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.

 

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…

 

Guest Cycle in Tourism…

Guest Cycle in Tourism…

Guest Cycle in Tourism
Guest Cycle in Tourism

If any of you have visited here before, there are several post devoted to the guest cycle. Most of these post have to deal with a hotel or lodging environment, but I wanted to devote some time to what it means in tourism.

In tourism, the guest cycle is still cyclical in nature, in that it is dynamic and continues in perpetuity for as long as people have a want to travel.  The cycle is two-fold from a management or operations or strategy perspective and a guest or tourist, or end-user point of view.

There are three stages: Before, During and After.

In the Before stage, for the tourist, this is predominately focused on research and decision-making, the actions of making planning before execution of experience.  The tourist is researching when to go, hot to get there, where to go, who is going, how much to spend, and why.  Even making a decision not to go.  They are investigating all the elements of the destination mix or value chain, and ‘packaging’ them for use.  They are purchasing a product.

In contrast, for operations, planners, this before stage is when we are creating goals and objectives to attract tourist to our destination.  We too are researching motivations, reasons for travel, examining and evaluating the success of our destination, and strategizing how to remain competitive during the cycle.  This can go on throughout the three stages for we are constantly evaluating success for customer service delivery and execution. We are communicating to our potential and current guests what we have to offer.  We should be proactive during this stage.

In stage two or during their stay, tourist experience what they have designed.  This is the moment of truth.  Do we live up to what we have communicated?  Do we validate their expectations formed?  Do we deliver on tangibles and intangibles?  During this stage, they can still purchase more products, so communication is an ongoing action.  They may be writing positive and negative messages about their experience.

Aforementioned that this stage is highlighted by our “Moment of Truth”.  We have put our product and services out there, we’ve set a price, a value, through words, and images, through actions, and promises.  Have we lived up to those promises?  Usually during this time we are reactive, and may or may not be proactive.  We are reacting to what is happening within the experience, and hopefully, converting any negative experiences to positive ones.  We are recapturing potential loss that might occur with the unfulfilled aspect of promises.

In the third stage, or after, both sides are processing the event.  Guests are communicating and informing others about their experience.  They are analyzing and evaluating the experience, even writing testimonials to deliver to those interested utilizing word of mouth or electronic word of mouth.  They are demonstrating that they have done something, and that these actions may lead to future decision-making.

In contrast, operations or planner is analyzing, examining to inform, and strategize with stakeholders.  They are being reactive and proactive in this aspect in that they want to create a competitive advantage over others by more than addressing the negative messages.  The goal is to create product or destination that is constantly chosen over another, giving them the competitive advantage over another.

This leads to the concept of action-reaction-result loop.  This is a collective movement towards achieving goals and objectives.  This generations reflection, and helps the destination understand is strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Action-Reaction-Result Loop
Action-Reaction-Result Loop

There is an action undertaken by the client or planner, for that action there is a reaction by the guest albeit make a decision to travel, and operations makes promises, and as a result, the client will purchase products and contracts are delivered by operations.  This then leads to more actions, clients will travel whereas operations deliver on said promises.  There is a reaction on both parts, positive or negative, and there for a result.  Have we validated our promises?  If not, the guest will react, which results in negative comments, and as operators we must address that result.  If we don’t address that result, this could lead to an action by the consumer to pick someone else next time.

Recall that tourism is dynamic, ever-changing, and evolving.  These actions, reactions and results are ongoing as is the guest cycle.  They are looped and people are constantly considering travel.  It is our purpose as operations to convert interest into use.  Have them pick us time and time again, creating loyalty, repeat customers.  If so our entity will continue, and we create not only value for the customer but also the firm.

Recall the mantra:

Recall you are selling the right product {to the right person} at the right time, for the right price, for the right place or location, having the right promotion, engaging the right people, utilizing efficient and effective processes, and using truthful physical evidence, that is stories and testimonials to engage with your customer…

If not now, when…

If not now, when…

If not now, when…words I contemplate every single day.  I want to get real about motivations.  To this day, I still don’t think we truly understand why people do what they do.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2016

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2016
Performer on The Mound at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe on Flickr Edinburgh Fringe, VisitScotland Flickr

It’s that old adage, what comes first, the chicken or the egg?  When is that prompt, that kernel of an idea, that innate want to move originate?  To me its a constant white noise that lingers in my brain, in my ears, in all of my senses, and my soul that stirs the blood, and makes me want to shift into action.  I can sit in my car and just by reading my odometer ignite “the itch”.  I am a fidgeter, unable to sit still.  I have been like that my whole life.  My family, especially my siblings, loathe that part of me.

But why do I constantly have these emotional tugs, these pulls, and pushes to want to travel?  My reasons are a murky, muddy, misty, maleficent (mischief not evil people) to just flip-up my finger on my mundane existence and salute it goodbye.  I wish I had the funds to just take my passport to the airport, walk right up to the counter, and say I want to book a flight to Scotland.  Take me away from here, now, please before my grey matter oozes out of my ears and cascades down over my shoulders.  Before my soul dries up, and my heart bends beyond endurance for the want to see my second home.

My fingers are typing hard upon the keyboard, and my emotions are chaotic.  Questions running amok.  And still one remains. Why?  Why is travel so important?  Why do I want to do it?  Why do I want to escape my mundane life and find something real?  Och, why am I asking that last question.  Why is that perception of travel a point of reality more so than my current existence?

Tay Forest Park, Perthshire

Autumnal view over Taymouth Castle and Strath Tay near Kenmore, towards The Tay Forest Park, Perthshire, Scotland VisitScotland Flickr

Pennsylvania

Johnstown Incline Plane and Johnstown, PA by Lost in Scotland, Flickr.

The textures of the landscape in Scotland is not unlike the natural environments of my home in Pennsylvania.  Perthshire particularly is like the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania.  I have memories built upon my time spent immersed within the landscape.  I can describe the smells, the sounds, the sights, the interactions, and yes, even apply the mystical.  But the cold reality is, traveling and being a tourist centers, and focuses my spirit.  Maybe I’m not meant to understand the emotional need.  Maybe I’m just being too complicated.

The prospect of not being able to move, to travel is something I don’t want to fathom.  I need those moments, even if it is a day trip somewhere.  The reasons for travel are unique to each individual.  My sister and I diverge on genealogy tourism, the want to find our roots, and the places associated with our ancestors.  My sister isn’t in to that type of hobby.  Me, I would love to see where these people lived.  I know the first time I wanted to go to Scotland, back in 1993, genealogy wasn’t on my list.  I have to laugh about this story.

Dad's college grad pic

Dad, Lost in Scotland Flickr.

I was turning 3o and reached a point where I felt that strong pull, that tug for Scotland.  I had read, researched, snatched, and bought all the marketing material I could about the country.  Their words, their stories, their pictures was a great push to get me moving.  I have had this innate feeling since I was a youngster and (ahem) snatched Dad’s copy of National Geographic as it came into the mail.  I can’t tell you the joy I felt when that yellow and white covered magazine showed up in our mailbox.  I would snatch out those maps, those pictures and line my walls.  They were my obsessions as a kid, not the latest rock star.  But at 30, I had an epiphany.  I skirted finally over the edge into an adult mode of thought, and the freedom that came with it.  I made a decision I wanted to go to Scotland.  I went home, sat my parents down, and told them point-blank, “I’m going to Scotland.”

Dad’s reaction, and I love my Dad very much, was you aren’t going.  Remember, Dad grew up in a different era, and has a differing point of view about the fairer sex.  Women, especially young women, didn’t travel alone.  I was all for it.  I was still his baby girl.  That is the big bad ass world out there, and I want you safe.  God I love him.  So he made the promise to me that we would go together, Mom, Dad, my sister, and me.  “Give me the stuff, and I’ll make the arrangements.”

“Sure.”  I pushed over my bag of research, and settled the planning into his capable hands.  Remember this is the time before the Internet, and WWW.  They had a computer, but that was for writing letters, and doing jobs off-line.  They weren’t connected.  I didn’t even have one.  I sold 286’s at my weekend job for Staples, but at best had a typewriter to do work on.  Research was hard copy.  I went back to Washington, DC, worked a week, and called the following Sunday.

After the usual pleasantries,  we got down to business.  I asked how was the planning going?  He replied great, and explained the itinerary.  I listened and then cringed when he said that we would fly into London, tour England then go to Wales.  I asked what about Scotland.  No, no Scotland, England and Wales.  I explained I didn’t want to go to Wales, but Scotland.  I thought you wanted to go see where your ancestors are from.  No, I replied, I want, need to go to Scotland.  Long story short, we went to Scotland via London, then Liverpool, then Scotland.  There were no direct flights back then into Glasgow or Edinburgh.

Dad’s focus was genealogy.  That was his motivation.  That time period, he would have been in his early sixties.  How our interests change over the years, and mirror those that have an influence on our decision-making.  I am totally for going back to Scotland, because I just found out that our ancestors are not only from Wales, but also Scotland.  So my motivations have shifted.

I want to go to Wales, because there is one piece of the family genealogy that remains elusive.  I love puzzles, and I want to solve it.

So motivations are unique to each individual.  Why I think will be that elusive piece that we might not be able to adequately understand or find.  That proverbial sock that got lost in the dryer.  One day its one point of view, the next another.  Life, maturity, and experience will shift those variables around, shake them up.