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…

 

Then that begs the question…

Then that begs the question…

In my previous post, I discussed why we study tourism goods and services, and as I sat at home last night, began to wonder, if I should not talk about my other classes, and their purpose.

Why study tourism, development of tourist attractions, and international meeting planning?

Why study the history of tourism as well as its impacts?  Why dive deep into the nuances of our industry?  Because this is a fact of our lives.

Tourism is one of the oldest industries on the planet.  It changes and morphs, evolves with the changes to society.  It even pushes society to change given the innovation of technology.  Even dictating to other industries to innovate for us.  (Think cell phones people.  If it wasn’t for Gene Roddenberry and his idea for a Star Trek communicator, we would have our little SMART devices nor could we make reservations on them.)  So tourism is interwoven into our lives, into our DNA.  We all need and want the process, the action, and the function of tourism, because we want to have a rich and fulfilling lives.

Swissair Motelodge, 1967
The year our family went to the Montreal Expo.

 

Over winter break I returned home to Pennsylvania to see my parents and give Mom a break for taking care of my father.  While home, I dug out Dad’s old cases of slides that he has accumulated from his 86 years on this planet.  I found some early slides of our family vacations.  One I vaguely remember due to my age was the trip we made through Pennsylvania, upper state New York, and over the border to Montreal for the Montreal Expo and World’s Fair.

As I copied the slides, I tried to recall this moment in my life.  The memories are vague shapes and snippets of images.  Visions lost in the mists of my mind’s eye.  I can recall nothing of the drive, nothing of the moments in Fort Ticonderoga, nothing of the beautiful scenery.  I can see a bit of Niagara Falls, because of those darn rain coats we had to wear and the spray from the falling water.  A picnic of Kentucky Fried Chicken on our hotel room floor.  Our family had never encountered that before, and my sister begged for a picnic.  That’s it, nothing more.

But my Dad’s slides were evidence of our family outings in the time span of our lives together.

Time is a variable associated with the definition of tourism.  Questions surrounding time should be asked to understand needs and wants, to design experiences and fulfill expectations.  Time cannot be discounted in the evolution of our industry.

Yes, Swissaire Motelodge still exists, but the Swissaire brand went out of business in the 1980s.  That doesn’t seem like that long ago, but its over 30 some years.  Wow, 1967 to 2017 is a fifty year span, and the motel of my youth is still there.  Still in existence but with a different name.  The Brookside Motor Inn.  The only amenity missing is the above ground pool in the parking lot.

Brookside Motor Inn in Jay, NY
This was the former Swissaire Motelodge of 1967.

So, back to my original reason for this post. Why study these particular subjects?

Tourism is a business and like any other we need to know how it evolved.  We need to examine the footprint in a historical context as well as today.  We need to understand the impact, both positive and negative, to understand what to do now, and in the future.  We need to learn from the past so mistakes can be learned from, and its lessons utilized today and tomorrow.

We need to understand the value in all its varied forms.  The quantifiable and the qualitative essence.  For a better analogy, it is a machine, and if we don’t know how it works, how to take care of it, and sustain it for today and tomorrow, we will perish.  Our product life cycle will come to an end, and the ramifications for all parties are huge.  Loss of revenues for not only the business but the host community.  Loss of jobs, loss of incomes, loss…and that loss will multiply across other industries.  Demonstrating the inter-connectedness that tourism has within the fabric of our lives.

So that is why we study it.