Is an event an attraction? Is something like the Edinburgh Military Tattoo an attraction? Are the Olympics? The varying scopes of attractions.
Attractions can be the prime motivation for travel to a destination. They can be a secondary reason for travel or as a stopover. How many have navigated Route 66 in the US, only to stop over and visit some of the many curiosities along the way.
Time is relative. It can span a good amount or very little. The reasons for any visitation depends on the individual or market segment.
Who owns the attraction? Who is the governing body that manages the attraction? This may dictate prices or fees for entry. What is on offer or not? Will it be profitable or non-profit.
Attractions can be classified as having various degrees of permanency. Are they a permanent fixture in the landscape? Or is it just a building, that the exhibits are the attraction and can be moved from one place to another.
The Olympics and the Military Tattoo have a short duration, and can be moved from one place to another. They are events. Though there is some permanency by fixing it within Edinburgh. The concept of Military Tattoo can exist in other cities, but there is only one Edinburgh (Scotland) Military Tattoo.
But an attraction such as the National Football Hall of Fame has both fixed and movable permanency. The exhibits are the attraction and can be moved if they outgrow their current housing. The building, though a wonderful piece of architecture, is permanent, but can be repurposed if necessary.
So, attractions can be classified by the various degrees or scopes. I have just touched on a few here, and yes, they can be a matrix of complexity.
Complexity in that they can have scopes of permanency, cultural, and type of facilities. That leads into the discussion of how do we measure success. A question for another day.
Well, this winter has been the worst so far for me living in the north of center. I haven’t seen this much snow since I was a child in rural southwestern Pennsylvania. Those winters were brutal (see slide show). North of center also has its brutal winters, just like back home. But not this bad that university cancelled classes for a week, and some. So, what do you do to keep the students progressing along when you have ‘snow’ days? Videos and recorded lectures.
Prime opportunity to test my idea of using Jurassic Park, Jurassic World and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom in my Development of Tourist Attractions. I can hear the ‘whys’ from here. Well, the video illustrates the concept of development from the first movie.
John Hammond (portrayed by the late Sir Richard Attenborough) had this brilliant idea to develop and open a ‘theme’ park for his now non-extinct dinosaurs. The opening minutes to Jurassic Park has Hammond convincing the other title characters to come and put their stamp of approval on his park. They are after all paleontologist and this is their expertise. Apparently, safety issues for the insurance companies are delaying the park’s opening. In John Hammond’s eyes, this park is a good thing.
Yet, how do I use it for my class? Well, students are asked to watch the film, scrutinize it against their knowledge about tourism, tourism development and attraction management. The main question–Is this park or its current inception, successful? Could it be successful as it is designed from a tourism point of view?
Are the elements of the tourism umbrella developed? What is the degree of value chain apparent? What about carrying capacity? What about value? And more. All valid questions to ask when considering success. How did Disney and the Disney company build and manage successful theme parks?
Fast forward to Jurassic World from 2015. A long twenty-two years have passed and the first rendition of the park has given way to a realized attraction.
Making of Main Street in Jurassic World (see the full realized version of Main Street Here). The young lads have made it to the island via air travel and boat, they are staying at a Hilton and have been given an RFID bracelet from their Aunt Claire. There are restaurants along main street, souvenir shops, and the park is peppered with different rides and amusements to entertain the whole family. Personally, I would have loved to pet the baby dinosaurs in the petting zoo.
We are taken behind the scenes and learn about the ‘success’ of the theme park when Claire is introduced in the movie. As she explains, revenue continues to climb, but operating costs are starting to exceed revenue capture. Shareholders are demanding a return on their investment. The consumers or tourist aren’t ‘impressed with dinosaurs’ anymore. Doesn’t mean that the park isn’t trying to listen to their consumers. They know the tourist want ‘bigger, better, louder–more teeth.” So, R&D or asset development saunters in with uncovering and ‘building’ dinos to the consumer’s wants. As the movie progresses, things go drastically wrong with their latest and greatest asset. The Indominus Rex sets off a chain reaction that destroys the park and injures, kills a lot of people (See for yourself).
The students did pretty well identifying the umbrella. Some went so far as to question the safety and security of the different renditions of the parks. This is testing their ability to see past the obvious. Critically analyze from a management standpoint what the park did or didn’t do. My biggest question left that some hinted at but not explicitly identified was–Why did they have to develop more assets? Why not utilize the other management process for the park? (I know it’s a movie, they needed something more drastic for a story line.) But really, what about the other functions of management?
Under planning, managers can re-envision the marketing function. Why not package the park and its core activities into unique offerings? Create value by another means other than dinosaur development. A hint of this was discussed by several students. This also begs the question of sustainability and carrying-capacity. Did the park reach a point where the functions of management entered into a detrimental phase? That something negative was about to happen. As illustrated by the image above, the tourism business environment, communication was seriously lacking. This leads to the belief that even though for all outward appearances Jurassic World was a successful and profitable enterprise, the measurement of that success wasn’t completely positive.
Criteria are developed from their ten identifiers:
The 10 As of Successful Tourism Destinations (Morrison, 2013)
o Awareness: Related to tourists’ level of knowledge about the destination and is influenced by the amount and nature of the information they receive.
o Attractiveness: Number and geographic scope of appeal of the destination’s attractions comprise this attribute.
o Availability: Determined by the ease with which bookings and reservations can be made for the destination, and the number of booking and reservation channels available.
o Access: Convenience of getting to and from the destination, as well as moving around within the destination.
o Appearance: Measures the impressions that the destination makes on tourists, both when they first arrive and then throughout their stays in the destination.
o Activities: Extent of the array of activities available to tourists within the destination.
o Assurance: The safety and security of the destination for tourists.
o Appreciation: The feeling of the levels of welcome and hospitality.
o Action: The availability of a long-term tourism plan and a marketing plan for tourism are some of the required actions.
o Accountability: The evaluation of performance by the destination management organization (DMO).
They need to identify their criteria, state the definition by Morrison, and then interpret what that means. Then derive variables, statements or questions from their research information about that criteria. For instance, Attractiveness stipulates an appeal. Appeal means you like something. You found something agreeable. We settled on a definition and interpretation. And so I posed several questions. Why do tourist like a destination or attraction? We worked through this criteria in class as an example and utilized Disney. Since most had visited Disney World in Florida, I asked them, as tourist, what did you like about Disney? We gained a lot of different answers–location, climate, nice employees, variety of attractions, etc. I asked what didn’t you like about Disney? A few more questions were asked, and we teased out a host of verbs and adjectives.
Those verbs and adjectives become the variables that describe the criteria. One student came after class to discuss it further and I rather liked how she constructed statements and questions surrounding those variables. One that stood out was: “Does this attraction leave a lasting impression?” As part of the project they need to articulate these variables, and what they mean from their point of view. I don’t have insight into their thoughts without it. My crystal ball is broken and I can’t read their minds. I asked her what do you mean by impression. Fifteen minutes later she had a good handle on what she meant. And we were able to find more information for her to digest, namely visitor surveys and other statistical information already published about the attraction.
Within tourism, people travel to destinations because there is something to see or do. Therefore, success hinges on the developing worthwhile attractions. Something that will attract tourist time and time again. Hence, why Disney is so successful. They are constantly changing, updating to trends and taste, to their movies and interests.
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?
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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…
1. Fyall, A., Garrod, B., Leask, Anna, & Garrod, Brian. (2003). Managing visitor attractions : New directions / edited by Alan Fyall, Brian Garrod and Anna Leask.
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.
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.
Employees (all levels)
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.
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.
Yes and no, and if they do, not always will tourist return.
Tourism, like any other industry, is a complex set of functions, processes, and activities. You can’t develop an attraction without some thought to why you want it in the first place. A feasibility study should be conducted of the area and thus, an audit of other similar attractions should be included. The carrying capacity of any destination, big or small, should be analyzed to know the resources you have and lack.
Resources are important, in their raw and refined form. What are they and how will they sustain your development today and tomorrow? How much do we need to develop to make an entity a viable point for visitation. Something just doesn’t grow up over night or decline and close. Disney started planning for Walt Disney World more than a decade before he even started to build.
Here is a short video about that process.
What if those resources, and tourist are scarce? What are you going to do?
Tourism by its nature is seasonal and perishable. There are peaks and valleys of movement. Our products have a 24-hour use, and if we don’t attract the numbers to our attractions, revenue is lost.
I ask my students to consider their own experience when answering questions in order for them to apply context to the problems I pose. As I stated before, I sifted through my Dad’s colored slides while I was home over Christmas break. Our 1967 trip to Montreal included the Upper State New York, and a place called North Pole, NY. There is a Christmas village aptly named after the North Pole. The park opened on November 1, 1949 and is still in existence today. That’s almost 70 years old.
But the North Pole isn’t in the bustling mecca of Orlando. It is nestled in small corner of the Adirondack’s with one way in, and one way out. If you are going to get there, you are going to have to drive. Limited accommodation with Lake Placid, NY 12 miles away. Accessibility, challenging but doable. But what makes it successful to stay in business for almost 70 years?
Good question. What variables do we use to judge a successful destination. That is another post for another time.