Can you plan for every contingency in event planning?

Can you plan for every contingency in event planning?

Can you plan for every contingency in event planning?  Yes, and no.  Last week, I gave out most if not all of the information to my groups in HT 351 for their scenarios.  They should now have all the information they need to complete the project for the most part.  The only aspect left is for them to visit with me, which is required, to hash out any finer details.  Details.  That is important in event planning.

It is all about project management.  As I have said before, it is about managing time.

Yet, those fresh, young faces before me, cringe when I discuss ‘curve balls’.  They dread having to deal with potential problems.  But they will have to deal with it.  Deal with potential realities.

What do I say to them?  They are looking for me to guide them on how to tackle this part of the project.

Innate in all of us is the ability to plan.   Don’t forget that.  We just have to get it down on paper what we need to do and execute the steps.

Yes, hard.  Focus, drive and discipline will see those action steps to fruition.  Not every one of us has that focus or drive or discipline.

I can raise my hand to that effect.  I have earned that tee-shirt more than once.  I’m stuck in a rut right now, my focus wavering from professional and personal projects.  It’s hard, but life isn’t about easy.  Life is about challenges.

I’m letting life challenge me at the moment.  Whereas I should be challenging life.

So, what do I say to motivate them to address their curve balls.  Where to begin?  Since there are more than one curve ball, tackling more than one at a time, can be frustrating, stressful and tiring.  Especially, if you have never been in this position before.  Now, there are moments in a professional career where you will have to decide off the ‘cuff’ what will need to be done.  You will be put in a position where a decision will have to be made at that precise point in time.  And I will address this after, I guide you through planning for those curve balls.

Yes, planning is coming back into the picture.

To prepare yourself for any event or scenario, you have to think about your job.  You have to think about all the contact points where potential problems can occur.  Map them out, and get into the habit of walking around your property, your place of employment and look at it from the vantage point of problems.  Don’t wait for the signs, envision them.  Use your imagination and ‘see’.  Ask your self of plethora of questions. As a writer who likes to develop stories, I utilize the “What if” exercise.  What if this happens here?  What could happen here?  What if this happened during an event?  What would I do?  Every time I see or read about an incident on TV, like Las Vegas, my mind goes into scenario mode.  I visualize what is happening at that time.  I ask myself a host of questions, and run through the gambit of potential.  I ask myself, “What if I was the event planner at this event?  What would I have done?  What should be in place already to aid me in this event?”

No, you don’t know how you would react.  No, you don’t know what you would do sometimes during panic situations.  But the preparation for the likely event comes with training and training the mind to think this way.  And then running mock drills on you, your employees, and even now, including guest in that equation.  I can remember when we used guests in our scenarios at one hotel I worked at.  We asked if they would be a part of our preparation training.  We sent out a message to the community that we were having training and asked if any person would like to role play victims.  Is this wrong?  Why?  Why not?  Shouldn’t we all be prepared?  Shouldn’t we all help each other in times of need?  The more you know as a manager, as a guest, the better you are all prepared for scenarios.

NBC-Emergency
NBC-Emergency
Visit to Disney World, 1977
From left to right, Mom, sister, me and brother at Walt Disney World, 1977

I know this to be true because I have lived through it.  I have lived through training situations and real life situations.  Growing up we had some great shows on TV.  I can vaguely remember Adam 12.  The one show I do remember from my early teens was Emergency!.  It was about the organization of the first ever EMTs in LA.  It had me consider at one time being one.  Taking up the profession of firefighter and EMT.  At school, both high school and college, I took and read about advanced first aid procedures.  I took advance first aid and life saving at Penn State for my Health Ed course.  I can recall playing the victim in a faux car accident and the other students extracting me from that car on a cold autumn day.  I loved the water module in the pool.  When I was out industry, I volunteered to be on first aid responder teams at the hotels.  I obtained and renewed my CPR certification.  I guess I obtained that information from my Mom.  She taught the Red Cross classes in high school.  She was always willing to help.  Heck, in my family we are known to be teachers, police officers or doctors.  I guess its in the DNA.  But I digress.

Back on point.

So, where to begin.  This year was different after a failure from last fall.  I had to approach teaching this aspect of management development from a different perspective.  Some how connections were not being made.  I forgot that research has shown that this generation may or may not have the imaginative skills my generation has.  They grew up with computers and technology.   Some if not all, might not have been outside playing as we did as kids.  Being pirates for a day out in the woods, creating our own little worlds.  Yes, that play time set up my generation for problem solving.  We saw something we wanted to do and figure out a way to accomplish it. The students in my class may have been immersed in a computer generated world that didn’t stretch the mind enough.  That didn’t place them in hair-raising situation where you had to think.  (Laughing at the image now in my mind.  Cue back to that pirate scenario on a lazy summer’s day.  I would give you more, but I don’t want to put any ideas into young heads.  Mother just patched me up.  I’m still here.)  Let’s just say there is a host of divergence between my generation and today’s young students in terms of critical thinking skills.

So, given what happened, I realized this year, I needed to not only reinforce the visualization technique I have done since I was a young adult, but also guide them on how to make connections.  I had to explain how to accomplish this goal and get in the habit of visualization.  So this year, I told the students to draw from all of their classes on customer service and operations management.  To utilize their own personal experience to aid them in understanding the curve ball.  Write down the curve ball on a 4 x 6 index card and then as a group, brainstorm.  Ask yourself those exact questions.  What is happening here?  What is going on?  How are people reacting?  Why are they reacting?  Where has it happened?  When did it happen?  What should we do?  What could happen if we don’t do something?  What could happen?  A host of questions and then brainstorm answers.  Research.  Google.  This is always about customer service.  No, it isn’t all about the bottom line, not always.  It is how we get to that bottom line and back up that counts.

Curve ball scenario
Curve ball scenario

This was one of my curve balls from one of my scenarios.  An executive board meeting was taking place in St. Louis, MO.  The members were leaders of a Fortune 500 company.  They were the elite of the elite.  One activity that they were participating in outside of their normal duties was a visit to the local Budweiser Clydesdale farm.  On the return, one of the members has left their wallet on the bus.  Needless to say I wasn’t happy with the results of the group planning in terms of this curve ball.  Two possibilities could have occurred.  One, they had only one group member handle curve balls and that group member was tired by the time they got to this incident.  Or two, they waited till the last-minute to address these scenarios.  It very well could have been something different.  But in the end it was poor project planning.

They forgot to utilize their experience as customer.  How would you react as a customer if this happened to you?  What would be your priority if this personally happened to you?  What are you panicking about?  Who is this person?  They forgot who their target market was and is.  What is in that wallet?  What help are they looking for?  Part of event planning is to know your target audience.  If you know them, then you can best address their needs and wants.  Our industry is all about customer service and we need to don that hat  more than once to understand reaction.  We need to walk a mile in their shoes to know how this impacts their lives and the lives of others that this would affect.

They forgot their roles and responsibility as event planners.  What they need to do to aid the customer?  What they need to do to make this a memorable experience?  How do they help and aid their clients?  They didn’t tease out the situation.  They didn’t map out the cause and effect.  The action-reaction-results loop.  If this one incident happened in real life, consequences of not doing something can be detrimental not only to your customer but to your reputation and your business.  Even our industry.

So, why do I give them curve balls. Because this is reality.  This is what happens out there when they are in real life situations.  Accomplishing this exercise, helps develop a proactive mindset.  That they can almost see things happen before they do, and act.  If this little kernel of information is in their minds, then they could plan a to do list for themselves during each event to cover any contingency.

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.

Attractions aren’t just pretty…

Attractions aren’t just pretty…
Visit to Jamestown, VA
Family vacation to Jamestown, VA, 1968

Attractions aren’t just pretty places.

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.

Figure 1.1 Classification of visitor attractions
Figure 1.1 Classification of visitor attractions from (p.4) (Fyall, A., Garrod, B., Leask, Anna, & Garrod, Brian. ed (2003)1).

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…

Footnotes

1. Fyall, A., Garrod, B., Leask, Anna, & Garrod, Brian. (2003). Managing visitor attractions : New directions / edited by Alan Fyall, Brian Garrod and Anna Leask.

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Scenario based learning

Scenario based learning
Sense of Identity
Sense of Identity

Learning a new process, concept, or theory isn’t easy. People learn in different ways. I can remember 6th grade with vivid detail, especially math class. I have always been good with numbers. A few weeks ago I was sitting with my Mom and we were going over some of her accounting. She was astounded that I could rattle off sequences of numbers or amounts without looking at my notes. I don’t know why. I just can ‘see’ them.  But word problems at that time, stumped my young brain.  Until, I drew out what was being asked on paper into a cartoon.  I wasn’t approaching the problem correctly for my brain.  I wasn’t asking myself the question:  What is the problem asking me to do?  I was looking for the numbers to crunch.  I was fixated on the numbers.  I knew I had to calculate something, but there was more to the puzzle.  I know that now.  I had to visualize what was being asked.

I’m a visual thinker.

Research has shown that we are all visual thinkers (Buzan)

Therefore, grasping knowledge and acquiring understanding, is best ‘seeing’ the process, visualizing the process and actually immersing yourself in the process.

Hence, why I love projects.

And scenario based projects are one way of accomplishing that goal.

 

Student Project Notebook
Student Project Notebook

This semester all of my classes have a form of project, and I will be posting helpful hints here, and in our learning management system to aid them in completion.

  1. The success to any project is not to wait till the last-minute and know that you are the one that needs to complete it.
  2. You are either accomplishing this as an individual or as a group. What does that mean?
  3. Each has a dynamic element.  Know your role and research it.
  4. Thoroughly read over the requirements.  Clarity begins by asking questions.  Don’t assume anything.
  5. There is a formula for the process–the action of completion, but each journey is unique.
  6. Organize!
  7. Budget time.  Don’t wait till the last-minute. I’ve said it twice and that means something.
  8. It is quality, not quantity.
  9. Research to gain factual data.
  10. Examples are great, but this is your original work!
  11. Don’t go in with the attitude that you just have to get it done.  If you put in 50%, more than likely it will be reflected in the work delivered.
  12. This could be used for the future.  Think of it as a tool to demonstrate to potential employers your capabilities and skill level.
  13. Do not let dysfunction ruin working relationships.  I am a mediator and here to help negotiate, navigate the waters.
  14. Keep backup copies in three different places.  Back up often.
  15. Others are counting on you, don’t let them down.

 

 

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.

Tourism and geography: Understanding the Landscape

Tourism and geography:  Understanding the Landscape
Powerpoint Presentation Scotland's Landscape: The Making of Scottish Tourism
Powerpoint Presentation Scotland’s Landscape: The Making of Scottish Tourism

Last year I was granted the privilege of speaking in a geography class on my favorite subject, Scotland and its’ landscape.  I wanted to talk about the making of the tourism landscape, and I knew some of my own students would be in the class.  And had to put a different twist on it to keep their attention.  It is hard, but I persevered.

I started off the discussion with one of my favorite quotes from Neil Oliver and his book, A History of Scotland:

But there is a way of feeling about a place, about home, that transcends nationality and geography.
Sometimes the right words are found in the wrong place and remembrance – the reach of memory – matters as much as history.

~Oliver, Neil (2009-12-17). A History Of Scotland (Kindle Locations 145-147). Orion Publishing Group. Kindle Edition

I then showed them the brief intro from his TV show, because it is a powerful example how a landscape changes over time.  From a tourism perspective, landscape is more than just the geographic representation of green spaces and cityscapes.  We derive, as does geography, a complete picture from understanding three prime environments: the economic, the socio-cultural, and the natural/man-made world.  Yet, Oliver delivers something more.  He asserts the time element into the equation.  That over time our point of view of those landscapes change, and are morphed into something with mythic tones.

Before memory or history – beneath everything – is the rock. We are shaped and tested by it. Just as we are of the people we call family, so we are of the land we walk on every day. Magic is elusive stuff, but in the ancient landscapes of Scotland there is the genuine shimmer. It’s also a tough and demanding place – much of it made more of storm-swept rock than anything sun-baked. This is important. It is the landscape that has authored the story of this place, and this people, far longer and more indelibly than any work of our own hands.

~ Oliver, Neil (2009-12-17). A History Of Scotland (Kindle Locations 147-151). Orion Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

It is hard from students, at first, to understand the complexity that is tourism.  Mill and Morrison (2012) assert that tourism isn’t really an industry.  System, yes.  But more.  It isn’t just one entity, but a collection of entities within a specific landscape (a destination).  That it is more of an observable event, a phenomenon.  Yet, they articulate that “industry is a collection of entities producing the same goods and services (1)*, and tourism is nothing like an industry.  Here is where the waters become murky.  Tourism utilizes resources to create a collection of choices for individual travelers.  They produce goods and services to fulfill the expectations and wants of tourists.  Some of them don’t produce the same tangible and intangible elements.  But it is an industry when that collection of enterprises strive for the same goal in maximizing the capture of revenues in order to reward stakeholders and reinvest in the firm, destination.  Yes, tourism is a dynamic action; a behavior; a migration of people and resources to fulfill a need or a want, and thus creating loyalty.  We make promises every single day in tourism, and if we don’t deliver on those promises, more than likely our customers will go some place different.  They will choose another destination.  Tourism is an inter-woven tapestry of businesses.  They are inter-dependent and co-dependent on each other.  I would agree that they complement each other, but they are striving for one goal.  Tourism is rooted in promises, that intangible variable that is unique to each individual.  Promises are both input and outputs, associated with before, during and after travel.  That the observable event is ongoing, never-ending.  That as a business, no matter what area, we strive for mutually beneficial partnerships, and linkages to create value.  That is another promise.

Maybe industry isn’t the right word, and we need something more?  How is value measured with such shades of gray?  Is there black and white?  In today’s day and age of technology, an arm-chair traveler could be considered a tourist because they are utilizing and consuming resources from a destination.  What if they order a souvenir online and have it shipped to their place of residence, post travel?  What if they order up unique items from a destination because they want a bon voyage party?  Value has not been fully recognized from these individuals because they haven’t made a choice yet or their conversion doesn’t happen till a future date.  Tourism is complex.  When exactly do travelers enter into the system?

Crazy thought?  Sure, but with the advances of technology, and global uncertainty, will the Internet Highway be the destination of the future?  Will that be a new landscape?  Will a new even more complex tourism entity grow?  What about the value of these arm chair travelers that convert others?  Word of mouth, eWOM, is becoming critical with the application of technology.  Technology is another resource that needs to be addressed in that umbrella.

It is hard to measure total impact when tourism actions mirror every day life.  How do we know when a person pulls into a petrol station and fills the tank his purpose for that purchase?  Unless we ask, and gather that information as to the purpose of his trip will we understand exactly what is happening within that observable event.  This illustrates the point that perhaps we should not solely measure the value of tourism by numbers alone.  There is more to that confining digit that we readily see or imagine.  Ask the right questions.

So the debate continues.  Governments can continue to give tourism lip service, and stipulate that it isn’t important enough to the GDP.  We can’t discount the numbers.  We can’t discount the good that tourism does.  But that is for another post.

From that landscape, the resources for tourism sprout, and grow.  As managers, we strive to put heads in a beds, and butts in a seats.  We have to remember that we are a collection of individuals working together, and in competition for traveler choice.  A destination will utilize resources and the landscape will change.  Simplicity turns to complexity with continued development.  We must understand the parts of the puzzle as well as the whole puzzle to gauge impact.  To plan and strategize for the future.  As a manager we must remember the mantra:

Recall you are selling to the right person, the right product at the right time, for the right price, for the right location, having the right promotion, and employing the right people utilizing effective and efficient processes, and truthful, physical evidence, that is the right stories or testimonials to engage with the right customer.

Perhaps tourism is about creating and writing the story of life? (Another post)

Mill-Morrison. The Tourism System,  7th Edition. Kendall Hunt Publishing, Co., 08/2012. VitalBook file.

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}