom, Dad, my sister, and me.  “Give me the stuff, and I’ll make the arrangements.”

“Sure.”  I pushed over my bag of research, and settled the planning into his capable hands.  Remember this is the time before the Internet, and WWW.  They had a computer, but that was for writing letters, and doing jobs off-line.  They weren’t connected.  I didn’t even have one.  I sold 286’s at my weekend job for Staples, but at best had a typewriter to do work on.  Research was hard copy.  I went back to Washington, DC, worked a week, and called the following Sunday.

After the usual pleasantries,  we got down to business.  I asked how was the planning going?  He replied great, and explained the itinerary.  I listened and then cringed when he said that we would fly into London, tour England then go to Wales.  I asked what about Scotland.  No, no Scotland, England and Wales.  I explained I didn’t want to go to Wales, but Scotland.  I thought you wanted to go see where your ancestors are from.  No, I replied, I want, need to go to Scotland.  Long story short, we went to Scotland via London, then Liverpool, then Scotland.  There were no direct flights back then into Glasgow or Edinburgh.

Dad’s focus was genealogy.  That was his motivation.  That time period, he would have been in his early sixties.  How our interests change over the years, and mirror those that have an influence on our decision-making.  I am totally for going back to Scotland, because I just found out that our ancestors are not only from Wales, but also Scotland.  So my motivations have shifted.

I want to go to Wales, because there is one piece of the family genealogy that remains elusive.  I love puzzles, and I want to solve it.

So motivations are unique to each individual.  Why I think will be that elusive piece that we might not be able to adequately understand or find.  That proverbial sock that got lost in the dryer.  One day its one point of view, the next another.  Life, maturity, and experience will shift those variables around, shake them up.

My first foray in front of a camera

My first foray in front of a camera
Learning Glass
Learning Glass

Fridays will be a busy time for me this year as I utilize the Learning Glass technology.  Today, I was there an hour, and did three short videos.  As there is with all technology, there is, for a better word, a learning curve.  The first time I wore a bright color, and you couldn’t see the words.  This time I wore black, and hopefully will be a better wardrobe for the filming.

I haven’t got the energy level yet for this format as I do in the classroom.  It’s awkward for me because I would rather be behind the camera than in front.  And I would rather be in my own home than have to record in front of others.  I told the students to laugh along with me…

Wish me luck

Tourism and geography: Understanding the Landscape

Tourism and geography:  Understanding the Landscape
Powerpoint Presentation Scotland's Landscape: The Making of Scottish Tourism
Powerpoint Presentation Scotland’s Landscape: The Making of Scottish Tourism

Last year I was granted the privilege of speaking in a geography class on my favorite subject, Scotland and its’ landscape.  I wanted to talk about the making of the tourism landscape, and I knew some of my own students would be in the class.  And had to put a different twist on it to keep their attention.  It is hard, but I persevered.

I started off the discussion with one of my favorite quotes from Neil Oliver and his book, A History of Scotland:

But there is a way of feeling about a place, about home, that transcends nationality and geography.
Sometimes the right words are found in the wrong place and remembrance – the reach of memory – matters as much as history.

~Oliver, Neil (2009-12-17). A History Of Scotland (Kindle Locations 145-147). Orion Publishing Group. Kindle Edition

I then showed them the brief intro from his TV show, because it is a powerful example how a landscape changes over time.  From a tourism perspective, landscape is more than just the geographic representation of green spaces and cityscapes.  We derive, as does geography, a complete picture from understanding three prime environments: the economic, the socio-cultural, and the natural/man-made world.  Yet, Oliver delivers something more.  He asserts the time element into the equation.  That over time our point of view of those landscapes change, and are morphed into something with mythic tones.

Before memory or history – beneath everything – is the rock. We are shaped and tested by it. Just as we are of the people we call family, so we are of the land we walk on every day. Magic is elusive stuff, but in the ancient landscapes of Scotland there is the genuine shimmer. It’s also a tough and demanding place – much of it made more of storm-swept rock than anything sun-baked. This is important. It is the landscape that has authored the story of this place, and this people, far longer and more indelibly than any work of our own hands.

~ Oliver, Neil (2009-12-17). A History Of Scotland (Kindle Locations 147-151). Orion Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

It is hard from students, at first, to understand the complexity that is tourism.  Mill and Morrison (2012) assert that tourism isn’t really an industry.  System, yes.  But more.  It isn’t just one entity, but a collection of entities within a specific landscape (a destination).  That it is more of an observable event, a phenomenon.  Yet, they articulate that “industry is a collection of entities producing the same goods and services (1)*, and tourism is nothing like an industry.  Here is where the waters become murky.  Tourism utilizes resources to create a collection of choices for individual travelers.  They produce goods and services to fulfill the expectations and wants of tourists.  Some of them don’t produce the same tangible and intangible elements.  But it is an industry when that collection of enterprises strive for the same goal in maximizing the capture of revenues in order to reward stakeholders and reinvest in the firm, destination.  Yes, tourism is a dynamic action; a behavior; a migration of people and resources to fulfill a need or a want, and thus creating loyalty.  We make promises every single day in tourism, and if we don’t deliver on those promises, more than likely our customers will go some place different.  They will choose another destination.  Tourism is an inter-woven tapestry of businesses.  They are inter-dependent and co-dependent on each other.  I would agree that they complement each other, but they are striving for one goal.  Tourism is rooted in promises, that intangible variable that is unique to each individual.  Promises are both input and outputs, associated with before, during and after travel.  That the observable event is ongoing, never-ending.  That as a business, no matter what area, we strive for mutually beneficial partnerships, and linkages to create value.  That is another promise.

Maybe industry isn’t the right word, and we need something more?  How is value measured with such shades of gray?  Is there black and white?  In today’s day and age of technology, an arm-chair traveler could be considered a tourist because they are utilizing and consuming resources from a destination.  What if they order a souvenir online and have it shipped to their place of residence, post travel?  What if they order up unique items from a destination because they want a bon voyage party?  Value has not been fully recognized from these individuals because they haven’t made a choice yet or their conversion doesn’t happen till a future date.  Tourism is complex.  When exactly do travelers enter into the system?

Crazy thought?  Sure, but with the advances of technology, and global uncertainty, will the Internet Highway be the destination of the future?  Will that be a new landscape?  Will a new even more complex tourism entity grow?  What about the value of these arm chair travelers that convert others?  Word of mouth, eWOM, is becoming critical with the application of technology.  Technology is another resource that needs to be addressed in that umbrella.

It is hard to measure total impact when tourism actions mirror every day life.  How do we know when a person pulls into a petrol station and fills the tank his purpose for that purchase?  Unless we ask, and gather that information as to the purpose of his trip will we understand exactly what is happening within that observable event.  This illustrates the point that perhaps we should not solely measure the value of tourism by numbers alone.  There is more to that confining digit that we readily see or imagine.  Ask the right questions.

So the debate continues.  Governments can continue to give tourism lip service, and stipulate that it isn’t important enough to the GDP.  We can’t discount the numbers.  We can’t discount the good that tourism does.  But that is for another post.

From that landscape, the resources for tourism sprout, and grow.  As managers, we strive to put heads in a beds, and butts in a seats.  We have to remember that we are a collection of individuals working together, and in competition for traveler choice.  A destination will utilize resources and the landscape will change.  Simplicity turns to complexity with continued development.  We must understand the parts of the puzzle as well as the whole puzzle to gauge impact.  To plan and strategize for the future.  As a manager we must remember the mantra:

Recall you are selling to the right person, the right product at the right time, for the right price, for the right location, having the right promotion, and employing the right people utilizing effective and efficient processes, and truthful, physical evidence, that is the right stories or testimonials to engage with the right customer.

Perhaps tourism is about creating and writing the story of life? (Another post)

Mill-Morrison. The Tourism System,  7th Edition. Kendall Hunt Publishing, Co., 08/2012. VitalBook file.

Finding that right corner of the world…

Finding that right corner of the world…

Every day I’m asked by students about finding employment, the right job for them.  They slip into my office, some tentatively, others boldly, and with frustrated snarls and whispers, ask, “How do I find a job?”  Or they sigh deeply and say, “Help me find an internship?  I can’t find one.”

I get it, I’ve been there, I have a trunk load of tee shirts sitting at home.

Finding that right corner of the world, that right niche is hard.

Especially in today’s complicated world.

And that is when I tell them, hopefully, with a bucket load of optimism, persevere.  The right job, the right position is out there…and yes, there is always that lingering ‘but’, that momentary pause that tells them there’s a catch.  Sometimes you have to step outside the box, and your comfort zone, to find that niche.  To find that corner, and occupy.  I really think we need a one credit course on job hunting in today’s employment environment.

It’s brutal out there, and you have to take the punches in order to gain what you so desire.  That hasn’t changed since we could walk upright.  I then shift, and ask them what are they passionate about.  That is when I get the blank stares, the lack of emotional response, and emptiness.  My mind drifts too at this time period back to the days when I was first in grade school, and the teacher asked every one of us, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I wonder what I answered, because I really can’t remember.  The earliest point that I do remember is a 4th grade essay, and I was into the National Park System, John Muir, and such.  I devoured a book on Muir that year, taking it out of the library several times.  I can still picture the library at Southmont to this day, and roaming the stacks of treasures.

So then I go into concentrations, and what they are taking.  I ask them why are they taking this area, and I get the usual replies.  Most days its I want to be an event planner.  I want to plan weddings, and then I hit them with the cold reality of day.  Competition is hard, and getting to that point, difficult.  But it is doable.  You just have to think outside the box.  And this is where I get frustrated, because I already know the answer more than half the time.  My next inevitable question is, “Have you done research on the career?  Where you can find jobs?”
Nothing, nada, zip.  Big fat zero.

I’ve data mined for information, and I realize then that students need a bit of boost, a shove to find resources.  And not only research about their career path, but about themselves.  They need to dig deep and find out that intrapreneur within themselves.  They need to dig deep, and soul search.  Set some goals and objectives and obtain them.

And remember nothing is set in stone.  There is always that ability, and opportunity to change.

I found a great video on Linkedin, a nice presentation on Intrapreneurship by Nancy Lyons of Clockwork.  Hopefully this might help them in that step…

Weekend fun…

Weekend fun…

Visited Mall of America this weekend to shop and to see the new JW Marriott hotel attached to the Mall of America. Awesome property, and employees so welcoming. The design of the front desk caught my eye because I have been saying for years that eventually we will be getting rid of the front desk as we know it, especially with the advanced application of technology. We are tethered to our gadgets, but this Marriott is an example of how to integrate technology, function and design with luxury and style. Other hotels are doing the same, notably Hyatt and Hyatt Place. I’m looking forward to see what the concept will eventually manifest into.

Sense of Belonging…

Sense of Belonging…
Stormy skies over Ring of Brodgar

Stormy skies over Ring of Brodgar, Orkney

So my tourism class has finished up for the most part motivation and I am sitting here reflecting on what we talked about.  I tried to convey to the students that they have to develop their own understanding of the functions of motivations for their own career aspirations.  To apply what we learn to their own passions, and how this will aid in becoming a better overall manager.  Yet, I continue to ponder the questions in my own life as a tourism researcher, as a tourism educator.

Why do people travel?  Why do we feel a kindred spirit with certain destinations?  Why are we tugged towards something that we have never really been before, and feel at home?  Why do we have a physiological, psychological, and cognitive response to a destination?  Finding out those answers is gold for a destination marketing organization.  If we can hook the heart of people, and have them make a decision, choose one destination over another, then we have succeeded at the function of promotion.

Yet, I always thought there was more to this behavior.

What are those feelings that tug at the heart, that sense of belonging that makes you return again and again to the same space, the same landscape?

What is that longing for a place?

It isn’t easy to articulate truthfully for some of us.  We are all drawn to a destination to fulfill some hierarchy of need.  Some hedonistic want to ‘see’ for ourselves what all the hype is about.  Sometimes, I can’t understand some over the top reactions to the elements of life.  I was never one to like concerts.  The behavior of participants that this was the be all to end all, that if they weren’t part of the equation, their life would somehow be less fulfilling.  I have only been to two rowdy concerts in my life, and sat in wonderment at the behavior of people.  It was nuts.  More than half the time I couldn’t hear the music for all the screaming.  I didn’t appreciate or enjoy those experiences at all, and will never again participate in such an event.

Outlander Season 2 EW photoshoot
Outlander-Caitriona-Balfe-and-Sam-Heughan-photographer MARC HOM for EW

I wouldn’t pass a moment to utilize STARZ’s Outlander as a teaching tool.  And I can’t understand some of the fan reaction to the program.  As I have stated before, the Scottish landscape figures as a character in the books by Diana Gabaldon’s series of time-travel books, and in the television show.  The marketing people are having a field day trying to gage and understand their audience.  Both participants flit from one spectrum to the next, and it is fun to watch from the sidelines.  Sometimes even take part.  Granted I am a fan of the show, for the most part the books, but I’m more of a ‘fan’ of the landscape, the country that it is based upon.  Scotland means more to me than words on a page, or the characters created and brought to life in a TV show.

But to each his or her own.  More than likely those words, just like Scott’s are an embellished representation of the genuine nature of a land, of a people, of a society.

Sense of belonging to me is not so boisterous.  Sense of belonging isn’t some fad that comes and goes.  True appreciation and enjoyment is long-standing, loyalty and more.  You know the bad exists, but the good overrides any hyped up contextualized or marginalized representation.  The true heart of the three environments that tourism and its properties are derived from (economic, sociocultural, and natural/man-made {built}) runs through deep layers of complexity.  Marketing isn’t an easy function of promotion, understanding motivation even harder.  Sometimes people get it wrong, but we hope we get it right.  Sometimes we won’t fulfill the implied promises, and people will be let down.  Their expectations won’t be met, but sometimes…you have to leave what you have envisioned through books, movies, tv, and even word of mouth, and look for yourself what is there.  Let go of all your baggage that you bring with you, and look, immerse yourself in the landscape to find that fulfillment.  As our part of tourism credo goes,

“travel with an open mind, and gentle heart”.

There is a shift in today’s marketing environment because of the interface of technology, and the use of differing platforms.  We are more in-touch than those that came before, those that had limited technology and accessibility to the variety, the diversity that is our world.  People see more, do more, have the capability of understanding more, and broaden their horizons.  Marketing is becoming more complex and transparent.  Creditability and trust are rooted in the genuine.  More and more are deciphering fact from fiction, and acting on it.

The Mantra I teach my students, and I hope that they remember is this…

Recall you are selling the right product [to the right person] at the right time, for the right price, for the right place or location, having the right promotion, engaging the right people, utilizing efficient and effective processes, and using truthful, physical evidence, that is stories and testimonials to engage with your customer…

So sense of belonging is as complex as any other concept I strive to impart.  And it will take a lifetime to understand.  Heck I haven’t even touched on this part of inter-relationship to authenticity.  Shudder…

{There is a case study in here somewhere…ha ha ha}

Trade Show Management

Trade Show Management
Developing Goals and Objectives
Developing Goals and Objectives in Trade Show Management Class

My trade show management class is tackling the project of creating a booth for our School.  On Tuesday we mapped out initial objectives, and sub-divided into teams.  I am looking forward to helping them with this project.  We need to re-evaluate and cohesively articulate these goals, and match them with the type of trade show we want to participate in.

I am hoping that we can find some booth design software to utilize in class, and really construct a depiction of their ideas.

Then have the school vote on several depictions, and the project and see which one they would prefer.

Place Attachment and more…

Place Attachment and more…

Doune CastleDoune Castle, Scotland by Lost in Scotland

Today in class I continued our discussion about tourism, the tourist, the supply/value chain, and started in on place attachment for our guests, and then the tourist organization develop and promote a destination.  This will lead into tourist motivations, and economic and socio-cultural impacts of tourism on a destination.  For this post, let me again dive into Scotland, and use Outlander as an example.

As I stated in a previous post, throughout the ages, storytelling has been an intricate part of tourism development.  19th century authors like Scott, Stevenson, Burns, Barrie, and their modern-day counterparts, Rankin, McDermid, Banks and others, and even US writers like Canham, and Gabaldon have created literary works that use the landscape of various destinations, most notably Scotland, as a secondary character.  Landscapes figure heavily in the development of their characters.

If anyone understands the process of writing, research is a must.  Joseph Campbell’s life work was understanding the intricate nature of mythology in all cultural realms, and how storytelling was developed to communicate those unique nuances.  His Hero’s journey explains to a certain extent how we move through the landscape, the three environments. That is the socio-cultural, economic, and natural/physical (man-made) environments, and how they shape our behaviors.

Writing ProjectThe Writing Project by Lost in Scotland, feature the Hero’s Journey as developed by Vogler, and Campbell

For instance…

The Grand Tour has been around for centuries, long before its commercialization in the early, and middle 19th centuries.  It really had its origins well before the 16th century, if we care to argue that point.  The form and function were different, but still an idea that evolved as society evolved.

So, back to understanding place attachment, and really authenticity, because I spent a lot of time covering those two aspects in class.  Place attachment really is about understanding ‘place’.  Whether you travel for business, or hedonistic reasons, place figures prominently in any decision-making.

I can’t explain this any better than by using stories.  As a child, young adult, I wasn’t the one that had posters on my wall of the latest and supposedly greatest rock star, or bands of the day.  I had maps from Nat Geo.  I would covet them from the magazine well before my history teacher of a father could garnish them and take them to school.  I studied them and the magazine.  And I fondly remember being enthralled when examining the pictures.  They are what hooked my eyes, drew me in to explore, and read.  I’m sure there was an article featuring Scotland in those days, and I was drawn by the mystical nature of Glencoe Pass, or Eilean Donan Castle.

Eilean Donan Castle PanEilean Donan Castle by Lost in Scotland

To date, I don’t think genealogy figured into that first ‘hook’, though today it does since I can now trace my lineage back to the early King’s of Scotland, and several noted historical figures…I was more hooked by the pictures, than the words, the surreal beauty, hungry to know this place, to know how to take such pictures.  If I was 9 years old, and had received my first camera, then yes, I wanted to be the next Ansel Adams, and that is the place I wanted to take pictures.  (And yes, Ansel Adams was on my wall too).

Fast forward to now, and what I’m trying to convey.  That evolution of thought on my part, the evolution of my understanding, and immersion in a certain place developed my sense of place, my place attachment, and therefore the variable that is place.

Why do we have this intangible understanding that we need to be some where?  What is it that draws one to a country other than their own, and feel a need to visit?  What is that ache that draws you to a destination, and makes you want to stay?  We can and can’t articulate place or sense of place very well, because it evokes an emotional response that makes us do something.  Creates an action in us all to move.  Even to migrate to and live.  I lived in Scotland for almost seven years, and if someone would give me the opportunity, I would move back there in a heartbeat.

Tourism developers, marketing personnel use sense of place, place, place attachment, and your emotional need to induce one to make a decision over another.  Tourism is a highly competitive industry, and any marketing firm, any destination tourist board, wants you to pick their destination over another.

And film, tv figure in that game.

We read books, we ready magazines, and watch films.  We immerse ourselves in our hobbies, our other needs and wants, and develop a sense of identity, a sense of self by extending our understanding, and range of exposure.  We gather tidbits, and trinkets about these stories.  We gather other people around us with like interest, and listen to their stories about their adventures, which may include visitation to the destination depicted in the story.  Okay, I will freely admit, I have read Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.  I enjoyed the first and have read about three of the books, maybe four.  I started back in 1992/3, well after my love affair with Scotland started.  My first real foray into literature with the landscape of Scotland as a character was Scott, Burns, and Stevenson.  And then Marsha Canham’s, The Pride of Lions.  Alright, so I like romance novels, and action.  All of these authors hit on my need and want for excitement, and a bit of sexiness.  Heck, the landscape is sexy.

I couldn’t get into more of Gabaldon’s books because life happened.  I had plans, and well I have to say, her research was flawed in that first book (that she has supposedly fixed) and that irked me no end.  Especially, after I was conducting my own research later on as a Master’s student and PhD student.  The books lost a bit of the luster it had once I found those parts.  After my first visit to Scotland in 1993, and a kind, petite elderly lady encounter in a garden in Inverness, I had to make it back permanently to Scotland.  As the lady told me, “Ye need to return again.  Scotland needs ye.”  Don’t ask, but I had chills for days after that meeting.  Being compared to a ghost is not to my liking, and that is another story altogether.

So back to place, sense of place, and place attachment.  I knew from that first visit to Scotland, I was, using the old Scots vernacular, ‘hame’.  It ticked all the boxes, and I felt a certain attachment, link to the land and the people.  I can’t explain it.  And that is what destination marketing does.  It takes all these elements, these pictures, sounds, emotions, and develops promotional material to aid you in realizing this connection.

Doune Castle used for Castle Leoch in STARZ original series Outlander.
Doune Castle used for Castle Leoch in STARZ original series Outlander. Adapted and based on the books by Diana Galbadon.

Heck, Outlander, the STARZ show, adapted and based on Gabaldon’s books, illustrates a time-honored tradition.  Thomas Cook, whether he realized it or not, and subsequent writers, and tourism suppliers have created hooks to draw you in.  To connected you with the place, the landscape depicted in the books.  Even VisitScotland is on the bandwagon, connecting the dots, the supply chain, marketing, and creating itineraries that take in the tv filming sites for tourist.

Blackness Castle (my picture and then used as a set for Outlander)

They are creating an experience, even though that representation might not solidify with the actual truth of a people.  History has been muddied by more than one historical fiction writer, this writer included, though most ardent authors will stay to the facts, and twist them into their own reality.  Too many readers will catch them out if they don’t do their homework as I did with Gabaldon’s first edition.  I love maps, and don’t get me started on the map in the latest edition of Outlander that has Culloden in the wrong place.  But that’s my hang-up and not lose sight of the enjoyment.

Doune Castle in the background of STARZ Original Series Outlander.
Doune Castle in the background of STARZ Original Series Outlander.

But the people who inhabit a landscape are shaped by that landscape.  On Wednesday, I get to speak to two geography classes about Scotland and the landscape.  How the topography of the land more than helps to influences the development of a culture, of a society.  The history of Scotland and its people are more than just tied to the land, the land helped to meld and form the culture.  The variety of that culture is tied to the division of land and its markers.  Now, today the Scottish people would be affronted by the way I have explained that.  Yet, the Highlands, and the Highland culture have their nuances, as compared the Borders that were highly influenced by their neighbors to the south, England.

To explain more would take more than one blog post, and I am again diverging onto another tangent.  Let me suffice in way of explanation, that the land defines a nation.

We wouldn’t have the iconographic representations of Scotland, the souvenirs based on certain elements if it wasn’t for the land, and the resources one could exploit.  Think sheep, think wool, think the process of making that wool, think plaid, think tartan, and that leads us to souvenirs.  Souvenirs, whether commercial or otherwise (think of the sea shells you pick up on the beach, or the rock you pick up in the national park), they are private representations of a hedonistic past time.  They relate back to that experience, and a tourist want to be able to relive their past experience.  Outlander has a shop online for the fans to dive further into the show, and such.  Even purchases that are latent or after the fact.  Recently, I indulged my love for Scotland by ordering back bacon (bacon sarnies) and Balmoral smoked salmon from my favorite shop, and even purchased a Jacobite era glass that is a historical rendition of the ones used during the mid-18th century.

 

So in tourism, place, place attachment, and sense of place has a host of meanings.  The question I left with the students though now is authenticity, and how we define it now in a modern world.  What is truly an authentic experience anymore?  Has it changed.  And what about heritage?  Historical tourism…Good questions for next time.

Understanding Service Execution

Understanding Service Execution
Initial Mapping out of the Guest Cycle
Initial Mapping out of the Guest Cycle
Guest Cycle
Guest Cycle

We have been talking about the process of the guest cycle in Lodging.  Talking through what happens with the guest, the hotel, different departments, and managers.

Initially, we mapped out what we talked about in class, and then I put it into a mind map to aid the students in their understanding.  I uploaded a pdf copy to our D2L site, and hopefully, they will take the map and work with it.  Hoping to see them interweave the importance of service execution.

Veterans Day

Veterans Day
WWI Vet by Lost in Scotland (bap)
WWI Vet by Lost in Scotland (bap)

Today is Veterans Day (thank you to all that serve, or have served our Country), and another opportunity to dive into different market segments, and motivations for tourism.  Over the last few weeks we have been studying travel motivations, the tourist, and social & economic impacts of tourism.  After we finish social impacts, we are going to immerse into marketing, and promoting tourism and a destination.  On this day, I am reminded of my own family, my ancestors that have served their country in the armed forces.  Stories of their times as soldiers, stories of the campaigns, and other historical events shaped my life.  As I discussed earlier in the year, we are all products of three environment, social, economic, and natural/man-made.  Events that exert forces against those three environments shape the realities in which we form opinions, our understanding of a greater world.  And thus shape our travel lifestyle.

My parents, and grandparents are part of the Greatest Generation, growing up in a time of such conflict that it had a huge bearing on how they viewed the world.  If I construct a timeline of those events, and all that had happened, most of the innovations, their responses, shaped my world view, and several generations after that.  Both good and bad.  My travel motivation, my push, pull factors, can be traced to those specific incidents of knowledge, and experience.  We learn at the foot of our parents, grandparents first.  We gradually gain independence and learn, broaden our understanding through experience, even travel.  Motivations, therefore, change over time, and morph, to external forces.

This lends to the development of the tourism systems in destinations.  That these stories, these events, these forces exert some influence on a destination to construct structures to fulfill demand.  I wouldn’t go to Scotland, to specific places if I didn’t study its history.  A favorite place is Culloden Battlefield in Inverness.  I grew up traversing the United States with a history teacher.  His passions were American Revolutionary War, and Civil War battlefields.  Well, anything historical.  (Now that begs the question, what about Mom…since I understand a bit of that generation…I think her answer would be…”I was happy doing anything your Father wanted.  As long as we escaped…”  Mom wasn’t the primary planner.  I wonder if they even did any planning???  They only time I can remember when they did do any real strategic planning was in 1978, and that was foiled by certain events in the family.  I think they planned, as their parents planned.  They went to places they knew, given their limited budget.  AAA was a major factor in this planning, and for us kids, that triptych…to have control of that, you were in the primary seat of authority!!!)  That is motivation.  Motivated to the familiar, within a certain level of income.  I think we went to the historical places because both of my parents were teachers, and Dad wanted to enhance our education.  As children, I’m sure we saw the fun, especially locking up my brother in the stocks at Williamsburg.

Locking up brother in the stocks at Williamsburg, VA
Locking up brother in the stocks at Williamsburg, VA

Yes, the push of family togetherness.  The idea to spend time together, and enjoy life.  Another of Crompton’s push factors.  We utilizes these factors to make decisions as consumers.  Destinations need to understand this aspect of the consumer to determine and strategize marketing strategies as well as development of the infrastructure.

There are some misconceptions in tourism.  The number one being is the myth that ‘if you build it, they will come…’.  Sure you can build, and sure tourist will come, but not always.  What sets one destination apart from another is the currency of their promotional power.  And it’s all about the story.  What story can you articulate that will turn interest into actual use?  How can you use other tourists that have visited your destination to engage others that are on the fence?  What images can you collect to truthfully represent your destination, and fulfill the expectations and desires of your visitor?

What can spark that motivational switch in all of us to do something?  How can a destination turn that switch on, and pull tourist to their shores, instead of somewhere else.

This is illustrated uniquely recently in Scotland with the televised show from STARZ, entitled Outlander.  (By no means is this the first time a television show or movie has sparked travelers to travel  Braveheart way back in 1995 did this for Scotland.)  Literature has sparked the pull for travel for centuries. This is nothing new.  The Grand Tour, and Victorian travel, the emergence of the middle class as tourists was pulled by the increase in education, and the ability of other members of society to have access to novels, and novellas, journals.  Today we have the Internet, movies, books, TV shows, and other mediums that showcase particular destinations.  Initial Statistics are just out for Outlander, and Scottish tourism is reaping the benefits (see Hollywood Reporter, and The Guardian).  Scotland as a destination, the natural landscape, and its history are supporting characters in this show, even the lead in my opinion as tourism researcher.

Outlander STARZ
Outlander STARZ

So there is a relationship between the tourist, tourism motivations, and the tourist system.  And even storytelling, experience….

The story continues….

Connections…

Connections…
Successful College Essay Writing
Successful College Essay Writing

Mid-terms were handed out two weeks ago, and finally now all are uploaded to our educational management system.  Some of the students asked about constructing an essay, and thought I’d provide another resources.  Found this infographic on the web.  Yes, I know after the fact, but some were asking right up to the last minute.  I had provided other resources within D2L, and well thought I’d provide one here.  Why essays?  Well, you can demonstrate your understanding better than traditional forms of assessment.  You can connect concepts, and theories, and use personal experience to illustrate points.  And it’s about research.  Getting into other source material to understand concepts, making connections between on thought to another.

Identity in tourism

Identity in tourism

In my Intro class, we have been doing presentations about cities, given a particular scenario, a particular tourist, and understanding the tourism system; the big umbrella of variables that comprise the tourism offerings of a destination.  We are now shifting to tourism motivation, and consumer decision-making.  This inevitably leads to a conversation on identity, both from a consumer standpoint, and destination.

Identity is one of those concepts that may be hard to articulate.  Which then could inevitably lead to a discussion of lifespan, and concepts in travel motivation.  The push and pull factors.

Mapping out thoughts
Mind mapping out thoughts on social research

I enjoy teaching Introduction to Tourism and Hospitality.  I have given examples about my own motivations and asked them to keep in mind their own reasons to travel and use the tourist system.

I had one of the moments of truth of why I like Pennsylvania. I tell them the story of driving home from my former place of origin.  Here is the story:

Why I loathed Illinois and its flatness. I am transformed at that demarcation line that separates one reality with another. On the drive home, along route 70, just past Columbus, I start to hit the Appalachians. I feel this giddy sense of home looming in the distance, tugging, pulling me to hurry. Even though I have a standard sedan and long for something with a little more zip (like I see on BBC’s Top Gear), my car handles the new textures of the landscape pretty well. I hit the West Virginia border and the broad smile that cracks my lips will soon turn into bouts of sporadic laughter as I hit the gorges and mountains. I know they aren’t as severe as other places but I’m home. I’m back in my mountains.

Ligoneer
Ligonier

Pittsburgh is next and the Turnpike from New Stanton to Donegal. Fourteen miles separate me from Ligonier and it is one of those drooling moments in anticipation of the mountains that flank either side of my car that has me intoxicated to roll down the window and breathe the sweet air.

This part of western Pennsylvania reminds me of Perthshire in Scotland and that might have something to do with my ‘lang for hame. I can take a breath as I hit the crossroads that bisect over Route 30, drive past the Fort and hit the center of town. I careen counter-clockwise around the island that holds its famous bandstand of old Ligonier and hit the road that will take me up to my mountain. I used to take Route 30 (Lincoln Highway, which even extends into Illinois) from Greensburg, but a severe rear-ender in ’09 limits my desire to use that route any more. Yet, I know once I am past Latrobe, past Derry, I hit the winding roads that our ancestors used to go west. I traveled it this past summer while at home with my mother and her gal pals to lunch at Latrobe airport. I rolled down my window then, and drank in the smell of the pine, mountain laurel, and sweet wild garlic. I am glad to see Sleepy Hollow Restaurant being rebuilt and Idlewild Park still going strong. But I digress. Memories tug at my heart, and I tell them.

Band Stand Ligoneer, PA
Band Stand Ligoneer, PA

I tried to express to the students how it feels to be pulled by a destination. How it tugs at your heart and makes you act. I stood before them, my hands outstretched as I explained the drive under the

“lush canopies that crowned my beloved paths. …find my way home to the places of my present and my past… (Pudliner, Home, 1987).”

My hands glided one way and then another as I mimicked the drive over Route 271 or Menoher Highway (Menoher pronounced Men-ocher), visualizing it in my mind as I darted one way and then another as my tires hug the curves. My eyes ever watchful looking for that fluff of white tail of a deer before it crashes from the foliage and ruins a perfect drive. Or the blare of blues and twos, and I’m caught for lack of concern for the drive, and driving ability.

I hit the top of Laurel Mountain and realize I have held my breath. We have hit close to 3,000 feet in elevation and the views are breathtaking on a ‘good’ day. I am back in my Highlands–the Laurel Highlands and memory slips into recalling driving through Perthshire, from Pitlochry and north to Inverness.

Laurel Mountain
Winter on Laurel Mountain

I know now I am on the downward drive to Johnstown and my home atop Westmont Hill. I love the curve at the bottom of the hill, know the line of sight, know when I have to pump the brakes ever so slightly and ease into the curve, allowing centrifugal force to pull me around the curve. I love the rush of adrenaline, the thrill. Even when it is winter, even when I know I have to slow to a crawl to take that curve…I cannot best explain it and sometimes, as I tell my students, you can’t. You can’t explain entirely why people love a destination. It just is. But if we don’t ask the right questions, how will we know what they expect and want.

And that leads back to identity.  From that passage you can obtain a sense of my own identity.  From stories, conveyed online, or through traditional delivery, we can gain a sense of a traveler’s identity.  Who they are?  What they like?  What might motivate them to make a decision?  For a destination, it is the promotional currency of images, the written word that engages us to act.  We can construct an identity from various forms of information, and the nuances of destination.  Constructing that identity is imperative in the marketing function to push and pull people to engage, and act, to make a decision…

More later…

Tourism and Crisis Management

Tourism and Crisis Management

The Turkey Bombings this past weekend demonstrated the worst of our society.  In my lodging class this week, we are weaving the elements of communication, security, and safety.  We are examining the effects of current events such as the Boston Marathon Bombings, 9/11, and other crises on hotel management.  What should you do in the event of….?  Bringing reality into the classroom.  The probability of such a crisis happening on their watch might be relatively low, but in today’s world, you can’t think like that.  You can’t think that something like this can’t happen in your neck of the woods.  Every contingency should be addressed, and preparation taken.  My old health ed teacher, Mr. Matsko, used to say, as probably my parents, who grew up in the age of World War II, and the Cold War, “it is better to be prepared, to be safe rather than sorry.”

Action plans must be developed for every type of emergency.  You never know what will happen, whether you are a tourist or work in this industry.  You may be called upon to act.  You may be the one to ensure that your guests survive.  You can’t rely on others to prepare, take the initiative and inform yourself on procedures.  You can’t run away from responsibility.  The ramifications and implications are far-reaching to your operation, your organization and yes, we know we don’t like to talk about it, but also the financial side.

I can see the look in their eyes now as I stand in front of the classroom, the look that tells me, “Wait, I have to do what?”

“I have to do all these tasks?”

“I have to remember all of this?”

Yes.

How do you prepare, tell me what to do?  How do I be an effective manager?  I can’t give you everything.  Sometimes it is experience (which I hope they never have) that gives you the confidence, and the ability to act.  Some have an innate ability, and capability.  Others, it takes time.

I can only give them so much.  The way I prepared for this, is I armed myself with information.  I actively read about these situations, and consider questions.  I took courses, I talked to friends, and I have experience.  For instance, the Boston Bombings, happened near several hotels, one in which I worked during my internship.  My first question that filtered through my head, is what did they do?  How did each level of the organization handle guests?  What was the scene like?  What would I do in this situation?

If you are in a position of leadership, in all of its varied forms, others will be looking to you for direction.  During stressful, difficult times, the cream does rise to the top, and people will surprise you.  In honesty, on certain things, I don’t know how I would act.  I just hope I am prepared for anything.  And working in this industry for as long as I have, I have been witnessed to a host of nastiness.  It has changed me, and helped, and hindered my point of reality, and what I am capable of.

Do my students think like this?  Do they ask the right questions?  Do they visualize themselves in this scenario in their minds, and plant themselves there, run through what possibly could happen?

I’m a writer by avocation, and professionally.  I create worlds, and incidents that challenge my characters.  Most of my heroes, and heroines, are modeled after my own personality traits (Not all…).  I ask them, given these traits, what would you do?  How would you react?

I am an avid reader of genres that are close to what I like to write in order to learn the craft.  Any manager in our industry that wants to develop to be top of their game needs to READ!  Needs to find out how others reacted to these scenarios and learn.

Be proactive not reactive.  Therefore, you must engage in some mental preparation and construct plans to address crises.  And then you must test yourself.  Test your employees, train and test.  Finally, reflect on actions, and adapt.

Again, another favorite saying is, “Do not put off what you can do today…tomorrow…it may be too late.”

 

 

 

What does 2020 look like…for tourism industry

What does 2020 look like…for tourism industry

Sometimes I wonder at the evolution of tourism industry.  What it will look like in 2020, 2050.  I can noodle around Google, and garner snippets of trends, and ideas, but that is just the tangible that will change.  Back in 2000, 2020 seemed like so far in the distance, that it was too hard to extrapolate the nuances.  I can, to a point, articulate the technology changes I want, but really get to the heart of how life changes, hard.

We can crunch numbers.  We can put words to paper, and try to envision our lifestyles, but really in the end, it is about today.  This moment in time, this moment of truth that counts.  Marriott has argued for decades now that if we take care of today, the people, tomorrow will take care of itself.  (Okay I’m paraphrasing, but let me take some license.)

It is good to plan.  It is good to strategize, but if we lose sight of what is important at this moment, we lose how many opportunities?  We lose the potential for that future.  Don’t we lose the moment of truth in every experience happening at this instant?

Moment of Truth
Moment of Truth

I could sit in front of my computer for several hours, and view videos on the new productivity technology that will aid our lives.  I could sit and read about the applications being developed.  Most of it is coming true, like that in Microsoft’s Vision 2020 video that was published back in 2010.  

But we forget the human element in that technology.  That that technology is only as good as the person using it.  That our ability to deliver on the expectations of our customers depends on our common sense more than the gadget we have in our hands.  What we do matters.  So any vision for the future must entail that aspect.  It is certainly argued in these videos, and we can chart and map out the flow of work, the contact points in the moment of truth, but in the end, the difference is the human element that exerts force on those steps.  The core value of tourism is the people that deliver on expectations, and desires.  That they more than meet, exceed the moment of truth.

We’ve come a long way…baby…

We’ve come a long way…baby…

At the Airfest today We’ve come a long way …baby.  That is in tourism.  No conversation in tourism can escape the history and development of the industry.  It is one of the oldest industries in the world, and will survive even in the hardest times.

Fairey Gannet XT 752
Fairey Gannet XT 752
Fairey Gannet XT 752
Fairey Gannet XT 752

If you map out a historic timeline, especially innovations in transport, or the use of money & credit, lodging, and every other aspect of tourism,  these advances are mirrored with the advances of man and their need, want to travel. We as an industry have pushed for a host of technology to aid in the planning process.

What is the next big innovation?  What are we going to develop to take us to the next level?  Do we even have the innovators out there to see us to that level?  Everyone is so caught up in developing apps, and other platforms for mobile technologies that they fail to recognize or even acknowledge that travel is now becoming far more expensive for a host of people.  Expensive even in the basics, like maintaining your own car, putting gas in the tank, and utilizing the poor roads that crisscross this nation.  That a form of isolationism is creeping back into our society.  How many would rather stay at home now then face the roads, and the headaches it could cause?  Or even the airport with its congestion and delays?  Sure our backyard is full of wonders to explore, but like many, I want to travel further, farther than my current zip code.

My wander bug crickets loudly and is becoming more pronounced.  Yet, I am strapped for cash due to other responsibilities.  That vision of traveling every three years to Scotland is in the past, and must be re-evaluated.  I may not be the only one with such ambitions, but reality takes a chunk of change out of the planning process.  This begs a question.

Have we reached a stagnation point in the tourism life cycle?  Are we on a decline?  Is travel abroad or even domestically reverting back to a luxury item?  Certainly, our eyes are bigger than our stomachs at the moment.  And the new planes, the new innovation to use a form of space travel, is far too costly and an elite luxury item.  Maybe that has even stalled.  Who said, “the road is paved with grand intentions…” ~ mind the pot holes…

What if we got back to basics?  What if we returned to simpler motivations, and apply them today?  What if we applied common sense, and people started to wise up, especially those bent on destroying a good thing.  The average cost of an airline ticket hovers around $350 if you examine the statistics published by the Bureau of Transportation.

Avg Cost of Airline Ticket ~BoT
Average cost of airline tickets for three major areas…https://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/airfares/compare/airports-metropolitan-areas/chart/MSP/ORD/WASMETRO

As you can see it has come down compared to 1995.  Yet, is this skewed?  Those numbers for 1995 are adjusted to inflation.  And any economist will tell you, what you bought for a dollar yesterday is not the same as what you bought today.  There are a host of variables when it comes to understanding value, especially from a consumer standpoint.  And this doesn’t take into account the seasonality of tourism.  But are companies hurting not just the consumer, but also, themselves by not understanding value?  Have they lost insight into what value truly means?

I priced out several tickets to Scotland for next summer, and the hidden fees were astronomical.  I was surprised that Virgin allowed me to see the breakdown of the $1200+ ticket for peak season.  (Believe me, I know that you are going to be paying a hefty price for peak season, and distance is a factor.)  Carrier imposed charges were more than 38% of the total cost.  Is that for fuel (they say so, but um…that seems a lot, especially if you fill every seat and at different class prices…$7000 for a seat in upper class, and includes a chauffeur? (can you hear me saying whoop de do???))  Is that for services on the flight?  Is that for food?  Is that for security? (actually no, security is built into the taxes and only cost a measly $5.60 for the 9/11 tax).  The base price of the ticket to just step on the aircraft, and sit down in economy was $510 dollars (42% of the cost).  To me that is for the service, that is for all the quirks, and nuances…that Virgin delivers.  It should also cover the fuel…let’s just say the mystery of how the cost structure is broken down seems a little fishy to me…but then again…I don’t have all the information and can’t give you true, informed opinion.  Virgin posted at $22m dollar profit before taxes last year, up from the year’s previous losses.  Um….

So the question remains, are we stagnating in the tourism life cycle, especially in transportation.  Are airlines, and other transportation offerings gauging prices to control the consumers?  Are they trying to keep most of us from traveling?  What about the promises of other alternatives, like high-speed rail in the US?  We do have an aging infrastructure, and not much is being diverted to help that area.  Even back home in Pennsylvania, the conditions of the bridges are horrible, and I cringe every time I drive across the older construction.  This past summer we had a Bridge Collapse in Ridgeway that sent three construction workers to the hospital.  If 80% or more of our population loves their cars, and we want the economy to strengthen, tourism can be a healthy contributor to that end.  I question the management of funds at all levels, nationally, statewide, regionally and locally that are invested in our infrastructure.  We want the next development in cars, but not at the expense in the lack of decent roads to travel upon or an understanding of the consumer.

I’ve given out the next assignment that underlies the economic impacts of tourism to both the host community, and the consumer.  The students are given a pseudo plane ticket to a remote destination, like Savergre, Costa Rica.  They are given variables, like a budget, and now have to map out their plans, and the effects.  I want them to see the frustration.  To see that it the frustration not only lies with the consumer, but also the destination.  That if you don’t have healthy numbers traveling to your area, services suffer.  And some don’t want a lot, just enough to keep the small entrepreneurs in business.  What happens if you don’t have those numbers coming?  What happens to the livelihood of the host community?  What happens to the consumer?  What will they do?

So…still left with lots of questions…

 

Four Points to Successful Meeting Planning

Four Points to Successful Meeting Planning

Coca Cola

 

Four Points to Successful Meeting Planning 

  • Know you client–that means asking open ended questions, and some closed ended questions
  • Know the product you sell–and it is more than what you really think it is…(know the breadth and depth of the product offerings)
  • Know the community in which you are embedded and operate, as well as those feeder cities that might provide you with clients.
  • Know yourself

Recall you are selling the right product at the right time, for the right price, for the right place or location, having the right promotion, engaging the right people, utilizing efficient and effective processes, and using truthful physical evidence, that is stories and testimonials to engage with your customer…

Tourism is a journey

Tourism is a journey
White House
The White House, Washington DC

It seems I’ve come full circle several times in my life.  Heck, life is a journey, and it is not about sitting back and waiting for things to happen.  It is about the time that we have on this earth, and using it properly.  Tourism symbolizes that philosophy.  We can use our time to explore the world, to gain knowledge and information, to meet and to experience all sorts of extraordinary things.

YALI Friends
YALI Friends

This summer I returned to DC after a twenty (20) {WOW} year absence.  The place has grown, and changed.  I used to live there.  There is still this eclectic vibe about the place, something that draws you there, and want to stay awhile.  I wish I had, had more time to explore and see the old haunts, especially in Alexandria, VA.  I just wonder if the old Scottish tobacconist is still in Old Towne.

Why do we travel?  Why are some places more appealing to others?  I’ve posted this before, but let me shift gears.  My reason ‘why’ this year was to accompany the Mandela Washington Fellows that had attended the YALI exchange at UW-Stout.  These are a fantastic group of people, and I made a lot of lifelong friends.  As part of this summer program of young entrepreneurs, I had the opportunity to accompany them to Washington for a Presidential Summit.  Dad was having some health issues, and I really wanted to spend time with him before returning for the fall semester.  I know how hot and muggy DC can be especially in August, and I have never done well with the heat.  And I wasn’t sure I could afford the trip, unless the University graciously paid for it.  Luckily, I was able to go, though to be honest, I really wanted to be home in Pennsylvania.

YALI
Mandela Washington Fellows at UW-Stout, 2015

I enjoyed my time, and I am glad I got to spend that last week with my new friends. I wouldn’t have missed that for the world, showing a city I love. I will admit, I even got to meet President Obama, and shake his hand. (No big deal for me, I’ve met other dignitaries and celebrities working in this industry, and they are just like the rest of us, people too.)

So bringing this back to tourism…

There are many reasons for travel, tourism.  Definitions encompass a host of variables, centered around particular motivations.  For me this summer, one, was business, two, economic, and three, low push, pull factors, and time.

Understanding the different definitions also helps or hints at other constructs, and concepts of tourism.

I wanted to go to DC, and be with friends sure.  I really wanted to see the city as I wanted to see the city, see the history, the heritage, and do something fun.

I wanted to meet up with old friends, and make new ones.

I wanted to escape, and go someplace that I have a far greater place attachment to ~ Pennsylvania, and recuperate, rejuvenate, and relax.

My time is my own, and wanted to be able to use it wisely.  Two weeks with parents wasn’t enough in my book.

Ford's Theatre
Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC

But it isn’t always about what you do, but about the journey that you take. The footsteps that take you through life, and the experiences you undertake.

Now the question is, how do these impressions change over time…Yes, I still like Washington, DC…but at my age (another variable to define tourism), I want it on my terms..

Welcome to the new school year…

Well another school year has started, and I always love meeting the new students and spying the upper class persons roaming around the halls.  I had a great summer, working, and spending time with family.  I hope my student’s summers were just as special.

So to start out the new year…remember the mantra:

In tourism…

Recall you are selling the right product at the right time, for the right price, for the right place or location, having the right promotion, engaging the right people, utilizing efficient and effective processes, and using truthful physical evidence, that is stories and testimonials to engage with your customer…

 

Read…read…read…read…

Read…read…read…read…

Key to understanding the industry, and all that is happening is to search out and read as much as you can.  Find the authors of your book.  Find the authors mentioned in their references.  Look for trade publications.  Bookmark web pages.  Research your interests.  Because I will tell you, prospective interviewers might just ask you questions concerning the industry and these people.

Many of you are interested event planning.  Here is a brand new article by one of the authors I follow…

Professor Buhalis is one of, if not the leader in eTourism research.  His latest is on event planning.  

Professor Dimitrios Buhalis
Professor Dimitrios Buhalis

Too big for your britches…

Too big for your britches…
Empower your employees, don't rule over them
Empower your employees, don’t rule over them

Some companies are complex, highly diverse workplaces with a lot of people to manage.  A host of different departments to oversea a multitude of tasks.  You can’t negate the fact that companies and their departments, their divisions have territorial tendencies.

Cue Elf:  Buddy (Will Ferrell) in mail room.

Buddy (Will Ferrell) in the mail room.
Buddy (Will Ferrell) in the mail room.

That scene from Elf and others, hint at the reality that is our workforce and its continued hierarchical, top down approach.  Very rare is it a company that has a bottom up approach.  You can say it, you can articulate it, you can communicate that you do, but if it isn’t readily apparent, it is all just glossy shine on the outside and misery on the inside.  Case in point.  I won’t mention any names or companies.  A few years ago, I was with a host of friends enjoying a welcome respite from the day-to-day.  Eventually, our conversation turned to work.  This person was a bit down in the dumps, and I asked why?  They hadn’t received the commission they normally received during the holidays.  This was during the hard time of the 2006-2009 recession. I asked them to explain.  Apparently, during the previous get together by all staff for their annual party, the company had to downsize the festivities.  Usually, everyone got a bonus, even those non-sales jobs.  The previous year the company decided to discontinue these bonuses to all of their employees, except their sales staff.  Someone found out, and complained.  Long story short.  Someone felt cheated.   A person who didn’t work in sales and didn’t receive a commission went to the powers that be and called them on it.  Times were tough too and the company decided maybe it was better not to give anything out.  I asked a few probing questions of my friend.  Needless to say, we didn’t talk for a few weeks after it.

I’ve worked in an industry for regular hourly pay, salary, and salary and bonuses.  More than likely it was a turkey at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Sometimes a gift card.  Not much, but I was grateful.  It helped.  All the Christmas parties were the same.  A few had raffles of cool prizes.  But our management staff wanted any bonuses or extra pay to be equal for all.  We worked as a team in hotels.  Everyone is rewarded for their hard work.  It may not have been much, but it was something. Sometimes a word or your name on a plaque got us through the hard times.  So back to my friend.

I asked the person to put their feet in the shoes of the individual in that ‘mail room’.  They may not have the education you have or the experience or the job title, but they do the same hard work as everyone else.  Interruption by my friend, saying that their job wasn’t equal.  No, they aren’t equal, but they still do hard work.  Define work.  What is work?  What is their job duties?  Could you do their job?  Do you know how to do their job?  They do their job for minimum wage or just a bit above.  Shouldn’t they be rewarded for their devotion just as much as you.  They came back with the argument that their job captured revenues for the business that allowed those in the mail room to be paid so that they could put food on the table, pay their bills.  Yes, I agreed.  Yet, if they didn’t do their job or aid you in doing yours, you couldn’t close on a deal with the delivery of that parcel with important signed contracts.  You couldn’t do your job without the delivery of office supplies.  You couldn’t do your job without them running their butts around town, when you had to get a contract out yesterday.  You couldn’t do your job if they didn’t fulfill that order made.  The two jobs are linked.

They again argued about working hard and about revenues.  I asked, “Is it?  Are revenues the only important detail of a company?”

The look they gave me could cut glass in two.

I smiled.  “It isn’t always about the bottom line.  It isn’t always about making a profit.  Sure profits are important and we do need to pay bills, but we cannot get to that profit without thinking and addressing the process and people who get us to that profit.  If one cog in the wheel isn’t working up to its effective and efficient potential, the system slows down and could possibly stagnate.  It could cease to exist.  Your job is linked to the way that mail room, those people feel and work.  Think you are far superior to them, that your job is more important, then you’ve lost sight of the reason to be in business.”

“How is that?”  They snorted.

“This is about the relationships you make and continue.  This is about long-standing relationships today and tomorrow.”

“Sure my customers are important.”

“Then who are your customers?”

“Huh?”

“Who are your stakeholders?”

“My customers.”

Holding off the desire to face plant my cheeks in my palms, I continued.  “We could go on and on asking the same question.  You do not understand your customers, your stakeholders.  This is about relationships.  If we do not create, nurture and maintain those relationships, our business will stagnate and decline.  This is about all of your stakeholders.  One of your stakeholders is that person in the mail room.  They have a vested interest in the health of the firm.  Not just the sales person that makes sales calls.  Did you ever ask that person in the mail room how they feel?  Did you ever say hi, greet them on your way into work?  Say good-bye on your way out?  Did you ever stop and ask them about their families?”

They hesitated, and I had my answer.  No or very rarely.

“Did you ever think that they are just as grateful as you are for the job they have?  That they can work for a company that even considers giving them a party and a bonus.  Not every company so rewards their devoted employees.”

As the book stipulates:

I think that is something else with the people-process culture: . . . you get to know people. The people get to know each other” ( J. Cernohous, personal communication, July 25, 2014).
Kersten EdD SPHR, Jeanette; La Venture EdD, Kelly. The Human Factor to Profitability: Building a People-Centered Culture for Long-Term Success (Kindle Locations 658-659). River Grove Books. Kindle Edition.

And the discussion went on.  What am I saying?

Employees should be engaged in their workplace.  That they need to feel and be a part of that team.  Not stranded in some oasis, ignored.  Again, I argue for that point that all of us see and process information differently.  We all have a unique point of reality.  Sometimes the finer details are uncovered with fresh eyes.  Don’t discount the person on the front lines.  You need to consider their input.