by: David Peacock, Simpleview
This year at the Destinations International Annual Convention 2020, Jack Johnson, Chief Advocacy Officer at Destinations International, really threw down the gauntlet in a big and unambiguous way; his challenge to us all, change as destination organizations, change significantly, change quickly or face irrelevance.
In Jack’s opinion, the writing is on the wall. The future of tourism unequivocally includes stakeholder engagement, community-shared values and a keen focus on what and how the industry contributes to the life of locals.
In the three months since we entered the world of COVID-19, the Future Tourism Group at Simpleview has interviewed more than a dozen leaders in the tourism industry from around the world, including Destination CEOs, CVB strategists, product development specialists, research pioneers, associations and tourism thought leaders. In those interviews, five themes emerged consistently:
As recently as six months ago we would have called these trends in the industry. They were beginning to percolate up in various destinations in various guises, with varying degrees of success, but they were not yet formalized or ubiquitous. Today, in the lee of this crisis, they are latencies - existing, impending and essential but not yet fully manifest.
In April of this year, Greg Oates, SVP Innovation at MMGY/NextFactor, talked about the work that was already underway on alignment and engagement. “Some cities have really been building that network and expanding beyond tourism into the local creative economy and knowledge economy,” said Greg. “We are finding that with COVID-19, the cities that have worked to establish those networks and have been more intentional stewards of their communities, are in a much better position now to be effective in their destination.”
For Greg, Fort Worth is an example that springs to mind. Greg talks about how visitfortworth.com was able to pivot and quickly publish a series of pages showing residents how they could support local businesses, artists, restaurants and artisans, as well as information on how visitors can virtually explore the city.
On the European front, when Copenhagen declared “the end of tourism as we know it” in 2017, they were making a bold move to address a pressing issue: the alignment between locals and travellers.
One of the research pieces Visit Copenhagen did at that time looked specifically at the things that residents and travelers valued and despised. Somewhat surprisingly, there was great correlation; residents and travellers alike both valued places that were not overcrowded, they appreciated traffic that wasn't congested and evenings that weren’t punctuated with loud and annoying people. In short, both the resident and traveler wanted the same thing in the destination, a point definitely worth remembering and building on as we recraft our organizations.
On a humorous note, when I was talking last week to my friend Signe Jungersted, one of the architects behind the 2017 Copenhagen strategy, she told me that in a Copenhagen without travelers she had expected the evenings would be quiet and serene, only to realize on one particularly loud night in downtown Copenhagen last week that perhaps Danes themselves are far more responsible for the loud party atmosphere than any one suspected.
Similarly, in Victoria BC, at the core of CEO Paul Nursey’s progressive strategy to develop and leverage Victoria's sustainable brand promise is the need for civic and social alignment and engagement.
“What it comes down to is this,” said Paul on the Future of Tourism Podcast, “is the visitor-economy really serving the community? Is tourism as we know it actually driving the benefit to the whole and not just a few? And how can we create a framework so that our industry is welcomed as part of the contributing fabric of society year round?”
In terms of the content we offer the visitor and the resident alike, Crowdriff CEO Dan Hollowack has some important insights. “As we are moving through this crisis, we have to recognise that the changes we're seeing will change our futures forever,” says Dan. “In many ways, it is going to accelerate change and perhaps even compress the amount of change that we would have seen over the next 3-5 years into the next into this year or 18 months. I think that consumer expectations are rapidly changing through this.”
Dan sees ‘hyperlocal’ as a key element of the evolving destination organization, and states that in a very short time the consumer -- both the resident and the traveler -- has come to demand much, much more from digital. “We've been sheltering in our homes, and we've been online, we've been communicating with businesses a lot more through Instagram and direct messaging. We've been watching more and more content online.Now more than ever, we expect everything -- every service or product, every experience, every outing and every kind of entertainment -- to start with a digital experience.”
In closing, it is inarguable today that alignment and the need for real and meaningful engagement with multiple communities of interest, as well as a pressing need for digital improvement are all accelerated by this crisis and will play a significant role in the successful destination organization of the future.
The future of tourism is here, it just isn’t equally distributed… yet.
About the Author
Senior Advisor to the Future Tourism Group