Tourism is the largest industry in the world – and yet it is still called the “invisible industry”. Well – maybe it isn’t invisible – but it is hidden in plain site. Tourism and the visitor economy is right under our noses – but we don’t recognize it.
In some ways this lack of awareness starts in school. For example, as a school kid, we went on field trips and camps and we often seemed to find ourselves at farms set up to welcome students and show them agriculture. While I learned about the virtues of cows and pineapples ( I lived in Queensland, Australia) no one ever said anything about how visitors (like me) contribute to economic well being. I was a tourist and I didn’t even realise it..
It can come as no surprise that the tourism industry has such a great task to inform policy makers and politicians – not to mention community members – about the value of our work. In most cases we are starting from “scratch”.
Which brings me to the fantastic work of Indiana Office of Tourism Development. Mark Newman, the CEO of IOTD, recognized the importance of building a culture of tourism early in his tenure and worked with educators on the development of a grade 4 curriculum that recognizes the connection between tourism and social studies.
That’s strategic thinking in tourism – honest to goodness !
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…
As an educator committed to building a better world, I spend a lot of time thinking about how we can equip the new generation to tackle the challenges they will face ( or should I say – the challenges we leave them….)
While it is hard to anticipate the specific skills needed in the world of tomorrow, I believe there are some core values that will be critical to developing a better tourism system in the years to come. My friends at TEFI – Tourism Education Futures Initiative – have identified 5 important sets of values that make a great foundation on which to build curriculum – and a career. Those value dimensions and their specific values/skills include:
- Stewardship: sustainability, responsibility, and service to the community
- Mutuality: diversity, inclusion, equity, humility and collaboration
- Ethics: Honesty, transparency, authenticity
- Professionalism: leadership, practicality, relevance, timeliness, teamwork and pro-activity
- Knowledge: critical thinking, innovation, creativity and networking.
Now – I’ll be the first to admit there may be a few things missing in this list – but it sure looks like a great place to start to me.
Is this a good brand ? An important question but almost always asked in the wrong context. “Is this a good brand” almost always asks for a judgement on a logo or a tagline or a creative execution. Brand is far more than a logo or a tagline.
Destinations need to focus on what creates their brand image…what makes them special…what people talk about when they come home from the visit. This is a lot tougher than making a random call on whether the ad looks “good”.
How much is the the logo worth in this process ? I like Seth Godin’s recent blog Logo Vs Brand. It captures the place of the logo in the branding process nicley…
We all have blind spots. Things that just aren’t on our radar… but probably should be. Sometimes we just need a friend to bring them to our attention.
Here in the U.S., one of our collective blind spots is the importance of the United Nations World Heritage list. Perhaps it’s because we are so aware – and proud – of our excellent, world’s-first National Park System, and our many heritage and cultural attractions, that the World Heritage list doesn’t get our attention.
It’s not because the US doesn’t have sites that have been recognized as World Heritage. There are currently 22 locations, from Jefferson’s Monticello to Hawaii’s Volcano National Park.
Whatever the reason – its a blindspot.
As the US works to increase its international visitors it is important to recognize that for folks from many of America’s visitor source markets – World Heritage is important.
In some countries, there is broad community engagement in getting sites listed – and great pride when sites achieve the recognition that their heritage is important to all of humanity. And those same people are interested in seeing the World Heritage locations in other places.
America’s World Heritage listed sites represent a great way to promote what is unique and important in the United States to people from around the world.
Take them out of the blind spot and put them in the spotlight.
Seth Godin nailed it (again) with this short post. In a couple of words he describes the reason for massive changes in destination marketing and management. Marketing used to be …
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).