The 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.
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.
“Sustainability” has been described as one of the most “jargony-ist” words of recent times. Because I talk about sustainability a lot, I get this feedback from everyone – students, hoteliers, tour operators and DMOs. I agree ! The word “sustainability” is used way too frequently and too carelessly – and it’s too bad – because lost in the “I’m so over this word – sustainability” attitude is the important fact that DMOs are important agents of sustainability.
Imagine working to make the destination the best place it could be – a beautiful environment, people treated well and locals celebrating their unique culture, a healthy economy. Imagine you are doing it to get the best from/for the destination today – and that you are working to ensure the destination community remains a great place to be in the years to come. This scenario doesn’t take make imagination for many DMO managers – it is what they do every day.
So – sustainability and improving the “triple bottom line” – people, planet, profits – is core to the role of a DMO manager. Might be time to update the job description ….
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 !
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).