On the road again…

On the road again…
Horatio Nelson Jackson
Horatio Nelson Jackson

And in tourism, we are talking about the history of tourism, and how the tourism umbrella, the value/supply chain has evolved in organization and complexity over the thousands of years it has been in existence.

Students are assigned a discussion question after watching the Ken Burn’s documentary about Horatio Nelson Jackson‘s road trip across the United States in 1903.  The documentary is called ‘America’s First Road Trip’.

Jackson, Crocker and Bud the dog, in their 1903 Winton
Jackson, Crocker and Bud the dog, in their 1903 Winton

The film depicts Horatio and Sewall K. Crocker, and eventually Jackson’s dog Bud criss-crossing the continent in a 1903 red colored Winton.  Throughout the film, the students will see the lack of roads, the lack of services, we take for granted today.  A real authentic experience.  How many of us have packed up the car, and gone on that long road trip?  My family did just that when I had just learned how to drive.  We went from east to the west, circumventing the north of the US, and then down through Rockies, and across the southwest, south to get back home.  Sixteen states one summer.

Dad and the station wagon
Dad in front of the old station wagon, late ’60s

Looking back at that time, I remember the fun, but also the cramped, conditions.  We weren’t in a station wagon, but an old Chevy Caprice Classic. Cramped space for five at the time.  Now that I examine that time period, I realized how much I have matured as a traveler.  How much our industry has gained over the years.

That our industry has a complexity.  That there are a lot of dots to align to create an experience that people will enjoy.  And what if they aren’t?  What happens?  Over the next few weeks we will be discussing this more, and getting into that complexity.  Discussing the needs and wants of the tourist, matching those needs, and the relationship to the three environments.  How place attachment is developed, utilized by the marketing efforts of a destination.  What value we can create and exchange.  The impact on the host community.

And how has authentic travel has changed, and taken on new meaning.

Veterans Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outlander STARZ
Outlander STARZ

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

The story continues….

Connections…

Connections…
Successful College Essay Writing
Successful College Essay Writing

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

Identity in tourism

Identity in tourism

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

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

Mapping out thoughts
Mind mapping out thoughts on social research

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

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

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

Ligoneer
Ligonier

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

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

Band Stand Ligoneer, PA
Band Stand Ligoneer, PA

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

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

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

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

Laurel Mountain
Winter on Laurel Mountain

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

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

More later…

Tourism and Crisis Management

Tourism and Crisis Management

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

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

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

“I have to do all these tasks?”

“I have to remember all of this?”

Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

What does 2020 look like…for tourism industry

What does 2020 look like…for tourism industry

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

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

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

Moment of Truth
Moment of Truth

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

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

We’ve come a long way…baby…

We’ve come a long way…baby…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So…still left with lots of questions…