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.

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.).

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!

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.

 

 

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.

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…