Tourism’s transformation qualities…

Tourism’s transformation qualities…

Tourism and the act of travel has a way of transforming your life. From the moment you are born, your life revolves around change, exposure to new and exciting objects, experiences, and points of reality. Curiosity governs the exploration of babies, toddlers, and young children. As we mature, we develop a more sophisticated decision-making process. This progression through life, this life-span has different stages, and we can inter-relate this progression of aging with the tourism life cycle.  Figure 1 represents Plog’s mode of traveler type and destination life cycle.

Plog's Model
Figure 1.  Life Span and Plog’s model of destination Life Cycle to Traveler Type

Basically, as we age, we develop different mentalities that govern our travel choices and behavior. What type of trip we take, when we take it, how take it, where we decide to go, depends on where we are in our lifespan. If you are young, you may or may not have the money to travel to far off places or stay closer to home. You may or may not have the capabilities, the skills, the physical strength to accomplish the activities you decide to undertake. You may or may not have the tools you need to commit to a particular activity or trip. But everything is bright and shiny. The world is your oyster, and the want to consume it, may or may not be significant.

Yet, as we grow older, our desires for the bright and shiny may diminish due to the aging of our physical bodies. Or the needs of our family. Or the requirements of our job. We are governed by a host of external forces that help us define our choices. We may or may not need more services from the tourism system. The umbrella of products that make up a destination tourism product line. Maybe safety and security are an issue, and we want to travel with groups of people that have the same hobbies and interests. We all have different wants and needs, and this will govern choice. Those needs and wants change over the course of our lifetimes.

From infancy to the first maturity point, where we come of age and make our own initial decisions, we are governed by the choices made by our parents. Usually, those choices are contingent upon the wants of children or what the parents may find interesting for the children. Every generation is different.

From my own experience as a child, our travel behavior depended upon the time my parents could take off from teaching responsibilities as well as disposable income. It wasn’t much. Usually, it involved one big trip every few years. Most of the vacations centered around visiting family or friends, and then side trips to local attractions. So, choices depend on what you need, what you want, what you have, and what you don’t have. And are still shaped by internal and external forces.

These choices change over the course of your lifetime. Options you can and cannot control. At that first maturity point, as a tourist, everything is new. You may want the unexplored, the far distant places, but you are still governed by internal and external forces. Your parents, the state of world affairs, economic vitality–resources that you have and don’t have.

Travel during your life will open many doors not only to the world around you but within yourself. You change with each passage out into a new and exciting place. You shift from a limited awareness to greater awareness with each interaction. You progress to different maturity points and understanding of who you are as a person as well as the world in which we live.  You gain resources (information, economic freedom, and promises from the tourism business environment) that can alter your travel your choices.  Travel changes you both internally and externally.  Embrace that change.

Know your limits, listen to your inner voice and what is going on around you. Strengthen your intuition and be open to learning.

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.

Daily Prompt: Underground

Daily Prompt: Underground
Buchanan Street Metro
Buchanan Street Underground in Glasgow, Scotland.

The other day, as I was driving home, I was contemplating all the states and cities I have lived in to this point.  My bags have been packed numerous times, moving between seven different states, their cities, and one country.  The average length of time I have spent in any one city is seven years.  Typical of someone who works in this industry.  We are constantly moving.  The early years of my career–especially one year– I moved nine times.

I didn’t grow up in a city with an underground.  We really couldn’t have one, due to the fact Johnstown was settled on a flood plain and water was a constant threat no matter what time of year.  It was only in the big cities where I encountered an Underground.  But Underground in tourism can mean a host of different things.  Transportation aside, the movement from point A to point B, undergrounds have been known to be tourist attractions unto themselves.  Anyone who loves to people watch, should take a circuit on a metro.  It is a wealth of fodder for writing.

Insecurities

But there is more than people.  When I lived in Boston or Washington, DC or Glasgow, there was always activities going on about these centers.  People would play music, sing, trying to capture loose change from commuters.

Music at the Underground
Music at the Underground. Buchanan Street Metro Stop, Glasgow, Scotland.

The metro is a way station for the movement of people. A stop-gap in everyday life. My first semester in Glasgow, was my first indoctrination into the football (footie) culture and their fans pouring out of the metro on their way to matches. The atmosphere was electric, and I was easily swept up in the excitement. Not unlike our American football games in the states. There is nothing like encountering Red Sox fans on their way to Fenway Park! Love that big, green wall.

Crazy Belgians Belgians Footie fans

The Underground is also full of history.  In tourism, we examine the historical timeline of development.  How we went from walking on two feet in search of food (and yes that is a part of tourism) to the complex infrastructure we have today. The Underground is a historical marker as well as a museum of information, both underground and above.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
St George at St. George’s Cross Underground

They are places to mark the passage of time and illustrate a vibrancy of living and dying.

Urban ExplorerBotanical Gardens Abandon Underground in Glasgow, Scotland

There is such a tourism market segment devoted to abandon places. We slip it into historical and dark tourism. Wanting to find that elusive piece in a complex puzzle to understand how life works.  They are a canvase conveying a sense of identity; a sense of self.  It also begs the question, ‘if you build it will they come?’.

Grand Central Terminal - Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Secret Train 

FDR’s secret underground tunnel and train car

And yet, keeping with tourist themes and life’s reality check, underground doesn’t necessarily mean transportation.  What you see today of Edinburgh was built upon, in some parts, older structures and vaults.  People actually lived there, and they have turned these old parts of the city into tourist attractions.  They represent cultural norms regulated to history.  They are their own landscape.  They represent a journey.  That there is life cycle in everything.

So the underground represents life, represents places to develop and utilize in the tourist space.  They have a history.  They are our own history. They are the current and the past, and represents the movement of time.  They are markers, canvases, and concert halls.

Underground
via Daily Prompt: Underground

Daily Prompt: Border (s) mean so much in tourism

Daily Prompt: Border (s) mean so much in tourism

The Johnstown Flood Memorial/ St. Michael, PA #SouthForkFishingHuntingClub #SouthForkDam #JohnstownFloodof1889The Johnstown Flood Memorial/ St. Michael, PA #SouthForkFishingHuntingClub #SouthForkDam #JohnstownFloodof1889

Border (s) exist on a map, in different geographic markings, and man-made signs to denote a boundary.  In tourism, boundaries are blurred more today than 100 years ago.  As tourist we are constrained only by the regulations to move from one place to another.  Most countries have some form of visa requirements, and yet, as an educator, I teach that boundaries or borders are not insurmountable.  Anything is possible.

Yet, the question of migration is constant note of debate in today’s society.  That borders should be freely open and allow for that migration.  We try to have a reasonable discourse in my classes.  But more so drill down to the core reasons, the SWOT of migration, of tourism in a greater context.

I have an intercultural competency or as I prefer a cultural intelligence assignment in most of my classes.  I tweak it for the different levels.  In my intro class, I begin to open the windows and doors to the vast global world, allow the students to peer out into the broader spectrum, and start the dialogue.  Most of the students, if not all, have a passport and have utilized it.  Some of have not.  But even with their experience, the question remains how much do they really know about the cultures in which they interact with?

At the beginning of the semester, the first couple of weeks, I try to articulate that they are, for their current position on the life cycle, at a limited awareness of the dynamic and complex relationship of the world.  Tourism fosters a movement from a limited awareness to a greater awareness, even if it is traveling from the middle of no where into a bigger, and broader context like a city.  Diversity of the population is far more substantial in the city than in the middle of no where.  They are exposed to more cultural norms.

So borders aren’t just lines on a map, marking the boundary between countries.  Borders can be, may be that demarcation line of change.  Where we step off into something more, and become something more.  That precipice that requires of leap of faith to overcome the fear of doing something.  Of testing yourself and expanding your understanding.  To shedding the shackles of a myopic viewpoint, and opening up oneself to knowledge.  Ignorance breeds fear.  Knowledge gains an understanding.

Tourism is a vehicle for change.  And yet there is always another side of the argument.  The movement of people has a negative impact on infrastructures.  We can’t have this debate without understanding the implications of acculturation, tourism area life cycle or TALC, carrying capacity, spatial segregation, and cultural homogenization.  Planning is key.

Host communities must question the impact on their local identities and quality of life.  Resources and the sustainability of a destination must be examined in order to maintain a balance.  If those resources diminish beyond what the area can handle, then the destination has reached its carrying capacity.  You will see a negative impact on the three environments – natural/man-made,  economic, and socio-cultural.  Basic needs will not be met, and people will suffer.  The infrastructure will begin to deteriorate and impact will be exponential, until a point has been reach, when movement lessens and an area can begin to recover.  If saturation has been reached, or even exceeded for any length of time, resources will disappear completely.  Movement will stop, economic vitality will diminish and the destination will enter a stagnation or decline on the tourism area life cycle or TALC.

Border (s) have so many meanings in tourism, and I have only hinted on a host of thoughts.  The final comment, if a destination is to continue, hard questions need to be asked.

 

via Daily Prompt: Border

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…

 

Today we talked about tourism motivations…

Today we talked about tourism motivations…

Why do we travel?  Why do we want to get away from it all?  It is different for all of us.  Our motivations are particular to each of us.  The key for the tourism destination, their marketing staff, and those part of the greater value chain, are to develop a message that tugs, and pulls you to make a decision.  It is hard though.  It is hard to understand why people choose one place over another.  There is a plethora of research out there, hinting at the various angles.

Motivations change over time, even minutes.  It is not an exact science, but more relative, and qualitative.  It will always have air of mystery.  The crystal ball will be murky, clouded by the mist that is our minds, those internal and external forces that exert some influence on that decision.  What drives me today, is not the same tomorrow?

So how do we get into the mind of the consumer?  How do we dig for nuggets of information in order to craft experiences that they would want?  What goes in to making those marketing messages that bombard us on TV, and other distribution channels?

Can we employ words, videos, music, and other methods to create visuals that plant kernels into the minds of our potential consumers?  That means we need to dive into the breadth of the soul of a destination.  Not just from a customer’s point of view, but also the destination itself.

I know you might get tire of my ongoing use of Scotland, but Scotland is the birthplace of organized tourism in modern times (IMHO).  Think Sir Walter Scott and the search for the honors of Scotland…just noodle around Google.  Their representation of the country align the tangible products of the country with the mystique, and mystery, the colors, the culture, the taste, the music, the words…the soul.

If we understand ourselves as a destination, then strike out to understand our potential customer, who they are, what drives their motivations; their lifestyle, then we can pinpoint on the mosaic of products all that they might be interested in, and craft an experience.

As I said in today’s class, 140, we are visual thinkers.  Books, words, transform into pictures as we read.  Therefore, the image is currency. We develop a sense of that destination from what is on the page.  Likewise, any encounters with the people of differing backgrounds, those conversations can give you a sense of their background, their lifestyle, their home.  It may just be enough to prompt us to investigate, even if it is from the arm-chair in front of our computer.

After we get them to move, make a decision, we wonder how their stay was…and that gets into a whole different arena

So, enough to chew on….more on the conversation later…

 

Stewardship

Stewardship

Stewardship

Stewardship is not a new concept.  It has been around as long as people understood that resources are used, and consumed.  That the landscape can alter, and change with time, and use.  The dictionary definition of the word (dictionary.come):

the responsible overseeing and protection of
something considered worth caring for and preserving

Tourism is about consumption, about people shifting from their normal every day existence into something different.  Our resources are not infinite.  There is a carrying capacity for each area of the known world.  That moment when we extend invitations for use, and demand exceeds our viable resources.  When that happens, damage occurs.

If we don’t organize, plan, and control those resources, eventually our ability to continue as an entity will come to a close.  This hints at the product life cycle.  That there is a moment of birth, a moment to live, to stagnate, and die, or to be reborn into something new.

Tourism Life Cycle
Tourism Life Cycle ©Slate/WVU

Our product has a perishable element. In terms of time, and assets. Each 24 hour period, we have an opportunity to capitalize on use of that product, and capture revenues. Yet, if we fail to adequately plan for events, time is our enemy. Our product will skirt on an even plan for so long, unless we find a way to rejuvenate its existence. This can be seen in the example of the Great Barrier Reef off the cost of Australia. Too many tourist travel to the area, threat this natural phenomenon. The reef begins to change, even die. This is a product, an attraction that draws visitors to Australian shores. If it is not there, what has Australia lost? What has the world lost?

So we are stewards of this land, of its resources. To continue in our business, we must understand just what that means.