People travel for many reasons. Some travel for business, others travel for a sense of adventure or for relaxation. Leisure travel only succeeds if it provides two essential elements (1) the travel experience must offer something that the visitor cannot obtain at home, and (2) the travel experience must provide memories. In fact, we can postulate that the travel and tourism business sells memories.
Globalization has done many wonderful things not only for people in general but also for the travel industry. There is no doubt that never before in history have so many people had so many travel opportunities to places that were considered only a few decades beyond the reach of the average person. In a like manner, globalization has brought the world a certain sense of standardization. The world now is filled with chain stores, hotels that look alike, and restaurants that offer standard menus.
In some ways this world standardization facilitates travel. We know what we are getting, and if we take into account different currencies’ values and local labor costs, then prices are reasonably standardized. In Europe the introduction of the euro has meant that travelers no longer need to worry about exchanging currencies from one European Union country to another.
From a travel and tourism perspective, however, there is also a down side to globalization. All too often we hear that “being there is the same as being home” or that the vacation locale provides few if any new experiences. Tourism officials would do well to remember that without a sense of the unique, tourism loses one of its key elements. The French often speak of “vive la difference” and when it comes to travel and tourism, tourism centers must find ways to differentiate themselves not only from other tourism locations but also what the person can find at home.
A second problem facing the tourism industry is that often one locale offers the same product as another. For example, many Caribbean nations have based their tourism around sun and sea tourism. If the Caribbean nations only emphasize sun and sea tourism without creating meaningful distinctions, then the region tends to blend into one single unit and can suffer from the “been there/done that syndrome.” What is true of tourism centers may also be true of tourism products. Theme parks and casinos must find a way to distinguish their offerings. If all casinos or theme parks are exactly alike, then there is a high probability of theme park or casino fatigue; eventually the positive impact of clustering becomes industry cannibalization. In order to avoid this negative impact Tourism Tidbits offers the following suggestions:
- Think outside the box. If everyone is pushing one form of tourism, then seek another form of tourism or promote a different angle for your tourism. For example, if there are a surplus in your part of the world of places that promote sun and sand tourism, then find a different angle. For example you might base your tourism around medicinal properties or a specific cultural phenomenon to your area.
- Create “bouquets” of tourism products. Rather than reply on more product have a mélange of products in your tourism offerings. Push for the unique and total experience and seek new ways to renew your tourism product and keep it fresh.
- Visit places that have tourism products that differ from yours. It is impossible to be in a continual state of creativity. That is the reason that tourism professionals need to travel as often as possible. By seeing new places and being open to creative thoughts, the tourism professional learns how to adapt ideas in one part of the tourism industry to the needs of his or her part of the tourism industry.
- Think about your current and past demographic make-up. For example, Spain has turned its past Jewish communities into an important new offering for its current tourism. Spain has gone out of its way to market this new product and to assure that it has the needed facilities (such as in this case kosher restaurants) to transform a minor offering into a major offering. When thinking about demographic compositions consider such questions as:
1. Who was here in the past?
2. Is there a connection to the present?
3. What facilities or training do my people need for this market segment?
4. What are some of the challenges that this group will pose for my community?
5. Can this group inspire other forms of tourism?
Another example of cultural tourism offerings is in the creation of a vampire trail by Bulgaria and Romania. The vampire trail is important because it demonstrates that tourism “history” does not necessarily have to be based in non-fiction facts. Places that represent cultural experiences such as the vampire trail can serve to create new spin-off markets.
- Think of the bizarre. There are many forms of tourism and simply because you would not do a particular form of tourism does not mean that someone else may not love it. Here are just a few examples of unique forms of tourism that have been successful. Remember tourism is about the selling of memories and each of the bellow forms of tourism provides people with memories and experiences that can be shared for a lifetime.
1. If your country has lots of protests and you can keep your tourists safe, then there is a market for people who come to gaze upon protests. In the USA the Occupy Wall Street protests became tourism attractions, Paris is another city where protests are part of the local culture.
2. Movie tourism. Most movies are no longer made in Hollywood and lots of cities have organizations that promote film making. Use your local resources to attract people who have always wanted to be in the movies.
3. Build on the ideas behind international poker matches and create game tourism. It can be anything from Bingo to Crossword puzzles. Game tourism is especially useful in bad weather. Use this form of tourism not only to attract people to the game but also as a health measure, to increase brain-power.
4. Poverty tourism. Cities such as New York and Rio de Janeiro have long promoted their own form of poverty-tourism. This form of tourism allows locals to make some extra money while at the same time these locals can share their personal experiences. The trick is to respect the local cultural and never look down on anyone while visiting the locale.
5. Immigrant tourism. Provide people with the opportunity of speaking with and getting to know why people migrate from one place to another. What caused them to leave their home? What challenges do they now face? How do they deal with legal issues?