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?

Daily Prompt: Underground

Daily Prompt: Underground

Buchanan Street Metro
Buchanan Street Underground in Glasgow, Scotland.

The other day, as I was driving home, I was contemplating all the states and cities I have lived in to this point.  My bags have been packed numerous times, moving between seven different states, their cities, and one country.  The average length of time I have spent in any one city is seven years.  Typical of someone who works in this industry.  We are constantly moving.  The early years of my career–especially one year– I moved nine times.

I didn’t grow up in a city with an underground.  We really couldn’t have one, due to the fact Johnstown was settled on a flood plain and water was a constant threat no matter what time of year.  It was only in the big cities where I encountered an Underground.  But Underground in tourism can mean a host of different things.  Transportation aside, the movement from point A to point B, undergrounds have been known to be tourist attractions unto themselves.  Anyone who loves to people watch, should take a circuit on a metro.  It is a wealth of fodder for writing.

Insecurities

But there is more than people.  When I lived in Boston or Washington, DC or Glasgow, there was always activities going on about these centers.  People would play music, sing, trying to capture loose change from commuters.

Music at the Underground
Music at the Underground. Buchanan Street Metro Stop, Glasgow, Scotland.

The metro is a way station for the movement of people. A stop-gap in everyday life. My first semester in Glasgow, was my first indoctrination into the football (footie) culture and their fans pouring out of the metro on their way to matches. The atmosphere was electric, and I was easily swept up in the excitement. Not unlike our American football games in the states. There is nothing like encountering Red Sox fans on their way to Fenway Park! Love that big, green wall.

Crazy Belgians Belgians Footie fans

The Underground is also full of history.  In tourism, we examine the historical timeline of development.  How we went from walking on two feet in search of food (and yes that is a part of tourism) to the complex infrastructure we have today. The Underground is a historical marker as well as a museum of information, both underground and above.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
St George at St. George’s Cross Underground

They are places to mark the passage of time and illustrate a vibrancy of living and dying.

Urban ExplorerBotanical Gardens Abandon Underground in Glasgow, Scotland

There is such a tourism market segment devoted to abandon places. We slip it into historical and dark tourism. Wanting to find that elusive piece in a complex puzzle to understand how life works.  They are a canvase conveying a sense of identity; a sense of self.  It also begs the question, ‘if you build it will they come?’.

Grand Central Terminal - Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Secret Train 

FDR’s secret underground tunnel and train car

And yet, keeping with tourist themes and life’s reality check, underground doesn’t necessarily mean transportation.  What you see today of Edinburgh was built upon, in some parts, older structures and vaults.  People actually lived there, and they have turned these old parts of the city into tourist attractions.  They represent cultural norms regulated to history.  They are their own landscape.  They represent a journey.  That there is life cycle in everything.

So the underground represents life, represents places to develop and utilize in the tourist space.  They have a history.  They are our own history. They are the current and the past, and represents the movement of time.  They are markers, canvases, and concert halls.

Underground
via Daily Prompt: Underground

My first foray in front of a camera

My first foray in front of a camera

Learning Glass
Learning Glass

Fridays will be a busy time for me this year as I utilize the Learning Glass technology.  Today, I was there an hour, and did three short videos.  As there is with all technology, there is, for a better word, a learning curve.  The first time I wore a bright color, and you couldn’t see the words.  This time I wore black, and hopefully will be a better wardrobe for the filming.

I haven’t got the energy level yet for this format as I do in the classroom.  It’s awkward for me because I would rather be behind the camera than in front.  And I would rather be in my own home than have to record in front of others.  I told the students to laugh along with me…

Wish me luck

Weekend fun…

Weekend fun…

Visited Mall of America this weekend to shop and to see the new JW Marriott hotel attached to the Mall of America. Awesome property, and employees so welcoming. The design of the front desk caught my eye because I have been saying for years that eventually we will be getting rid of the front desk as we know it, especially with the advanced application of technology. We are tethered to our gadgets, but this Marriott is an example of how to integrate technology, function and design with luxury and style. Other hotels are doing the same, notably Hyatt and Hyatt Place. I’m looking forward to see what the concept will eventually manifest into.

Sense of Belonging…

Sense of Belonging…

Stormy skies over Ring of Brodgar

Stormy skies over Ring of Brodgar, Orkney

So my tourism class has finished up for the most part motivation and I am sitting here reflecting on what we talked about.  I tried to convey to the students that they have to develop their own understanding of the functions of motivations for their own career aspirations.  To apply what we learn to their own passions, and how this will aid in becoming a better overall manager.  Yet, I continue to ponder the questions in my own life as a tourism researcher, as a tourism educator.

Why do people travel?  Why do we feel a kindred spirit with certain destinations?  Why are we tugged towards something that we have never really been before, and feel at home?  Why do we have a physiological, psychological, and cognitive response to a destination?  Finding out those answers is gold for a destination marketing organization.  If we can hook the heart of people, and have them make a decision, choose one destination over another, then we have succeeded at the function of promotion.

Yet, I always thought there was more to this behavior.

What are those feelings that tug at the heart, that sense of belonging that makes you return again and again to the same space, the same landscape?

What is that longing for a place?

It isn’t easy to articulate truthfully for some of us.  We are all drawn to a destination to fulfill some hierarchy of need.  Some hedonistic want to ‘see’ for ourselves what all the hype is about.  Sometimes, I can’t understand some over the top reactions to the elements of life.  I was never one to like concerts.  The behavior of participants that this was the be all to end all, that if they weren’t part of the equation, their life would somehow be less fulfilling.  I have only been to two rowdy concerts in my life, and sat in wonderment at the behavior of people.  It was nuts.  More than half the time I couldn’t hear the music for all the screaming.  I didn’t appreciate or enjoy those experiences at all, and will never again participate in such an event.

Outlander Season 2 EW photoshoot
Outlander-Caitriona-Balfe-and-Sam-Heughan-photographer MARC HOM for EW

I wouldn’t pass a moment to utilize STARZ’s Outlander as a teaching tool.  And I can’t understand some of the fan reaction to the program.  As I have stated before, the Scottish landscape figures as a character in the books by Diana Gabaldon’s series of time-travel books, and in the television show.  The marketing people are having a field day trying to gage and understand their audience.  Both participants flit from one spectrum to the next, and it is fun to watch from the sidelines.  Sometimes even take part.  Granted I am a fan of the show, for the most part the books, but I’m more of a ‘fan’ of the landscape, the country that it is based upon.  Scotland means more to me than words on a page, or the characters created and brought to life in a TV show.

But to each his or her own.  More than likely those words, just like Scott’s are an embellished representation of the genuine nature of a land, of a people, of a society.

Sense of belonging to me is not so boisterous.  Sense of belonging isn’t some fad that comes and goes.  True appreciation and enjoyment is long-standing, loyalty and more.  You know the bad exists, but the good overrides any hyped up contextualized or marginalized representation.  The true heart of the three environments that tourism and its properties are derived from (economic, sociocultural, and natural/man-made {built}) runs through deep layers of complexity.  Marketing isn’t an easy function of promotion, understanding motivation even harder.  Sometimes people get it wrong, but we hope we get it right.  Sometimes we won’t fulfill the implied promises, and people will be let down.  Their expectations won’t be met, but sometimes…you have to leave what you have envisioned through books, movies, tv, and even word of mouth, and look for yourself what is there.  Let go of all your baggage that you bring with you, and look, immerse yourself in the landscape to find that fulfillment.  As our part of tourism credo goes,

“travel with an open mind, and gentle heart”.

There is a shift in today’s marketing environment because of the interface of technology, and the use of differing platforms.  We are more in-touch than those that came before, those that had limited technology and accessibility to the variety, the diversity that is our world.  People see more, do more, have the capability of understanding more, and broaden their horizons.  Marketing is becoming more complex and transparent.  Creditability and trust are rooted in the genuine.  More and more are deciphering fact from fiction, and acting on it.

The Mantra I teach my students, and I hope that they remember is this…

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…

So sense of belonging is as complex as any other concept I strive to impart.  And it will take a lifetime to understand.  Heck I haven’t even touched on this part of inter-relationship to authenticity.  Shudder…

{There is a case study in here somewhere…ha ha ha}

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.

What does 2020 look like…for tourism industry

What does 2020 look like…for tourism industry

Sometimes I wonder at the evolution of tourism industry.  What it will look like in 2020, 2050.  I can noodle around Google, and garner snippets of trends, and ideas, but that is just the tangible that will change.  Back in 2000, 2020 seemed like so far in the distance, that it was too hard to extrapolate the nuances.  I can, to a point, articulate the technology changes I want, but really get to the heart of how life changes, hard.

We can crunch numbers.  We can put words to paper, and try to envision our lifestyles, but really in the end, it is about today.  This moment in time, this moment of truth that counts.  Marriott has argued for decades now that if we take care of today, the people, tomorrow will take care of itself.  (Okay I’m paraphrasing, but let me take some license.)

It is good to plan.  It is good to strategize, but if we lose sight of what is important at this moment, we lose how many opportunities?  We lose the potential for that future.  Don’t we lose the moment of truth in every experience happening at this instant?

Moment of Truth
Moment of Truth

I could sit in front of my computer for several hours, and view videos on the new productivity technology that will aid our lives.  I could sit and read about the applications being developed.  Most of it is coming true, like that in Microsoft’s Vision 2020 video that was published back in 2010.  

But we forget the human element in that technology.  That that technology is only as good as the person using it.  That our ability to deliver on the expectations of our customers depends on our common sense more than the gadget we have in our hands.  What we do matters.  So any vision for the future must entail that aspect.  It is certainly argued in these videos, and we can chart and map out the flow of work, the contact points in the moment of truth, but in the end, the difference is the human element that exerts force on those steps.  The core value of tourism is the people that deliver on expectations, and desires.  That they more than meet, exceed the moment of truth.