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Local is Hot and Smart

South Bank BrisbaneThe rise in “Local” is making an impact. One of the three big trends shapingmarketing today – So Mo Lo ( Social, Mobile and Local), “local” tends to be an afterthought in conversations that focus on the rise of mobile and the impact of social networking and marketing. But “local” is a big deal to tourism marketing and is changing the way the industry does business.

The focus on local has a couple of great benefits for tourism:

  • Local product and services build a “sense of place”.
  • “Local” tends to highlight differentiated product and so creates competitive advantage.
  • A good “local” story creates benefits for the whole tourism system. There’s a reason hoteliers are talking about “local” – exciting, interesting and attractive local destinations add a “brand halo” that supports hotel marketing objectives.
  • “Local” is great for the economy. It reduces economic leakage and increases the value of tourism to the destination community.
  • “Local” celebrates and spotlights local culture and heritage.

By the Way: Yes – supporting the growth in “local” is a sustainability strategy that improves the Triple Bottom Line.

This trend towards celebrating “local” – culture, arts, crafts, food, lifestyle – is being embraced in a creative ways by members of the tourism system. From boutique hotels, to farmers markets, to an increased interest in regional foods – its all about the what makes the destination unique and special.

So who is promoting local ? Hoteliers , Travel Media and Skift has a new trend report that looks at the Evolution of Local in Hospitality.

Systems Thinking in Tourism

The idea that tourism is a system has been around for a while. Morrison and Mill wrote the first edition of The Tourism System in 1985 – and they weren’t the first to recognize the concept. Since then there have been advances – Louise Twining Ward – added that tourism was a Complex and Adaptive System and Noel Scott and his colleagues have done great work on understanding the dynamics within these networks.

So – if we know its a system – why don’t we treat it like one ? Why is it that when so many industry leaders talk about tourism they tend to assume top down, hierarchical decision making? You can’t just tell a system to do something…

Systems thinking is one of the important skills of Destination Managers. Networking, collaboration, negotiation, knowledge management, partnering, political skills…these are the tools for success in the tourism system.

Destinations of the future…

So what do the destinations of the future look like ?

It’s a great question. Too often it seems that as destinations become more popular – they become less appealing. We love our destinations to death.

That is why it is great that DMO managers are stepping up and engaging in the planning, developing and management of their destinations. No-longer are DMOs just promoting their destinations – they are actively involved in “product development” and “destination experience”. DestinationNext, DMAI’s strategic planning initiative, highlights DMOs important role in creating the destination communities of the future.

So what does the destination of the future look like ? There are encouraging clues in some of the recent work by McKinsey and Company – Building the Future of Cities with Green Districts.   If the trends identified by the folks at McKinsey are correct – we’ll see a greater emphasis on design in our cities, our destinations will be greener, more aesthetically pleasing and more cost efficient.

That’s good news for residents – and visitors !

Beyond the Basics of Sustainability for DMO Managers: Arts

When we talk about sustainability’s triple bottom line – people, planet, profits – it can sometimes seem vague. But DMOs work on practical sustainability issues everyday.

Visitors come to see out environment and experience our culture.  Celebrating, promoting and preserving the culture and heritage of a destination is a task that DMOs can get behind. That is why the Arts Destination Marketing Award –  awarded to DMOs and Local Arts Agencies using arts to support destination marketing – is sustainability at its best. Well done DMAI and Americans for the Arts for recognizing the important connection between arts and tourism.

Better than Sustainability

Sustainable is a pretty low hurdle. How about we work to make tomorrow better than today.

Tourism Systems…

Tourism is a system. A big, complex, ever changing, system.

Within the tourism system are thousands of embedded systems. Each destination, each distribution channel, each sector – is a system. Each system is unique.

…and tourism exists within systems. The tourism is part of larger social and economic systems – the city in which the activity takes place, the nation, the world.

Recognizing that tourism is a system changes everything… There is no “command and control” in tourism; there is no “single best way”. Solutions to problems within the system are unique to the specific set of challenges that part of the system is addressing. Collaboration, cooperation, communication, negotiation – these are just some of the skills of an effective manager in tourism systems.

Embracing “systems thinking” is a critical skill if we are to ensure the system creates positive outcomes…

Acquiesce or consent ?

At a recent conference one of the speakers reminded the audience that tourism takes place at the acquiescence of the community. I thought the statement was eloquent and expressed an important idea…. but it has been bouncing around in my head ever since.

According to my dictionary, the noun acquiescence is tacit assent or agreement by silence. In the legal sense it is ” such neglect to take legal proceedings for such a long time as to imply the abandonment of a right’. It is unfortunate that so often “acquiescence” is exactly what happens in tourism destination communities. 

One of the principles of sustainable tourism is that destination community stakeholders have an active say in the development process. It is interesting that while this principle is applied in developing destinations around the world, it is rarely applied to communities here in the United States. Few CVBs track consumer sentiment toward tourism or reach out to diverse stakeholder groups in developing strategic tourism plans.

So – for the sustainability of tourism and the benefit of destination communities – I will say tourism takes place in destination communities,  not with their acquiescence but with their consent ( and I will continue to work with destination leaders to ensure that is, in fact, the case).