Back home

Back home
Where do path’s lead

Back home again after the semester away. It is good to be home, though I am not relishing the freezing cold and snow. A new semester has started and looking forward to my classes. This semester I will be navigating a host of different projects.  I find that I am on one path with many choices.  This is synonymous with motivation and decision-making in tourism as well as understanding the intricacies of organizational behavior.  We all have a choice on what to do and what not to do.  There is not just one path, one way of accomplishing goals and objectives. 

I’ve been struggling with technology lately.  The application and use.  The interplay of the sheer number of choices presented and delivered, and in which to choose from.  The quantity of information to wade through and digest.  Perhaps I’m yearning for something simple.  I’ve reached that point that I can feel what Marshall Mcluhan hinted at–“that technology will become an extension of ourselves.”

The medium is the message ~ Marshall Mcluhan

This quote expounds on the fact that technology influences how a language, information, voices, images, reality may be misconstrued.  That we need to research extensively to understand behavior, to understand thought, choices and to develop strategies.  We become lazy in our diligence to understand the complexity of the world.

That it may ‘steal’ a portion of us.  We think we are ‘smarter’ for having technology, but in reality, maybe (maybe not) it is erasing a portion of our own intelligence.  A whole new simplicity and complexity that we can’t see or understand. 

Technology plays an important supporting role in both my classes.  But does it hinder both teacher and student in grasping the full breadth of understanding?  Does it cripple our thinking?  Have we become too reliant on the crutch?  How do we walk this path, know where it leads with and without its aid? 

A cup of teaAs I stand before the students, each with a laptop open, my own open beside me, I can see the barriers to communication.  I can feel the tension that lingers in the shadow and may impose articulation.  I want to have honest conversations.  I want discussions that spark broader understanding.  One that travels from a limited awareness to a greater awareness.  I am left with questioning the facilitation of that goal.  How do we have a cup of coffee, cup of tea and mutually beneficial discourse without the potential angst that can exist?

Why do I travel?

Why do I travel?

Walk along the Esk
Walk along the Esk

We are discussing motivation in class this week. The big question asked, and attempting to answer is–Why do we/I travel?  What impetus spurs me to leave the familiar, my home, and wander out into something different?  Why have I always wanted to explore and discover?  Get lost, escape from humanity and the built places of society?  Why do others? Why do I or others strive to find that place for quiet contemplation or exhilarating thrills?  Why?

There are a host of tourism and psychological concepts that deal with trying to answer these questions.  But to really understand, I need to dig deep within myself.  I need as a researcher, or operations manager, or those working alongside our industry, to ask the right questions.  We need to get to the heart of something that might not be fully articulated.  Fully realized or explained.  Most times we will get straight-laced answers, but other times, not.  There is the mystique about travel.  There is still some form of mystery in the process.

Visiting the Lost Words exhibit at Edinburgh Fringe, 2018
Visiting the Lost Words exhibit at Edinburgh Fringe, 2018

Life is about experiences. A bundle of moments in time that define our lives. They have various forms of risk, levels of excitement. Some are more poignant than others. They leave more than a mark; they change us. They let us see the world in all its various colorful shades. The good and the nasty. The subliminal, cerebral, the intellectual, and the balanced, the physical, concrete. It helps us reach that inner psyche when other tasks might not uncover such breadth or depth.

Tourism and its processes suffuse the different layers of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Pearce’s travel ladder goes beyond that original work and takes it to the next level.

And yet, we are still left with a host of questions to answer.

Maybe life is about questions and subsequently learning. Rings true for that old cliché. Tourism opens the doors, even if it is just a jaunt across town to familiar places with family and friends.

Family picnic Prince Gallitzan State Park
Family picnic Prince Gallitzan State Park

That interaction is an opportunity to uncover those layers through moments of interaction. We travel to find new relationships, to strengthen existing ones. Not just with other persons, but the land in which we inhabit. To create or renew that relationship with a place.

It is complicated, and I don’t think I will ever have a true answer. But that is okay. At least, I’m asking the questions.

 

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.

Change is a part of life…

Change is a part of life…

Flags over Edinburgh Castle
Flags over Edinburgh Castle during the Military Tattoo

It’s been nine long years since I was last in Scotland. Eleven years since I’ve lived here. Time continues and I grow older. I have always known that age is a great leveler in life, changes the playing field, and the participants. Life changes you, changes your point of view on the world and the type of perspective in which you wish to view it.

I can mark the change.  I can’t always articulate the moments, the passages of time, but I am more aware of them now.  I have some understanding.  I experience grief and uncertainty.  The whispers are different.  The voices have changed, and the language even more complex.

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Contemplation

Time affects us all and change is hard to accept, even fathom.  Scotland has changed.  I have changed.  The dynamic nature of life is in constant flux just as in tourism.  Our reasons, our motivations shift and morph with the progression of time.  Innately, the passion I once held for this place has transformed, no tempered.  It is not as mystical as it was nineteen years ago.

So, what does this mean?  What sense of this landscape do I now possess?  What sense of belonging?

The world outside my window has changed.
The world outside my window has changed.

I was an explorer twenty-five years ago to this place, this Scotland. Prior to stepping on its shores, I knew it only from literature, film and TV shows. It held a mystique.  My passion was shrouded in truths and half-truths.  I had a child-like curiosity and consumption.

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Time passes for us all

Seven years of planning, of working hard, and dreaming, my reality changed.  I returned and had the privilege of living in Scotland for seven years.  During that tenure, the world changed drastically.  It continues to change drastically for us all.  Relationships were altered.

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Pondering life on Isle of Lewis

Sometimes, I wonder what I am trying to grasp when I try to piece together the visceral and cerebral.  To understand about this change within my heart and soul.  Do I belong here?  Can I identify with this landscape, this place?  Where on the barometer of life has my sense of self migrated?  Innately, the fields of home have a stronger pull for me, than lands farther away.  I haven’t been the only one that has changed, others have too.  I am pushed to consider others now more than myself.  I am sometimes in limbo, overwhelmed with that responsibility.  Those promises inherent with our relationships have a louder call.  I have reached another milestone, another moment of truth that can’t be ignored.  More of the complex layers have been uncovered, exposed, and choices must consider a new reality.

I never did like change.  Sometimes, it has a hidden, nasty smell.  Something you want to ignore and leave alone.  Let the world go past, without acknowledgement.  Brutal honesty, we all have those moments.  Scotland was that wonderment that I could call my own.  That luxury I could escape to and find myself, find that grounding of strength that seems elusive during questionable moments.  Scotland always made me happy.  Scotland has changed.  It is different.  I’m different.  That is good.

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New boots, new journey

Good in that I can search. The journey is about moving and embracing change, understanding fear, and looking. It’s okay to look, to search out, and find. I may not find exactly what I am looking for or the answers at this moment. Life and travel, tourism is all about experiences.  It is a circle of experiences, just like life.  And change is a part of that circle, and finding yourself during each of those moments.  Another layer of who you are.

New boots, new journey.  More me.

Defining Tourism

Defining Tourism

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle in Edinburgh Scotland during the Fringe and Military Tattoo

Next week I start my first module here in Scotland, Principles of Tourism. It is an introductory course about the industry. The purpose is to gain an understanding of the scope and breadth of tourism, what it means to be a tourist, to travel, to be an active participant in the process, and the impact it has on so many lives.

One of our first activities and assignments will be to develop a definition of tourism. After completing the mechanics of the course, I will have the students sit and ponder their lives, who they are, what they like, dislike, what they want–basically, develop a short bio. Then we will progress into what it meant to travel with their families or friends, or by themselves. Again, asking a host of questions to get to the heart of how they envision travel, view the world, and tourism.

They will develop their own definition and then we will compare them in class with others, to tease out a formal definition. Then the fun begins. Well, I think it is fun. We will acquire the official definition and do some more analyzing to see how close they came or if they can argue for a better definition. Considering the official definition was designed a few decades ago, are there any generational differences or does the official definition stand up to scrutiny?

On the train to St. Andrews
On the train to St. Andrews

The inevitable question that is posed to me, and has been in the past, is what I think since I’m the professor. This is good. This is a start to asking for other viewpoints, opening your mind up to different perspectives. This opens a door. And I tell them, look, I’m just another viewpoint, consider all and then find more. Don’t just end the investigation with me. I may be one authority, but I’m certainly not the only person. Go further, and farther in that research. So back to my point. We are on the path to reflective practice. Something very valuable for my students.

At the end of the first day, we should have several concepts hashed out. Then I want them to get out there and observe, go see the concepts in actions. I want them to be creative, use the tools at their disposable to record and gain understanding. Can they see the elements of the definition in action, and how they change our actions? How our decisions are affected and effected by our choices? Can they make the connections between the definition and everyday decision-making? So many questions to ask and answered, which then leads to even more questions.

And that will be just the first day!

 

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.

 

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.