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.

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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.

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

“Heritage is a thoroughly modern concept” *…

“Heritage is a thoroughly modern concept” *…

Heritage is a thoroughly modern concept ~ McCrone, Morris and Kiely (1995, p. 1)

As McCrone, Morris and Kiely assert in their seminal work on Scotland – the Brand: The Making of Scottish Heritage (1995), heritage as we know it today is not the same concept of heritage from hundreds of years ago. The depictions of plaids, and other Scottish icons can be traced back to the early 19th century (1822), to Sir Walter Scott’s pageantry of King George IV’s visit to Scotland. Scott was well ahead of his time regarding the marketing of a destination. He put Scotland on the map with his writings and romanticism of the country. I can’t blame him for he is reacting to the historical events that happened in the late 17th and 18th century that stripped the country of its pride and self-identity. I would say those events, to a degree, bent but didn’t break the country. If anything those events helped to make it stronger.  This isn’t the first time I revisit the discussion of ‘manufactured’ tourism.

Let’s revisit Starz Outlander. Don’t get tired; this is a great show to demonstrate concepts, even the ‘built’ world of writers, and the film/tv industry. Saturday night was episode 210: Prestonpans was aired, and of course, I visited the subsequent talks on social media on Saturday, and Sunday. Of course, some of the chatter had to do with Bonnie Prince Charlie’s wardrobe.

Outlander Bonnie Prince Charlie
Bonnie Prince Charlie, Outlander Season 2, episode 210; ©2016

Some of the fans were arguing over what tartan he was wearing. Some thought it was the Wallace tartan; others weren’t sure. Whatever they utilized in the show, I would hazard a guess that there is host of historical inaccuracies. Again, what makes for good television. Any tartan or plaid we have today is a manufacture representation traced back to that demarcation line when Scott created the icons for Scotland.

Bonnie_Prince_Charlie_by_John_Pettie
Bonnie_Prince_Charlie_by_John_Pettie

This is one of my favorite paintings of the Prince by Pettie and is in the Royal Collection. Pettie lived from 1834-1893, in the age of romanticism. The Prince is wearing the Prince Charles Edward Stuart tartan. The Prince is emerging into the light of Holyrood Palace after taking Edinburgh in the early days of the ’45. If this tartan had any historical accuracy, which it may or may not, then the tartan used by the wardrobe on the show has thoroughly got it wrong. But more importantly, these two depictions demonstrate the concept of modern heritage.

I am amused by the show. Heck, I just watch it to hear the accents and see the beautiful scenery, and it does have a great storyline. The acting is well done, but I cringe every time for the bastardization of representations of heritage and historical events. I know, let it go, it’s just entertainment. Usually, I do several days later. I have to remember what Beveridge and Turnbull, 1989 stipulated in their works. That the truth of Scottish cultural is that mystical entity that has been ‘eclipsed’ over time. That we will not truly know the genuine character and can only ‘create’ our own interpretations. McCrone, Morris, and Kiely argue that Scottish heritage and its associated icons are malleable. That they are distorted and susceptible to interpretation.

Bonnie Prince Charlie and James Fraser
Bonnie Prince Charlie and James Fraser, Starz Outlander Season 2, EP 210 Prestonpans ©2016

The romanticism of Scotland is a glamorous depiction of historical events. And I have to say makes for great entertainment. Students you must dig past this glamorous representation, do your homework, find primary sources and research for yourself the truth behind destinations. Understand how history, those that influence the development of tourism and its associated marketing to understand how we can differentiate one destination from another. To benchmark against those that are successful and those that are not. Scotland is successful in its marketing efforts and has Scott to thank for that. Tourism is one of the leading industries that aid that countries economic vitality. Go further, farther in your examination to understand just what heritage is, and how it supports a country and its tourism products.

Should we even get into a discussion about authenticity? Maybe next time.

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}

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.

Landscapes….

Landscapes….

Crossing the Glenfinnan Viaduct

We have been talking attractions in Tourism (HT100), and in hospitality, will be delving into singular entities of the industry (like hotels, resorts) that make up a part of the man-made or physical landscape.  What is landscape?  How does it define us as tourist?  How does it define tourism as a whole?  Is it a motivator?  Is it a supporting character?  Does it stand on its own?  These are all valid questions.

Landscape has variety of definitions.  Weir (2002), ( In Mike Robinson and Hans-Christian Andersen (Ed.) 2002, Literature and Tourism: Essays in the Reading and Writing of Tourism. London: Thomson) expounds hints at this variation with regards to literary tourism.  Landscapes are those within the vision of the writer.  For instance, JK Rowling in her successful Harry Potter series, recalls:

Although J.K Rowling already brought three completed chapters with her when she relocated to Edinburgh, I strongly believe it was Edinburgh’s charm that further influenced the world of Harry Potter. After all, as the age-old saying goes, a writer only writes based on an extended version of their experiences (http://www.thetravelpop.com/harry-potter-and-the-edinburgh-connection/)

Furthermore, VisitScotland has a page devoted to the landscapes created within the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

The magical world of Hogwarts with its spectacular Gothic architectural features set against sprawling rural surroundings has an unmistakably Scottish feel to it. The Scottish Highlands therefore provided the perfect location for production crews to recreate the magic of Hogwarts and the Harry Potter books on camera. The beautiful landscapes surrounding Hogwarts were filmed in the picturesque Glencoe and the school’s spellbinding quidditch games were brought to life against the mesmerizing backdrop of Glen Nevis(http://www.scotland.cn/features/scotland-and-harry-potter)

People are motivated to connect with the mind of the writer.  To find that part of the story they played upon their heart-strings.  One such for me was the Hogwarts Express and how it meandered through the Scottish landscape.  I recognized the viaduct that the train traveled over.  I had to find that train, I wanted to experience what the characters were feeling.  Was there a train?  Yes, there was.  It is called the Jacobite Steam Train and it runs from Fort William to Malliag.

The Train at Mallaig
The Jacobite Steam Train, in Mallaig

It runs that famous route you see in the each of the movies, in one form or another. You feel the magic, your heart aches at the green scenery passing by your window.

One of the most memorable moments in the movie series is the stunning journey of the Hogwarts Express from London to Hogwarts, seen at length in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002).  This scene was filmed on a real steam train route across the epic Highlands — visitors to the region can recreate the same journey as their fictional heroes if they jump aboard the Jacobite train and travel from Fort William to Mallaig over the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct. The route has been voted twice by Wanderlust Travel Awards as the most beautiful train journey in the world (http://www.scotland.cn/features/scotland-and-harry-potter).

 

Yet, there is more to the landscape than the literary sense.  Landscape is about the natural beauty, and the human built world.  It is about the rural, urban and city landscapes.  These landscapes influence the evolution of society.  No one can’t argue that our thoughts, our beliefs, our cultural centrism is not developed by what happens around us.  Weir gives us quiet the adjectives.  He states:

“Landscapes may on the one hand be taken as a given, a primordial element, a set of natural facts or a backdrop against which events occur, the result of processes, which exist or pre-existed before the intervention of man (2002:119).”

So landscapes is more, it is an interweaving of elements, tangible and intangible that gives meaning to events, to culture, to actions. Yet, how do they related to sense of place, authenticity and contrived aspects is another story…