by Dr. Peter Tarlow
The famous French phrase: “plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose” (the more things change the more they are the same) is a good starting point for tourism product development. Often what is old becomes new, and what we see as innovative was always right before our eyes. Some basic principles of tourism product development are that “every community has a unique tale to tell, we just have not yet uncovered it”. Another key factor is: “Be who you are, do not be what you are not”. Finally, “what was “then”, may well become what will be tomorrow”. In other words things that were pedestrian a century or more ago, may become tomorrow’s unique tourism attractions. Below is a listing of some ideas for the “re-creation” of tourism products. This section is divided into a part one, (1) the theories and methods and (2) some practical ideas that may (or may not be) a right fit for your community or tourism business. Part 1: Principles to consider Know your community. Most tourism directors and officials believe that they know their community. Often what they mean to say is that they know the city’s streets and locations of hotels, restaurants, attractions etc. There is, however another knowledge, often forgotten. It is the hidden tale behind the obvious. Do we know what tales these buildings might tell us if they could speak? What lies below the surface? It is from the ephemeral locale (rather than the physical locale) that ideas for new products are born.
Start then by asking yourself questions such as: What are the key components within your tourism industry and what story do they have to tell?
How do these factors impact your community and what is the interaction between them? For example look at the:
- Sociological Factors
- Economic Factors, national and international
- Political Factors
- Security and Safety
- Environmental Factors
- Education and educational opportunities
- Convention & Meetings
Then put this information all together, and use it to know your tourism community’s strengths and weaknesses. Seek ways to create new combinations from already existing attractions. Many communities have attractions that are marketed as singular products. Take the time to think how these attractions can compliment and support each other. Convention and Visitor Bureaus or Ministries of Tourism do their industry a service by developing ways that all of the tourism industry’s many components can interact. Develop half-, full-, and multi-day packages and tours. The ultimate goal is to entice visitors to stay longer and spend more money. Know your market. Just because the attraction seems commonplace to you does not mean that it will be commonplace to your clients. People want what they do not have, see, feel, or touch. Thus, a person who has never heard the silence of a desert’s night may be fascinated by something that is all to normal to the local population. Connect each attraction to the unstated narrative that forms the basis of your community. Seek projects that compliment your community's current. Do not be afraid to cluster. Visitors hate having to travel great distances between sites in the same city. In most cases, clustering, without overkill, is successful. Encourage development that builds on current strengths. Open up new avenues. Look for new development that although is different from what you have, does not destroy current successes. Take the time to think about what visitor population segmentations are compatible. Keep in mind that some groups cannot coexist with other visitor sub-groups or may be unacceptable to the local population. Do not be blind to new possibilities. Obtain ideas and insights from both local and outside experts. Outside experts are not blinded by local prejudices. Often outside experts will see an asset that is so common to locals that it is overlooked. These specialists are not hamstrung by current local realities. Often the further a tourism product is from reality the more the income the product will produce. The representation of a tourism product placed in a new reality is called “simulata”. For example, few people may pay to be in a gun-fight, but many will pay to see the reenactment of a gun fight Part II: New Types of Tourism Product Development Below are a few of the areas where tourism has created whole new products that build on local cultures and turn the mundane into the unique. Take advantage of where you live. If you live in a rural community create a farm tour experience, but make sure your farmers are in favor of this idea before you begin. If you have local cooperation, then the the Israeli kibbutz model is one to consider. Kibbutzim (plural of Kibbutz or collective farm) allow people from all over the world to have a taste of a rural farming community. Not only do the kibbutz’ guests provide free and needed labor, especially during the harvest periods, but the tourists pay for the privilege or learning how to work the fields. Look at new potential demographics. Tourism is a celebration of the unique and the different. What demographics might become a new tourism product? For example, is your community gay friendly? The gay tourism market will continue to grow. Many gays have more expendable income than the heterosexual population, but be careful not to generalize. Also do not assume that because a couple is gay, that the couple does not have children. Today’s gay populations range from the single to the married, from the person who seeks to travel so as to meet new people to the gay married couple that seeks a gay friendly family atmosphere. Grandparent-Grandchildren vacations are an often overlooked demographic. Grandparents love to spoil their grandchildren and in taking a grandchild on a special trip may also provide a need reprieve for their own children. There are some key factors in making this demographic work. For example, one is that grandparents will easily panic if they do not believe the location is not safe. This demographic is a perfect example how tourism safety and security pay off in economic benefits.