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.

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.

Veterans Day

Veterans Day
WWI Vet by Lost in Scotland (bap)
WWI Vet by Lost in Scotland (bap)

Today is Veterans Day (thank you to all that serve, or have served our Country), and another opportunity to dive into different market segments, and motivations for tourism.  Over the last few weeks we have been studying travel motivations, the tourist, and social & economic impacts of tourism.  After we finish social impacts, we are going to immerse into marketing, and promoting tourism and a destination.  On this day, I am reminded of my own family, my ancestors that have served their country in the armed forces.  Stories of their times as soldiers, stories of the campaigns, and other historical events shaped my life.  As I discussed earlier in the year, we are all products of three environment, social, economic, and natural/man-made.  Events that exert forces against those three environments shape the realities in which we form opinions, our understanding of a greater world.  And thus shape our travel lifestyle.

My parents, and grandparents are part of the Greatest Generation, growing up in a time of such conflict that it had a huge bearing on how they viewed the world.  If I construct a timeline of those events, and all that had happened, most of the innovations, their responses, shaped my world view, and several generations after that.  Both good and bad.  My travel motivation, my push, pull factors, can be traced to those specific incidents of knowledge, and experience.  We learn at the foot of our parents, grandparents first.  We gradually gain independence and learn, broaden our understanding through experience, even travel.  Motivations, therefore, change over time, and morph, to external forces.

This lends to the development of the tourism systems in destinations.  That these stories, these events, these forces exert some influence on a destination to construct structures to fulfill demand.  I wouldn’t go to Scotland, to specific places if I didn’t study its history.  A favorite place is Culloden Battlefield in Inverness.  I grew up traversing the United States with a history teacher.  His passions were American Revolutionary War, and Civil War battlefields.  Well, anything historical.  (Now that begs the question, what about Mom…since I understand a bit of that generation…I think her answer would be…”I was happy doing anything your Father wanted.  As long as we escaped…”  Mom wasn’t the primary planner.  I wonder if they even did any planning???  They only time I can remember when they did do any real strategic planning was in 1978, and that was foiled by certain events in the family.  I think they planned, as their parents planned.  They went to places they knew, given their limited budget.  AAA was a major factor in this planning, and for us kids, that triptych…to have control of that, you were in the primary seat of authority!!!)  That is motivation.  Motivated to the familiar, within a certain level of income.  I think we went to the historical places because both of my parents were teachers, and Dad wanted to enhance our education.  As children, I’m sure we saw the fun, especially locking up my brother in the stocks at Williamsburg.

Locking up brother in the stocks at Williamsburg, VA
Locking up brother in the stocks at Williamsburg, VA

Yes, the push of family togetherness.  The idea to spend time together, and enjoy life.  Another of Crompton’s push factors.  We utilizes these factors to make decisions as consumers.  Destinations need to understand this aspect of the consumer to determine and strategize marketing strategies as well as development of the infrastructure.

There are some misconceptions in tourism.  The number one being is the myth that ‘if you build it, they will come…’.  Sure you can build, and sure tourist will come, but not always.  What sets one destination apart from another is the currency of their promotional power.  And it’s all about the story.  What story can you articulate that will turn interest into actual use?  How can you use other tourists that have visited your destination to engage others that are on the fence?  What images can you collect to truthfully represent your destination, and fulfill the expectations and desires of your visitor?

What can spark that motivational switch in all of us to do something?  How can a destination turn that switch on, and pull tourist to their shores, instead of somewhere else.

This is illustrated uniquely recently in Scotland with the televised show from STARZ, entitled Outlander.  (By no means is this the first time a television show or movie has sparked travelers to travel  Braveheart way back in 1995 did this for Scotland.)  Literature has sparked the pull for travel for centuries. This is nothing new.  The Grand Tour, and Victorian travel, the emergence of the middle class as tourists was pulled by the increase in education, and the ability of other members of society to have access to novels, and novellas, journals.  Today we have the Internet, movies, books, TV shows, and other mediums that showcase particular destinations.  Initial Statistics are just out for Outlander, and Scottish tourism is reaping the benefits (see Hollywood Reporter, and The Guardian).  Scotland as a destination, the natural landscape, and its history are supporting characters in this show, even the lead in my opinion as tourism researcher.

Outlander STARZ
Outlander STARZ

So there is a relationship between the tourist, tourism motivations, and the tourist system.  And even storytelling, experience….

The story continues….

Today we talked about tourism motivations…

Today we talked about tourism motivations…

Why do we travel?  Why do we want to get away from it all?  It is different for all of us.  Our motivations are particular to each of us.  The key for the tourism destination, their marketing staff, and those part of the greater value chain, are to develop a message that tugs, and pulls you to make a decision.  It is hard though.  It is hard to understand why people choose one place over another.  There is a plethora of research out there, hinting at the various angles.

Motivations change over time, even minutes.  It is not an exact science, but more relative, and qualitative.  It will always have air of mystery.  The crystal ball will be murky, clouded by the mist that is our minds, those internal and external forces that exert some influence on that decision.  What drives me today, is not the same tomorrow?

So how do we get into the mind of the consumer?  How do we dig for nuggets of information in order to craft experiences that they would want?  What goes in to making those marketing messages that bombard us on TV, and other distribution channels?

Can we employ words, videos, music, and other methods to create visuals that plant kernels into the minds of our potential consumers?  That means we need to dive into the breadth of the soul of a destination.  Not just from a customer’s point of view, but also the destination itself.

I know you might get tire of my ongoing use of Scotland, but Scotland is the birthplace of organized tourism in modern times (IMHO).  Think Sir Walter Scott and the search for the honors of Scotland…just noodle around Google.  Their representation of the country align the tangible products of the country with the mystique, and mystery, the colors, the culture, the taste, the music, the words…the soul.

If we understand ourselves as a destination, then strike out to understand our potential customer, who they are, what drives their motivations; their lifestyle, then we can pinpoint on the mosaic of products all that they might be interested in, and craft an experience.

As I said in today’s class, 140, we are visual thinkers.  Books, words, transform into pictures as we read.  Therefore, the image is currency. We develop a sense of that destination from what is on the page.  Likewise, any encounters with the people of differing backgrounds, those conversations can give you a sense of their background, their lifestyle, their home.  It may just be enough to prompt us to investigate, even if it is from the arm-chair in front of our computer.

After we get them to move, make a decision, we wonder how their stay was…and that gets into a whole different arena

So, enough to chew on….more on the conversation later…