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.

On the road again…

On the road again…
Horatio Nelson Jackson
Horatio Nelson Jackson

And in tourism, we are talking about the history of tourism, and how the tourism umbrella, the value/supply chain has evolved in organization and complexity over the thousands of years it has been in existence.

Students are assigned a discussion question after watching the Ken Burn’s documentary about Horatio Nelson Jackson‘s road trip across the United States in 1903.  The documentary is called ‘America’s First Road Trip’.

Jackson, Crocker and Bud the dog, in their 1903 Winton
Jackson, Crocker and Bud the dog, in their 1903 Winton

The film depicts Horatio and Sewall K. Crocker, and eventually Jackson’s dog Bud criss-crossing the continent in a 1903 red colored Winton.  Throughout the film, the students will see the lack of roads, the lack of services, we take for granted today.  A real authentic experience.  How many of us have packed up the car, and gone on that long road trip?  My family did just that when I had just learned how to drive.  We went from east to the west, circumventing the north of the US, and then down through Rockies, and across the southwest, south to get back home.  Sixteen states one summer.

Dad and the station wagon
Dad in front of the old station wagon, late ’60s

Looking back at that time, I remember the fun, but also the cramped, conditions.  We weren’t in a station wagon, but an old Chevy Caprice Classic. Cramped space for five at the time.  Now that I examine that time period, I realized how much I have matured as a traveler.  How much our industry has gained over the years.

That our industry has a complexity.  That there are a lot of dots to align to create an experience that people will enjoy.  And what if they aren’t?  What happens?  Over the next few weeks we will be discussing this more, and getting into that complexity.  Discussing the needs and wants of the tourist, matching those needs, and the relationship to the three environments.  How place attachment is developed, utilized by the marketing efforts of a destination.  What value we can create and exchange.  The impact on the host community.

And how has authentic travel has changed, and taken on new meaning.

Welcome to the new school year…

Well another school year has started, and I always love meeting the new students and spying the upper class persons roaming around the halls.  I had a great summer, working, and spending time with family.  I hope my student’s summers were just as special.

So to start out the new year…remember the mantra:

In tourism…

Recall you are selling the right product 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…

 

Looking inward, looking outward…Cultural Intelligence

Looking inward, looking outward…Cultural Intelligence

As students and professional in tourism and hospitality, in every facet of our industry, we will be able to interact with a host of people from all parts of the world.  As I stipulate in class, we must remember that anyone can walk through that door.  They will speak a variety of languages, walk different pathways than your own, and have different customs, different points of reality, points of view.  This thought hints at the notion of Cultural Intelligence.

Tourism is a global industry.  Success hinges on acquiring and developing a cultural intelligence.  It is more than just a strategy, but a way of life.  Those that succeed will be cognizant of the need for cultural intelligence.  And this isn’t just cultural competency.  Cultural competency is part of cultural intelligence.  To best illustrate, and set the foundation for understand here is a video…

Cultural intelligence percolates through the multilayers of the three legs of business effectiveness and efficiency:  Operational, Organizational and Financial.

Can you map out those connections?

Here is another great video…

Welcome back students…Spring, 2015

Welcome back students…Spring, 2015

This semester is energized with the opportunity for new thoughts, and new ideas.  We will be challenged, both in the classroom, and with external forces from local, regional, national and international factors.

I am teaching four courses this semester, Principles of Food Service, Purchasing, Principles of Tourism, and Lodging.

I wanted to start the new year out with an interesting video from Michiel Bakker, Director at Google Food Service…

 

What does Service mean in Hospitality?

What does Service mean in Hospitality?

So I have been noodling around YouTube, Google and other materials to find out more about service.  There are a host of resources out there, both factual, and opinionated.  So I went to the source for an example of exemplary service.  There is perhaps one name, that has stood the test of time for consistently delivering on their promise of quality guest service.  And that is Ritz Carlton.  Yet, do their promotional videos get at the heart of what service really means?  For instance, here is their latest video upload to YouTube:

Of course any promotional material will be from the point of view of the customer, but here are host of promises from business to consumer.  As I have stated in class, there are three drivers influencing our industry, money or financial, information, and promises.  Service is a promise.  Service is a human element; a coordinated effort between all team members to deliver on a promise.

Okay, but what about the definition:

According to Brymer and Johanson (2014, glossary), Service is:

A type of product that is intangible, goods that are inseparable from the provider, variable in quality, and perishability.  The reason why private clubs exist; members receive high-end, personalized service at their club.

The authors go on further to define Service Experience:

Sum total of the experience that the customer has with the service provider on a given occasion.

So, we can draw several inferences from these two concepts.  One, that service is an intangible element, varies in delivery, and is perishable.  That would mean that is has links to the human element of our industry, that it may or may not be consistent, and that it may or may not last.  Yet, perishability, in terms of service, needs a little more thought.  How do we draw turnover into this concept?  If service is perishable, part of the human element, could that not mean that we have a tenacious grasp on retaining valuable employees, that understand service, and its effect to the bottom line (profitability), and loyalty?  That employees, if not seen as a valuable asset to our company, could easily jump ship and migrate to another company that values their efforts.  Therefore, how we plan, how we coordinate, how we train, the matrix of our corporate culture, envisioned in our mission and vision statements, should relate back to that core concept of service.

So let us revisit The Ritz’s Credo:

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission.

We pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our guests who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambience.

The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.

That is a solid promise to guests, that must be communicated down through the layers of an organization.  Every day this must be reinforced, and understood.  It’s not just about the job, it’s an ideal, an attitude, that must percolate consistently through every employee’s mind.  This also extends the argument to empowering the employees with clearly defined promises.

Yet, what is that empowerment to the Ritz employee?  We must visit their motto.

At The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C., “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.” This motto exemplifies the anticipatory service provided by all staff members.

Here the culture is proactive, already a thought in their mind, even before a guest decides to stay with them.  They understand the moment of truth, that at any contact point, they can and will make a difference.  The Ritz further articulates this into the Three Steps of Service:

  1. A warm and sincere greeting. Use the guest’s name.
  2. Anticipation and fulfillment of each guest’s needs.
  3. Fond farewell. Give a warm good-bye and use the guest’s name.

Again, these steps illustrate the need to understand your guest, before, during and after their stay.  We need to understand their decision-making process, their needs, their wants, even if they don’t understand quite what they want themselves.  It is about relationship building, CRM (Customer Relationship Management); about asking the right questions in order to understand, to progress from a limited awareness to a greater awareness.  To be cognizant of our world around us.  If someone family suddenly pops into your establishment without a reservation, and Mom is holding a three-year old, and Dad is trying to coral and maintain order with the other two youngsters, you know to ask a few questions to make their stay more comfortable.  Look at the people, look at what is going on, note the time, note the weather, even if you are sold out.  Service is about going that extra mile for your guest.

These steps can be further broken down into objectives or values:

Service Values: I Am Proud To Be Ritz-Carlton

  1. I build strong relationships and create Ritz-Carlton guests for life.
  2. I am always responsive to the expressed and unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.
  3. I am empowered to create unique, memorable and personal experiences for our guests.
  4. I understand my role in achieving the Key Success Factors, embracing Community Footprints and creating The Ritz-Carlton Mystique.
  5. I continuously seek opportunities to innovate and improve The Ritz-Carlton experience.
  6. I own and immediately resolve guest problems.
  7. I create a work environment of teamwork and lateral service so that the needs of our guests and each other are met.
  8. I have the opportunity to continuously learn and grow.
  9. I am involved in the planning of the work that affects me.
  10. I am proud of my professional appearance, language and behavior.
  11. I protect the privacy and security of our guests, my fellow employees and the company’s confidential information and assets.
  12. I am responsible for uncompromising levels of cleanliness and creating a safe and accident-free environment.

What these are,are goals and objectives, in developing a corporate culture.  Something that is deeply rooted in the psyche of every employee.  Not only for the guest, but also, in how all employees are treated.  And thus a promise is made between the company and their employees:

At The Ritz-Carlton, our Ladies and Gentlemen are the most important resource in our service commitment to our guests.

By applying the principles of trust, honesty, respect, integrity and commitment, we nurture and maximize talent to the benefit of each individual and the company.

The Ritz-Carlton fosters a work environment where diversity is valued, quality of life is enhanced, individual aspirations are fulfilled, and The Ritz-Carlton Mystique is strengthened.

So, what have we learned.  Service is about promises, about experience for both the employee and the guest.  And that leads to the final definition offered by Brymer and Johanson (2014, Glossary):

Service product: Entire bundle of tangibles and intangibles in a transaction that has a significant service component.

 

 

Tourism and Culture….

Tourism and Culture….
The Travel Needs Ladder (©2012, Goeldner &Ritchie, p. 206)
The Travel Needs Ladder (©2012, Goeldner &Ritchie, p. 206)

Why do we travel?  Is it just because we need to escape, and get away from our mundane lives?  Or is it more?  Is it to spend frivolously on souvenirs?  What are our motivations to travel?  Is there some underlying cause?  Perhaps one we aren’t aware of?

I remember my 20s & 30s were marked with a thousand questions.  I was trying to navigate the waters, trying to figure out what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.  I realized now, after much and continued speculation, I was searching for a deeper meaning in life.  All of my basic needs were met, and I was progressing up Maslow/Murray’s pyramid.  I thought life was a bit mundane, ordinary.  I wanted the extraordinary, and I always felt something ‘more’ when I filled up the gas tank, and escaped.  I still fill that way.

I wanted to get out and explore the world at large.  I wanted to see if people felt the same as I did about life.  I couldn’t live the life that my parents had chosen, my brother or sister.  I was conflicted at the traditional pattern of life.  I saw the merits of that existence, but I have always wanted more.  I wanted the “road less traveled.”

I realized that I wanted to know the world.  As a manager, I knew that any one person from around the world could walk through my doors, and I needed to have the cultural intelligence to have a conversation.  I realized that the US is not the center of our world.  That there were other countries out there with just as fascinating populace, and landscapes.  That prompt, that thought tugged at my heart, pushed and pulled me to act.

And you are at that point in your own life.  Your mind full of questions, and apprehension, that seem to be overwhelming.  Listen to that voice, because it will help you to be a better manager.  A leader in today’s tourism/hospitality environment is one that understand’s the greater context of our world, and can apply the underlying principles of cultural intelligence.

As Goeldner & Ritchie (Tourism, Principles, Practices, Philosophies (2012), p. 211) suggest, a student, and subsequent manager, one needs to learn to:

  • recognize that travel experiences are the best way to learn about other cultures
  • identify the cultural factors in tourism
  • appreciate the rewards of participation in life-seeing tourism
  • become aware of the most effective promotional measures involving an area’s cultural resources
  • realize the importance of cultural attractions to any area promotion itself as a tourist destination
  • evaluate the contributions that international tourism can make toward world peace.

Now, I know, that many can’t travel the world, but that doesn’t mean you can’t experience from afar.  You have an instrument in front of you, your computer, and access to the Internet to arm yourself with information.  As I said before information is one of the drivers of our industry.  It is the most important driver in the world.  Without information, there is ignorance.  And that ignorance leads to fear, leads to misunderstanding.  We can’t be afraid of tourism, our its different sectors.  As the aforementioned authors have indicated, culture will be the defining attraction variable of a destination (p. 212).

Tourism is about interaction, about relationships.  We understand ourselves, and others through tourism.  And that is the crux, to step out of the uncertainty of life, and into a greater light.  Progress from a limited awareness to a greater awareness, and be open to all the worlds uniqueness.

Tourism is a vehicle for peace.  Because we have eliminated the fear, the unknown, and see the world for its truth.  That all cultures have lines of commonality, and divergence.  That our story might just be similar to others.  That diversity is a good thing.

I told you the story of my visit to family in Germany.  That my cousins that I was staying with didn’t speak a word of English, and that I had to rely on their daughter for interpretation.  Yet, one night, my cousin (that was my Father’s age), and I sat down in front of the TV to watch Germany play England in ‘footie’, soccer.  We found a platform to communicate, because we both were soccer fans.  We could talk a common language, and break through the tension that existed, because of my lack of knowledge of the German language.  I knew my faults, and still wish to this day, that I had learned German from my father.  I know that to be a worldly person, I need to go further, farther in my own development to bridge the gap.  I must not wait for others, that I must strive for that higher level thought.

Berlin CathedralYet, during that visit, I made several trips.  I traveled to Berlin, and saw several attractions.  I have been a student of history, and wanted to know more about the trials Germans experienced during WWII.  I wanted to see the concentration camps, to understand the suffering of others.  Bergen BelsenI wanted to get back to the roots of my family, and understand the hardships they had to endure, and their own triumphs of spirit.

I was looking for the authentic, to find those remnants from our not too distant past.  I was really a combination of several tourist categories:  cultural, ethnic, and historical.

So, returning to that original concept.  The reason for your travel may not truly be entirely articulated.  When asked, you may tell the interviewer, you traveled for fun.  But deep, down in that part of you, that is always changing, evolving, you also came to experience a different place, a different culture.  You wanted greater meaning to your life.

And so do your visitors.  The purpose of their trips, their escape, their travel, has several reasons.  A manager will recognize that their visitors will have a multitude of reasons.  Again, it is about asking the right questions, not trying to assume you know for certain their reasonings.  Value will be realized if we take that extra step to be more present in our global village.

Tourism, travel is a journey…and life is that journey….