How do we judge attractions successful?

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

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

Criteria are developed from their ten identifiers:

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

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

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

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

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

Bogged Down

Bogged Down
Airfest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

We don’t live or work in a box…

We don’t live or work in a box…

What...?

We don’t live in a “box”. Life Moves at a pretty fast pace around us. Life is about movement and change. Organizations are organic, living and breathing entities.  Therefore, change is inevitable.

Constant is never guaranteed, even with steadfast core values and behaviors.  Just as nothing in life is guaranteed.  Core values are a foundation, but that doesn’t mean the house can’t change over the years of existence.

One day even that foundation may crumble and erode away.

The box isn’t permanent.  Some days, I don’t think any one item has permanency.  There is an end point.

The other day here in the department, one my colleagues was roaming around testing us if we remember the ‘Tab’ drink and the jingle.  For the life of me, I couldn’t remember the music, but I do remember that ugly old can and awful aftertaste.  Not many could remember the jingle.  Just one of those lighthearted moments to break up a stressful day.  Illustrates a good point.  Somethings in life stay with you, others don’t.

Tab isn’t around any more.  Products have a shelf life.  Most do. A product life cycle.

Everything has a life cycle, even tenure on this planet.

So, what is left behind?  A moment. A memory.  An experience.  An interaction.  An action.
Experiences, interactions, take hold in the consciousness and remain.  Some stronger than others.   Hence, if organizations are living, breathing structures they thus have a complex ‘personality’.  A complex matrix of interwoven personalities.

Life isn’t breathed into a company until you add the human element.  Or is it that founder, that person with the original idea that is exerting their personality over others?  So, maybe then this goes to the development of that mission and vision statements.  That are supposed to articulate the personality, the core values of a company.

Therefore, I question if we assimilate the personality of organizations into our own core values.  Or our own values present and melded together with the companies.  Threads of commonality. (Chicken and egg debate?)

Sort of like leadership.  What is leadership?

Leaders are ahead of us, beside us, with us that we might not even know we have commonality, and are behind.
Behind us–because we as employees and managers are so innovative and creative, so forward thinking, we are head of the company thinking. We have ‘progressive thoughts’.  The child has far exceeded the parent.

Box Cat
From past experience, I can tell you that several work places did not have my same common core values, and I would never take up their value system.  I had more integrity than that.  My integrity was more important.  So, which is more important organizational cultural values or your own?  Hints at acculturation conflict.  Is that the point you know, that this job won’t work out and it is time to find other boxes to inhabit?

So, how do we work with a variety of cultures, even our own work system.  How do we navigate such waters?

How do we keep the workplace from becoming a stagnate pool of water?

As I reread our book, I am caught between reality and the body of knowledge presented in the book.  This is nothing against the writers or their work, but I, as researcher, have been trained to question everything I read.  I critically analyze.  I study the craft of writing from different angles.  I study the world in which I live.  And that life has two different paths, professional and personal.  I study human behavior.  I study.

Just as you should.  You should develop your independent thinking skills and do not take anything at face value without thorough examination. And just make sure you back up your opinions or conclusions with factual information or other peer-reviewed evidence.  The book is a good example of how they have used a body of knowledge to support their hypotheses.

Recognize that you will have an emotional reaction to what we read before we sit down and critically analyze.  And I was having one of those moments.  My emotional inner self was boxing it out with my rational side.

The questions that arose and keeps pinging around in my brain are about organizational culture…p. 19 to be exact.

Typically, employees incorporate organizational values into their own value systems and prioritize them in terms of their relative importance as guiding principles (Rokeach, 1973 as quoted by Kersten and La Venture).

I had flippant remark tingling my lips after reading this.  I took a breath and realized my mistake.  This is 1973 thinking. I was a teenager back then.

I have to remember–1973 mode of thinking about organizations and culture was far different from today.  Just as 1950s culture is different from today.  Just as 1920 is different…conundrum potentially averted.  It is not that we don’t have commonality among generations, that we don’t all celebrate and suffer the same given life’s little nuances.  Okay, example.  1920s saw the evolution of dress for women.  Hemlines went up.  Every older generation was suffering apoplectic moments.  Fast forward to 1940s and the first vestiges of the bikini.  Get the drift.

Let’s return to that resource.  I don’t think I have ever incorporated the complete organization’s cultural values into my own core values.  I had established core values and looked for common ground, commonality.  I’m not a blank slate when I step through the doors of any company.  No one is and we come toting our own baggage, good and bad.

The word conformity doesn’t exist in my nomenclature, but I have to be honest–I do conform.  I loathe the word.  It exists and I will give it its voice, but I hate it like I hate blue cheese.  (I know, not everyone hates blue cheese.)  Everyone approaches life in their own manner.  Different points of reality and so forth.  But if I’m sitting in my favorite pub and everyone is having buffalo wings with blue cheese, and I’m the only one ordering ranch, that should tell me something.  How can I use this example to illustrate my point?

Get back to that point!

Innovative culture
One definition of innovative culture.

Yes, conformity and routine kill innovation and creativity.  So, can the mission and vision of a company that doesn’t evaluate and test their values.  As I said earlier, companies disintegrate, erode away without seeing how all the parts of a company work together, especially the human element.

What I like about Marriott is that they do articulate their values.  But do we just see the bright and shiny?  Why don’t we talk about the plausible cracks and holes in the system?  Those employees that fail and fall through those cracks.  Those that pack their bags and leave?  Who created those cracks in the fist place?

Is that then an organizational cultural failure?

Then who is to blame?

Who sets the standards on which to judge?
The benchmark on which to measure?
No two people learn the same.  No two people work, manage the same.  No two people are alike.
No two people are motivated to work the same.
Can a value system still be weak and work?
Can a value system be too strong, and thus rigid to stifle creativity?

See my problem…I’ve got a host of questions running through my mind.

Therefore, there has to be some form of commitment between parties.  There has to be a mutually beneficial contract that allows for individual identity and commonality.

This can lead into further discussions about innovative culture and positive organizational scholarship.

 

More to attractions than meets the eye…

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

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

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

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

Mom at Atlantic City
Mom at Atlantic City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Budweiser Clydesdales
Budweiser Clydesdale at Thunder in the Valley

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

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

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

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

Ducati Logo
Ducati Logo ©Ducati

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attractions aren’t just pretty…

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

Attractions aren’t just pretty places.

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

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

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

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

Something to see and experience.

Something that educates and informs.

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

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

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

So we have variety.

But what makes some attractions successful over others?

This begs the question about reasons for travel…

Footnotes

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

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Location, Location, Location…

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

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

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

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

At the heart of any attraction is a motivation.

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

“Something I always wanted to see.”

“It is on my bucket list.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But who are your stakeholders you ask, besides customers.

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

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

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

An attraction is just a structure.  An idea.

People make it come to life.

Caspar_David_Friedrich_-_Wanderer_above_the_sea_of_fog
Caspar_David_Friedrich_-_Wanderer_above_the_sea_of_fog

People are the resource that propel it into the future.

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

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

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

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

Let’s begin…

 

Scenario based learning

Scenario based learning
Sense of Identity
Sense of Identity

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

I’m a visual thinker.

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

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

Hence, why I love projects.

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

 

Student Project Notebook
Student Project Notebook

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

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