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.

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…

 

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: 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

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.

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.